It’s been a year since The Chicago Reporter abruptly went on hiatus, halting the crucial work of the nonprofit investigative news organization focusing on race, equity and justice. Despite vague promises of an internal restructuring by Community Renewal Society, publication of original investigative reporting never resumed. Now nearly 100 prominent journalists and community leaders have formed Friends of the Chicago Reporter to urge its reinstatement as the local media treasure approaches its 50th anniversary next year. (Here is the link to their video.) The independent group is headed by Laura Washington, Sun-Times columnist, ABC 7 political analyst and former editor and publisher of the Reporter. “We are thrilled and grateful for the support of so many journalists and community and civic leaders who have officially signed on to this crucial campaign,” Washington said.
“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/
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
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
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.”
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.
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.)
More than 100 former employees of the Chicago Reporter are fighting to save the investigative news organization after 48 years of vital reporting on issues of race, poverty and inequality.
Publication of the Chicago Reporter, an investigative news source that has probed issues of race and poverty for nearly five decades, was halted without explanation after its editor and publisher was fired last month, according to a letter sent Friday to the outlet’s owner.
The letter, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, states that former employees and contributors were “distressed” to learn the Reporter’s former publisher and sole editor Fernando Diaz had been terminated Sept. 17 as the periodical was placed on “hiatus.” The latest story on the Reporter’s website was published a day earlier.
For nearly 50 years, the Chicago Reporter has blazed a trail as an investigative not-for-profit publication focused on uncovering racial inequalities through database reporting.
Three weeks after parent Community Renewal Society, a Chicago faith-based organization, abruptly put the Reporter on hiatus and removed its editor and publisher, a group of more than 100 former employees is searching for answers and trying to “save” the publication.
Three weeks after parent Community Renewal Society, a Chicago faith-based organization, abruptly put the Reporter on hiatus and removed its editor and publisher, a group of more than 100 former employees is searching for answers and trying to “save” the publication. https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-chicago-reporter-editor-removed-hiatus-20201006-wmwqtwnze5e4jayha36mznlqky-story.html