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The “conscience of the city” is fighting for survival

“As we engage in a national reckoning on race, spurred by police shootings of Black men and women and community protests, the Reporter faces an existential threat from the Community Renewal Society (CRS), the United Church of Christ–affiliated agency that publishes it,” Former Reporter Publisher Laura Washington’s writes in The Nation. “If the city’s civic leaders don’t start asking tough questions about recent managerial decisions, the Reporter could face extinction—just when its unique voice is most needed.”

Read the whole thing here: https://www.thenation.com/article/society/chicago-reporter-investigative-reporting/

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Sign our Change.org petition

As alumni of The Chicago Reporter, a group that has spanned its nearly 50 year history, we are concerned about the future of the Reporter, which has served as an iconic journalistic agent of change through its fact- and data-based reporting.

In September, the Community Renewal Society put the Reporter on “hiatus” and removed its editor and publisher with no public announcement or explanation.  Months later, we are still in the dark about its future.

Join us in calling on the Community Renewal Society to restore the editorial independence and resume publishing The Chicago Reporter by signing our petition.

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Crain’s Op-Ed: ‘The City Needs The Chicago Reporter”

The venerable paper has gone dark at a time when its reporting has never been needed more as the country grapples with a national reckoning on race.

By Michael Bennett, Niketa Brar and Sylvia Puente

One of the long-lasting legacies of the racial justice crusade in Chicago led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is at risk.

The Chicago Reporter—founded by civil rights activist John A. McDermott, who worked and marched with Dr. King—has been shining a bright light on institutional racism and discrimination in metropolitan Chicago for nearly five decades.

This small, feisty news organization has long been a leader in data-based factual reporting on issues of race, ethnicity and poverty. The Chicago Reporter’s investigations and projects have had a significant and positive impact on the policies of government, business and civic institutions and on the public discourse in Chicago, still one of America’s most segregated cities.

In recent years, the Reporter compiled the first comprehensive database of the city’s settlement payments to victims of police brutality. In April 2020, early in the pandemic, the Reporter created an Illinois COVID-19 tracker that has assisted multiple news organizations, including the New York Times, in documenting the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on communities of color.

In its early days, the Reporter forced the modernization of the Chicago Fire Department–winning life-saving equipment in ambulances serving Black and Latino communities. It prompted a Consent Decree requiring the Chicago Park District to equalize programs and staffing across all neighborhoods. Over its history, it has exposed many other injustices in employment, housing, policing and education.

But now The Chicago Reporter has gone dark at a time when its reporting has never been needed more as the country grapples with a national reckoning on race, spurred by police shootings of Black men and women and protests by citizens and activists.

Six weeks ago, the Community Renewal Society (CRS), a United Church of Christ affiliated agency that hosts the online news organization, put the Chicago Reporter on an indefinite hiatus, removed the editor and publisher and announced it would “restructure” the publication.

In an Oct. 7 statement, Rev. Waltrina N. Middleton, CRS’s executive director, said an advisory committee of stakeholders will “help with newsroom staffing searches and hiring decisions,” but offered no timetable for hiring a new editor and publisher.

That raised a red flag for The Chicago Reporter’s alumni, many of whom now work at leading national news organizations such as the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Mother Jones, American Public Media, ESPN and the Center for Public Integrity–in addition to local newsrooms such as the Chicago Sun-Times, WBEZ, ProPublica Illinois, NBC Chicago and more.More than 100 alumni signed a letter to the Community Renewal Society expressing concern. At stake is the editorial independence of The Chicago Reporter, they said.

The Community Renewal Society has honored that editorial independence since McDermott brought the organization the idea for the Reporter in the early 1970s.

The alumni asked Dr. Middleton and the CRS board to explain why they halted publication, requested that they be transparent about plans for the Reporter’s future, and demanded that an editor and publisher have independent editorial control.

Dr. Middleton dismissed their concern as “manufactured hysteria and speculation that began in the hands of non-credible sources,” but she has yet to reveal her specific plans for the Reporter or explained why she halted publication.

Chicago Reporter alumni do not stand alone in their concerns. More than 85 civic and community leaders joined us in signing an Oct. 21 letter to Dr. Middleton. “The loss of the Reporter as a professional, independent news organization would leave the metropolitan area without crucial reporting and data that we rely upon in our efforts for equity and justice,” we wrote.

What would our city, communities and suburbs lose if the Reporter did not exist?

Consider the story it published on Sept. 15, two days before Dr. Middleton pulled the plug: Despite its pledges to alleviate financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Reporter revealed, the City of Chicago quietly used a little-known state program to collect millions of dollars in unpaid tickets, court fees, ordinance violations and other debt from residents–primarily Black and Latino Chicagoans struggling to make ends meet.

That kind of deep digging to hold the city accountable for its actions makes the Chicago Reporter a resource we cannot afford to lose.

Michael Bennett is an Associate Professor at DePaul University and Board Treasurer of the African American Leadership and Policy Institute.

Niketa Brar is Co-founder and Executive Director of Chicago United for Equity.

Sylvia Puente is President & CEO of the Latino Policy Forum

https://www.chicagobusiness.com/opinion/city-needs-chicago-reporter

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Letter to the editor: Chicago Reporter’s important role

Chicago Tribune – Letters to the Editor (Online November 2, 2020 / Print edition November 3, 2020)

In response to the recent article “Group seeks to ‘save’ the Chicago Reporter” (Oct. 7), I’d like to echo that The Chicago Reporter is a coveted news organization, and it would be a major loss for Chicago’s African American communities if it doesn’t continue its investigative work.

People will often say, “Check with the Tribune.” I say don’t stop there. “Check with the Reporter.” That’s because the Reporter has historically reported on issues that my community, North Lawndale, and others on the city’s South and West sides face: predatory lending, unemployment, education, health care and police brutality, among others. It really speaks to systemic racism.

In 2015, my aunt, Lillie Pearl Williams, was in danger of losing her home after falling victim to a reverse mortgage scam. I was a source for an investigation into predatory reverse home mortgages that had robbed Black families on the city’s South and West sides of millions of dollars of intergenerational wealth. The story sparked a community campaign, legislative reform, the ability for dozens of people to stay in their homes and the conviction of an unscrupulous lender. The same reporter and I also worked on a national investigation of reverse mortgages that had even greater impact.

In these turbulent times, news that’s innovative and investigative is needed more than ever.

— The Rev. Robin Hood, Redeemed Outreach Ministries, Chicago

https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/letters/ct-letters-vp-110320-20201102-u5meim4vhrcmdjohe3sq6f62qa-story.html

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Feder: Chicago Headline Club has joined the battle to save the Chicago Reporter

The Chicago Headline Club has joined the battle to save the Chicago Reporter. The fate of the 48-year-old investigative news organization has been in limbo since Fernando Diaz was ousted as editor-in-chief and publisher. “The Chicago Headline Club is gravely concerned about the Community Renewal Society’s decision to put the Chicago Reporter on hiatus after removing the publication’s editor and publisher,” the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists said in a statement. “The Chicago Reporter has not published news content since September 15. This abrupt halt in publication damages the Reporter’s reputation. We strongly support the Reporter’s ability to function as an independent, professional news organization, which is more crucial now than ever for Chicago’s evolving media landscape.”

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GJR: The Chicago Reporter abruptly put ‘on hiatus,’ sparking vigorous protests, calls for re-opening

A passionate effort to restore the Reporter was started by two former editors, Laura Washington, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and political analyst for ABC-7 Chicago, and Alden K. Loury, senior editor of the race, class and communities desk at Chicago’s public radio station, WBEZ. This grassroots movement, fueled by many other Reporter alumni, now has a name (@SaveTCR) and a much broader constituency, worried about the loss of the Reporter’s investigative reporting in these fraught times.

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Civic leaders: “The Chicago region needs the Reporter now more than ever”

SIGN ON HERE!

LETTER TO REV. WALTRINA N. MIDDLETON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CRS

Rev. Dr. Waltrina N. Middleton, Executive Director,
and Board of Directors, Community Renewal Society

Dear Dr. Middleton:

As leaders of civic, religious, advocacy, and community organizations in the greater Chicago area, we value The Chicago Reporter’s investigative journalism on issues of race and poverty – issues so often overlooked by the mainstream media.

The Community Renewal Society has provided a home to the Reporter for nearly 50 years. In 1972, when the Reporter published its first issue, nonprofit news organizations were unheard of. The Reporter flourished because CRS respected it as an independent and professional journalistic institution.

Therefore, we are deeply concerned that CRS recently put the Reporter on hiatus and terminated the Editor & Publisher – without consulting key stakeholders – and now plans to “restructure” the Reporter.

The Chicago region needs the Reporter now more than ever. Across the country, youth movements are shining a bright new light on systemic racism. While some public officials and business leaders have responded by adopting new rhetoric, far fewer are changing the policies and practices of the institutions they lead. The loss of the Reporter as a professional, independent news organization would leave the metropolitan area without crucial reporting and data that we rely upon in our efforts for equity and justice.

In addition, any damage to the Reporter’s independence and professionalism risks the loss of a vital training ground for young journalists – particularly journalists of color – who go on to work for, and lead, news organizations across the country.

We urge you to protect The Chicago Reporter, restore its editorial independence by reinstating the position of Editor & Publisher, and resume publication.

Jaquie Algee
Vice President, SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana/Missouri/Kansas

Monroe Anderson
Retired Chicago journalist and former press secretary for Mayor
Eugene Sawyer

Jeff Bartow
Executive Director, Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP)

Jane Beckett
Consultant to nonprofits

Rev. Barbara Bolsen
Former Board Chair, Community Renewal Society
United Church of Christ pastor, retired

Michael Bennett
Associate Professor, DePaul UniversityBoard Treasurer, The African American Leadership and Policy Institute

Niketa Brar
Co-founder and Executive Director, Chicago United for Equity (CUE)

Joanna Brown
Former Lead Education Organizer, Logan Square Neighborhood Association

Rev. Betsy Bueschel
Former Board Chair, Community Renewal Society
United Church of Christ pastor, retired

Juan Calixto
Vice President of External Relations, Chicago Community Loan Fund

Nicole Cantello
President, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), Local 704

Jim Capraro
Principal, Capraro Consulting
Former CEO, Greater Southwest Development Corporation

Thom Clark
Founder & Former President, 
Community Media Workshop/Public Narrative
Co-host, “Live from The Heartland,” WLUW-FM

Delmarie Cobb
Media and Political Consultant

Sister Benita Coffey
Coordinator, Benedictines for Peace/Chicago Chapter

Jacqueline Y. Collins
State Senator, 16th District of Illinois

Rev. Paula Cripps-Vallejo
Pastor, Humboldt Park United Methodist Church

Sister Patricia A. Crowley
Board Chair, Bethany House of Hospitality
Benedictine Sister of Chicago

Henry W. DeZutter
Co-founder, Community Media Workshop
Former Reporter, Chicago Daily News and Chicago Reader
Former journalism professor, Columbia College and Malcolm X College

Bernardine Dohrn
Founder and former director, Children and Family Justice Center, Bluhm Legal Clinic
Retired clinical professor, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

Rev. Randall Doubet-King
United Church of Christ pastor, retired

Julie Dworkin
Policy Director, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Susan Eleuterio
Former Board Co-Chair, The Crossroads Fund

Sylvia Ewing
Former consultant to Catalyst Chicago / Community Renewal Society
2020 Illinois Humanities Award Winner

Sunny Fischer
Former Executive Director, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
Co-founder, Chicago Foundation for Women
Co-founder and Board Chair, National Public Housing Museum 

Kim Foxx
Cook County State’s Attorney

Stephen Franklin
Journalist and author

Mary Gerace
Mary Gerace Enterprises

Laurie R. Glenn
President & CEO, Thinkinc

Brother Michael Gosch
Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

Graham Grady
Partner, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
Former Commissioner, Department of Buildings, City of Chicago

Darlene M. Gramigna
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

Jacky Grimshaw
Vice President, Government Affairs, 
Center for Neighborhood Technology
Former senior advisor to Mayor Harold Washington

Carolyn Grisko
CEO, Grisko LLC
Board Member, CHANGE Illinois Action Fund

Anne Hallett

Nancy A. Hanson
Former Board Member, Community Renewal Society
Current donor to The Chicago Reporter 

Deborah Harrington
Former President, Woods Fund of Chicago

David L. Hatch
Co-Governing Fellow, People’s Action
Founder & former Executive Director The People’s Lobby and Reclaim Chicago

Christie Hefner

Kathleen Hogan
Political organizer and Co-Founder, Heartland Cafe

Joshua Hoyt
Former Executive Director, National Partnership for New Americans
Former Executive Director, Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Rachel Johnston
Senior Staff, Chicago Rehab Network

Jackie Kaplan-Perkins
Former member, Editorial Advisory Board, The Chicago Reporter

Marilyn F. Katz
President, MK Communications 

Keith J Kelleher
Former President, SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana Missouri Kansas
Former Board member, Community Renewal Society 

Sister Susan E. Kilduski
Benedictine Sisters of Chicago

Joanna Klonsky
Joanna Klonsky Communication Strategies

Susan E. Klonsky
Writer

Linda Lenz
Former Editor & Publisher, Catalyst Chicago 

Gordon Mayer
Gordon Mayer Communications

William C. McCready
Professor Emeritus, Sociology, Northern Illinois University
Visiting Scholar, University of Michigan

Regina McGraw
Executive Director, Wieboldt Foundation

Grace Chan McKibben
Executive Director, Coalition for a Better Chinese-American Community (CBCAC)

Alberto B. Mendoza
Executive Director, National Association of Hispanic Journalists 

Mark Miller
Former Deputy Managing Editor, Chicago Sun Times
Former Editor, Crain’s Chicago Business 

Rami Nashashibi
Executive Director, Inner-City Muslim Action Network

Donna Norkus
Former Board Member, Community Renewal Society 

Mary M. O’Connell
Communications professional 

David Orr
Former Cook County Clerk
Former 49th Ward Alderman

Abdon M. Pallasch
Director of Communications, Illinois State Comptroller

Dr. Mary Pattillo
Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and Chair, Department of African American Studies, Northwestern University

Aurie A. Pennick
Former Executive Director, Field Foundation of Illinois 

Elizabeth B. Phillips
Former Board Chair, Community Renewal Society
Long-time member, CRS Budget & Finance Committee

Toni Preckwinkle
Cook County Board President

Sylvia Puente
President & CEO, Latino Policy Forum

Gordon Quinn
Kartemquin Films

Dr. Elena D. Quintana
Executive Director, Institute on Public Safety & Social Justice

Delia C. Ramírez
State Representative, 4th District of Illinois

Wayne Richard
Director of Organizing, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Don Rose
Political Consultant

Shari E. Runner
President and CEO, The Humanity Institute
Former CEO, Chicago Urban League

Jane M. Hussein Saks
President and Artistic Director, Project&

Ellen J. Schumer
Executive Director, Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI)

Kristine Scott
Former Development and Communications Director, Community Renewal Society

Rev. Alexander E. Sharp
Executive Director, Clergy for a New Drug Policy

Helen Shiller
Former Alderwoman, 46th Ward

Dick Simpson
Professor, Political Science, University of Illinois at Chicago
Former Alderman, 44th Ward

Rebecca Anne Sive
Author and former faculty member, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago
Former Commissioner, Illinois Human Rights Commission

Jennifer Amdur Spitz
President, Amdur Spitz & Associates
Co-Founder, Groundswell Films

Nikki Will Stein
Founding Executive Director, Polk Bros. Foundation 

Chinta Strausberg
Reporter, talk show host and editor
Former Chicago Defender reporter
Studs Terkel Award recipient

Madeline Talbott
Founder, Action Now 

Laura Lane Taylor
Managing Director of Program, Sunshine Enterprises

Richard E. Townsell
Executive Director, Lawndale Christian Development Corporation

Vivian E. Vahlberg
Retired foundation consultant

Dr. Rachel Weber
Professor of Urban Planning and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago

Anita Weinberg
Director, Rodin Center for Social Justice, Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Michele Christine Weldon
Senior Leader, The OpEd Project

Charles F. Whitaker
Dean, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University

Ted Wysocki
Principal, U2Cando, and former Executive Director, North Branch Works
Former Executive Director, Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations (CANDO)

Affiliations listed for identification purposes only

For more information on The Chicago Reporter, go to http://www.chicagoreporter.com.

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NEWS RELEASE

CITY LEADERS CALL FOR IMMEDIATE REINSTATEMENT OF CHICAGO REPORTER
Preckwinkle, Foxx & Others Demand CRS Restart Publication

@SaveTCR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2020

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Thom Clark: 312.405.2142
thomnewstips@gmail.com

Deborah Harrington: 312.841.8449
deborahharrington@att.net

CHICAGO — With a crucial voice on race and poverty silenced, in a time when the city’s Black and Latino communities are facing a perfect storm of crises, a group of political, community and civic leaders, led by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and former Cook County Clerk David Orr are demanding an immediate restart of the Chicago Reporter.

In an open letter to the Community Renewal Society, which houses the award-winning investigative journal that for almost 50 years has explored race and poverty in Chicago, the group, @SaveTCR, of nearly 100 leaders and Reporter alumni is seeking to have an interim editor appointed while the future of the more-than-adequately funded project is determined.

“The loss of the Reporter as a professional, independent news organization would leave the metropolitan area without crucial reporting and data that we rely upon in our efforts for equity and justice,” the letter said.

A recent example of the publication’s wide reach and its ability to influence the public debate on racial justice was recently demonstrated in March when the Reporter launched the Illinois Coronavirus Tracker. It showed how Blacks and Latinos were testing positive for coronavirus — and dying — at significantly higher rates than whites, in Chicago and statewide, documenting Covid-19’s devastating toll on communities of color. The Tracker has garnered more than a million users, including New York Times reporters.

“Yet the Reporter has not published new content since September 15,” said Thom Clark, co-founder and retired president of Community Media Workshop/Public Narrative, one of signers of the open letter (below). “Any halt in publication damages the Reporter’s reputation and its ability to function as an independent, professional news organization.”

#SaveTheChicagoReporter

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Feder: “Support grows to save Chicago Reporter”

A chorus of powerful voices has joined the outcry over the survival of The Chicago Reporter. A letter signed by 80 prominent civic, religious, advocacy and community leaders calls on the nonprofit Community Renewal Society to resume publication of the Reporter and restore its editorial independence. (Here is the link.

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NABJ backs TCR independence

October 6, 2020       To The Chicago Renewal Society:

The National Association of Black Journalists Chicago Chapter is disheartened by recent publicity exposing challenges at The Chicago Reporter, the venerable publication founded in 1972 by John A. McDermott — to measure Chicago’s progress toward racial equality as the civil rights era ended.

Its readers among NABJ-Chicago and the general public are left in the dark by the sudden halt in operations at the investigative news organization, which has provided vital reporting on issues of race, poverty and inequality for 48 years. Subscribers learned only through the media that the publication was recently put on “hiatus” by the 136-year-old, faith-based Community Renewal Society.

Not only are your readers in the dark as to why publication was halted without explanation to the public, but we are left further disheartened by the obscurity surrounding the Sept. 17 firing of The Chicago Reporter’s Editor/Publisher Fernando Diaz.   NABJ-Chicago joins The Chicago Reporter readers and the myriad Journalism organizations urging the Community Renewal Society to engage in transparency, particularly as there have been questions surrounding the publication’s very necessary “independent editorial control.”   NABJ-Chicago urges the Chicago Renewal Society to broach conversations with the illustrious alumni who reached out, unsuccessfully, for discourse on the status and future of this critical publication, including Laura Washington, Alden Loury and John A. McDermott Jr., and NABJ-Chicago stands ready to support in any ways in which we are able.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, at maudlyne@nabjchicago.org. Find more on NABJCC at http://www.nabjchicago.org  

Sincerely,  
Maudlyne Ihejirika President  
P.O. Box 81228, Chicago, IL 60681-0228 www.nabjchicago.org