FIRSTHAND is WTTW’s award-winning series that illuminates and humanizes important topics through intimate stories that encourage empathy. This locally focused initiative puts WTTW’s mission into action, strengthening our community through diverse experiences, authentic communication, and mutual understanding.

As Chicago’s PBS station, WTTW delves behind the headlines and into FIRSTHAND topics through documentary episodes produced for digital and social platforms; feature reporting; FIRSTHAND Talks from local experts; community engagement events; and a discussion and resource guide. The premiere season, FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence (2019), was followed by FIRSTHAND: Coronavirus (2020), in which WTTW examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Chicago as it unfolded, and FIRSTHAND: Living in Poverty (2021), which shed light on the complex topic of intergenerational poverty.

In 2022, WTTW continues this multiplatform initiative by exploring how the city’s divisions take a toll on individual citizens through their personal stories in FIRSTHAND: Segregation. Chicago has been called the most segregated big city in America—and it comes at a cost. The Metropolitan Planning Council found that every year segregation costs our region $4.4 billion in lost income, 83,000 fewer bachelor’s degrees, and approximately 200 lives cut short by homicide.

In FIRSTHAND: Segregation, WTTW explores the harmful ways segregation impacts us all through slice-of-life portraits. The project will feature individuals who are finding ways to come together, revealing possible paths forward for our region. Stories will include a mother trying to find housing for herself and two children, a man navigating his city’s reparations process, and others. Of the dozen stories currently in formation, four potential examples are:

• A Chinatown church leader fighting anti-Asian hate with a Black-Asian solidarity march.
• A former elected official working to revitalize his community amidst decades of economic and political turmoil.
• A suburban pastor seeking to close the Black-White wealth gap through “Justice Deposits.”
• A Little Village racial healing practitioner recalling the transformative process of racial healing circles in his community.