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



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

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



Preckwinkle, Foxx & Others Demand CRS Restart Publication



Thom Clark: 312.405.2142

Deborah Harrington: 312.841.8449

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.”



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 Find more on NABJCC at  

Maudlyne Ihejirika President  
P.O. Box 81228, Chicago, IL 60681-0228  

Alumni respond to Rev. Dr. Waltrina Middleton, CRS executive director


“We have read Dr. Middleton’s statement.  It raises deep concerns that her “reimagining” of The Chicago Reporter will erode and end editorial independence and diminish its ability to do influence-free investigative and in-depth journalism.  

Her statement leaves many unanswered questions.

Will the Reporter have an independent editor and publisher, a position that has led the operation and direction of the investigations and reporting since its founding in 1972?

Why isn’t the process to reimagine the future of the Reporter more transparent? 

Who is involved in discussions about the restructuring of the Reporter? 

What will be the role of the proposed “Advisory Table” of “key stakeholders” for the Reporter? Who are these stakeholders? Why should they have influence over the recruiting and hiring of editorial staff, a step that will diminish the news organization’s editorial independence?

What is the vision for the Reporter – an independent news organization committed to its founding role to conduct fact- and data-based investigations on issues of race, ethnicity and poverty, or something else?

The Chicago Reporter, with nearly 50 years of effective and award-winning investigative reporting, cannot continue to do the work that must be done at this time of racial reckoning without an independent editor and publisher.

The “Save The Chicago Reporter”campaign is a group of more than 100 alumni of the pioneering publication that covers race and poverty.



100+ alumni respond to The Reporter “hiatus”

Note: The following letter was delivered to the Board and Executive Director of Community Renewal Society on Oct. 2, along with the signatures of more than 50 Chicago Reporter alumni. To date, more than 130 alumni have signed the letter. The writers of the letter are currently seeking permission from the signers to include their names on this website.


To: Rev. Dr. Waltrina N. Middleton and Members of the Board of the Community Renewal Society

From: Alumni of The Chicago Reporter

We are writing to you about The Chicago Reporter, where every one of us who has signed below worked at one point during the past five decades. We are very concerned about its future as a journalistic agent of change through its fact- and data-based reporting.

We are distressed by reports that the Community Renewal Society has put the Reporter on “hiatus” and has removed its editor and publisher with no public announcement or explanation and without any word about what will happen next.

There has never been a more important time for The Chicago Reporter to be actively engaged in the work it does best as activists and citizens raise issues of racial and economic disparities and police shootings of Black men and women.

Movements depend on the facts dug up and revealed by journalists about illegal, unfair and immoral acts of government and other institutions, and succeed in forcing change through the spotlight of publications such as the Reporter.

John A McDermott came to that conclusion as a well-respected activist who led the Catholic Interracial Council during the civil rights movement, hosting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at his office for strategy sessions during King’s 1965 open housing drive in Chicago.

After stepping down from the council, McDermott traveled the country to learn what it would take to get people to obey the new civil rights laws passed in the 1960s, and determined that the best way would be to give people the dispassionate hard facts.

McDermott brought the idea of The Chicago Reporter to the Community Renewal Society, whose executive director, Donald Benedict, welcomed him, believing CRS had room for activism, community building, chorale groups and The Chicago Reporter.

The Reporter has exceeded its promise. As one of the earliest not-for-profit investigative publications and among the few to early on focus on data, the Reporter continually breaks new ground with stories that prompt change.

Chicago’s need for improvement does not stop with the many reforms instituted after Reporter investigations on policing, emergency medical care, education, housing, hiring, contracting, banking and more.

And as a group, the Reporter has been critical to us, not only giving us journalistic training and development but also a firm grounding in issues of racial, ethnic and economic justice, making us better reporters, editors, journalists and writers.

The Reporter’s success depends on its independent editorial control and its freedom to conduct

its investigations and reporting without interference as it holds institutions and leaders accountable on issues of race, ethnicity, poverty and justice.

We ask you to explain why you have put The Chicago Reporter on hiatus and removed its editor and publisher. We request that you create a transparent process for the future of the Reporter.

And we insist the editor and publisher must have independent editorial control. These steps, we believe, will help reassure the community that The Chicago Reporter will continue to fulfill the role that John A. McDermott intended as a legacy of Dr. King’s campaign for racial justice in Chicago.