Chicago Newsmaker - National Association of Black Journalists-Chicago Chapter
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Chicago Newsmaker

Fox 32 Chicago Reporter Tia Ewing Speaks To Youth For  TSL Pro Session

(Excerpt taken from True Star’s article entitled, “‘Fox News Reporter Tia Ewing Closes Out The TSL Pro Session.” Read the complete story here)

Fox 32 Chicago Reporter Tia Ewing

Unfortunately, the True Star summer program has come to an end. But, we certainly went out with a bang. On the second to last day, Ms. Tia Ewing of Fox 32 Chicago News hopped on a zoom call for our Summer Session with the Pros series and dropped plenty of gems.

Ewing, born and raised in Chicago, started reporting in Flint, Michigan. She later moved to Sacramento, Cleveland, and finally back to Chicago. Ewing didn’t say a whole lot about herself but she certainly gave a whole lot of advice.

Early words were for people who want to become new anchors. She started by saying that news is not for the weak and that it’s not as simple as it seems. She also added that as a news anchor you should have compassion and integrity, especially when reporting deaths or anything of the sort. “Don’t let your personal life impede on your professional life,” Ewing said. She also told us to always be mentally prepared because as a news anchor you will always be under scrutiny.

Camron Smith Offers Tips To True Star Life About Sports Journalism

(Excerpt taken from True Star’s article entitled, “Camron Smith Shares Tips On Sports Broadcasting & Journalism.” Read the complete story here)

Sports Broadcaster Camron Smith

Camron Smith, sports broadcaster and founder of the Chi-Side, took time out of his schedule to offer advice on how career versatility leads to career longevity, and offered tips on the dos and dont’s of interviewing.

The first thing Smith talked about was his educational background and how he got where he is in his career today. Smith, a former True Star instructor, was born and raised on the West Side of Chicago. He said while growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s he didn’t have many examples to look up to in areas like sports media, broadcasting, or journalism. Some of the few people who represented him in media were people like Robin Roberts and Stewart Scott.

As a former high school and college basketball player, Smith still wanted to be involved in sports after deciding that being in the game just wasn’t a part of his path anymore. From his sophomore year to his senior year, Smith had the chance to be involved in TV production. This opened his eyes to a world outside of playing professional basketball. These series of decisions led him to majoring in communications and specializing in radio and television.


Rachel Hinton named chief political reporter at Chicago Sun-Times

(Excerpt taken from Robert Feder’s article entitled, “‘Sun-Times names Rachel Hinton chief political reporter.” Read the complete story here)

Rachel Hinton (Photo: WTTW/Chicago Tonight)

Just three years after joining the Sun-Times as an intern straight out of DePaul University, Rachel Hinton has been promoted to chief political reporter.

Chris Fusco, executive editor of the Sun-Times, confirmed Hinton’s meteoric rise in an email to staff announcing her appointment Wednesday. She most recently has been covering Cook County government.

“From chronicling the abuse suffered by a transgender prison inmate to providing timely political analysis about an embattled Cook County state’s attorney’s future, she’s been a team player who has played a key role in helping our newspaper hold power accountable and grow new readers,” Fusco said.

As chief political reporter Hinton replaces Tina Sfondeles, who resigned last month to join the Washington-based political team of Business Insider, the national news website.

A 2017 graduate of DePaul and former managing editor of The DePaulia, Hinton began as an intern and moved up to urban affairs reporter later that year. Earlier she also was an intern at the Chicago Reader. Hinton grew up in the far southwest suburbs and attended Plainfield South High School.


‘Chicago Tonight’ adds weekend shows to amplify Black, Latino voices

(Excerpt taken from Robert Feder’s article entitled, “‘Chicago Tonight’ adds weekend shows to amplify Black, Latino voices.” Read the complete story here)

One of the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak year for Chicago media has been watching Brandis Friedman’s star continue to rise on “Chicago Tonight,” the flagship news program of WTTW-Channel 11.

Friedman, who’s been a correspondent for the Window to the World Communications station since 2013, has emerged in recent months as the face of public television in Chicago.

While continuing as co-anchor (with Paris Schutz) of “Chicago Tonight” at 7 p.m. weeknights, Friedman is about to expand her role as the station launches two new weekend editions of the show.Starting the weekend of September 12, Friedman will host “Chicago Tonight: Black Voices,” at 6 p.m. Sundays. Hugo Balta, news director of WTTW, will host “Chicago Tonight: Latino Voices” at 6 p.m. Saturdays.

The two new half-hour programs “will offer a mix of analysis and features on a wide range of topics, including arts and life, entrepreneurship and innovation, and equity and justice across the sectors of our society and in the Black and Latino communities in Chicago,” according to a WTTW announcement today.

In addition to the weekend shows, a new monthly series bringing viewers together with activists and thought leaders will debut August 31. “Latino Voices: A WTTW News Community Conversation” and “Black Voices: A WTTW News Community Conversation” will air on the last Monday of the month at 8 p.m.

“Recent events have spotlighted the ways in which Black and Brown communities feel underrepresented and marginalized,” Friedman said. “These new series will allow us to explore the issues that matter to those communities, while giving those neighbors an opportunity to be heard.”

Friedman’s heightened visibility on “Chicago Tonight” can be traced in part to Phil Ponce’s reduced workload. After nearly two decades as anchor of the show, Ponce cut back to three days a week in 2018 and to two days a week in 2019.

“Still working Tuesdays and Thursdays but have been taking use-or-lose vacation time recently,” Ponce, 70, texted me last week. “Am loving the work Brandis and Paris are doing. Lucky to have them.”

Friedman has been on a fast track since Balta arrived in February as WTTW’s news director and executive producer of “Chicago Tonight.” He’s brought new energy and purpose to the show while continuing to benefit from the excellent work of Carol Marin and others.

Under Balta’s direction, “Chicago Tonight” has been laser-focused on the local impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide reckoning on social justice.“In ‘Voices,’ we will do what WTTW News can do best: present trusted analysis and authentic conversations with experts, community leaders, and our local politicians about the issues that matter to the Black and Latino communities,” Balta said. “We will unpack how current events impact the diverse communities that live and work in all of Chicago’s neighborhoods.”

Before joining WTTW, Friedman was a freelance news anchor and reporter at WBBM AM 780/WCFS FM 105.9, the Entercom all-news combo. She grew up in Vicksburg, Mississippi, graduated from Dillard University in New Orleans, and received her master’s degree from The Journalism School at Columbia University in New York.Earlier Friedman worked for WJLA, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C., and served as deputy communications director for the House Committee on Science and Technology.

Balta, a native of Paterson, New Jersey, and a graduate of Seton Hall University and Columbia Journalism School, previously oversaw editorial and production of weekend shows at MSNBC and was senior director of multicultural content at ESPN. He also is president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

David Kaplan and Jonathan Hood to co-host mornings on ESPN 1000

(Excerpt taken from Robert Feder’s article entitled, “David Kaplan and Jonathan Hood to co-host mornings on ESPN 1000.” Read the complete story here)

David Kaplan and Jonathan Hood, two longtime Chicago sports/talk personalities, are teaming up to co-host a new local morning show on WMVP 1000-AM, the ESPN Radio station managed by Good Karma Brands.

Starting Monday, Kaplan and Hood will be heard together from 7 to 10 a.m. as part of a new Monday-through-Friday programming lineup announced today.

Kaplan currently hosts “Kap & Company” from 9 a.m. to noon, and Hood hosts “The Baseball Show” followed by “Under the Hood” from 6 to 9 p.m.

The addition of “Kap & J. Hood” will provide the station with its first local morning show in more than 20 years under ESPN ownership. In July, the network pulled the plug on syndicated morning hosts Mike Golic and Trey Wingo, whose show aired here from 5 to 9 a.m.

It’s widely believed that ESPN 1000’s ratings growth has been stymied by the network’s national morning shows. Rival WSCR 670-AM (the Entercom sports/talk station known as The Score) has been local in mornings since its inception.While ESPN owner Walt Disney Co. still holds the license for the Chicago station, it’s been under the management of Milwaukee-based Good Karma Brands since September 2019.

We are really excited to give our fans a chance to have a local interactive show starting at 7 a.m. every weekday,” Mike Thomas, ESPN Chicago market manager, told me. “From a local standpoint, it’s going to put us in a strong competitive position.”

Under ESPN 1000’s new weekday lineup, the first two hours of the new ESPN Network morning show, hosted by Keyshawn Johnson, Jay Williams and Zubin Mehenti, will air from 5 to 7 a.m.

Medill lecturer Arionne Nettles awarded IRE Educator of Color fellowship

Courtesy of Arionne Nettles
Medill lecturer Arionne Nettles. She was selected as one of nine journalists of color to receive the newly-created IRE fellowship.

(Story by The Daily Northwestern – Isabelle Sarraf, Copy Chief – July 15, 2020)

Medill lecturer Arionne Nettles (Medill MSJ ‘16) was recently selected as one of nine journalists nationwide to receive the newly-created Educator of Color Fellowship from journalism nonprofit Investigative Reporters & Editors.

A lecturer at Northwestern since 2018, Nettles has brought her expertise in digital storytelling to the classroom. Her work often focuses on cultural ties between art and issues from mass incarceration to education inequity. She’s previously worked as a digital producer at Chicago’s NPR station, WBEZ, helping develop its digital team.

The fellowships were created to help fund educators of color and their attendance at IRE’s data boot camps, which involve hands-on training on spreadsheet and database skills with a focus on how those skills can be taught in a college setting.

“IRE is fortunate to have this funding in order to support educators of color in the data journalism community,” a news release stated.

Nettles teaches interactive and multimedia journalism courses at Medill and said data is an important part of interactive storytelling.

Nettles said she is excited to bring back lessons from IRE to Medill and be “on top of the trend.” As a professor, she wants to teach lessons that can be translated into hard skills for internships and post-graduate jobs. Using data journalism tools at your disposal, she said, allows for journalists to be nimble and competitive in the current reporting atmosphere.

“Traditionally, you think of data as a separate class,” Nettles said. “We know that data needs to be integrated throughout the curriculum, that data is a part of how we have our facts and how we can show and improve what we’re reporting on.”

Journalism is often thought about in a very traditional way, physically reporting in-person, which Nettles said, in reality, can be inaccessible. She also said data journalism skills can “even the playing field” for journalists who are now remote reporting because everyone can access data — whether it be international students stuck in different time zones or disabled students that cannot accessibly conduct “man on the street” interviews.

Though Nettles is young in the business, Medill Dean Charles Whitaker said her talents as an instructor and her level of enthusiasm in the classroom have benefitted students.

Through the Educator of Color fellowship, Whitaker said IRE is helping ensure more individuals of color are going into investigative reporting. There’s been a perennial discussion, Whitaker said, in both Medill and the industry in general, to encourage and provide the tools for more people of color to go into journalism.

“There are all these horror stories about the industry dying,” Whitaker said. “We want to do a lot in the coming years both to expose more young people of color to the field but make pathways for them to enter journalism.”


Twitter: @isabellesarraf


Chicago sports reporter Russell Dorsey joins Chicago Sun-Times

Russell Dorsey announced on his Twitter account he has been hired as a sports reporter by the Chicago Sun-Times covering the Chicago Cubs.

“Now that it’s official, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be joining @Suntimes as  @Cubs beat reporter. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to be a part of an amazing staff. Thanks to @ChrisDeLuca and @FuscoChris for their belief in me and my abilities.”

Chicago Broadcaster Courtney Gousman Shares Her Future Plans

Chicago native Courtney Gousman recently announced her plan to move on from WGN-Channel 9. In Gousman’s own words via her Instagram page she shares what it has meant for her to live and work in Chicago along with her next destination in her stellar career.

Read the full post below:

When I returned home to Chicago 8 years ago, I never thought I’d be writing a post like this… But life is filled with surprises.
At the end of this month, I’ll be leaving @wgnnews to accept a position in Cleveland, OH! I am excited to announce I’ll be the new evening anchor for the 5, 6, & 11 newscasts at @news5cleveland!
Getting a dream job like this in the midst of a pandemic confirms God’s grace– and I am so grateful for this opportunity.
If you know me, you know how much of a Chicago kid I am, so I’m really excited about being able to stay in the Midwest, just a few hours down the road. It’s Lake Erie now instead of Lake Michigan. 😁
Chicago peeps, we’ve still got more time to cut-up and make memories. I love you, and appreciate how you’ve embraced me on-air in my hometown– it’s meant the world to me.

Medill inducts six women into its 2020 Hall of Achievement class

Alumnae represent the highest levels of accomplishment in their fields and show power of a Medill degree

NABJ-Chicago President Maudlyne Ihejirika, columnist with the Chicago Sun-Times, has been named among six inductees into the Medill School of Journalism, Media & Integrated Marketing Communications’ 2020 Hall of Achievement, Northwestern University announced June 10.

The all-female class celebrates 150 years of co-education at Northwestern.

Medill’s Hall of Achievement was established in 1997 to honor alumni whose distinctive careers have had positive effects on their fields.

“Northwestern’s 150 Years of Women is a celebration of catalysts — individuals who take risks, chart their own course and inspire change,” said Medill Dean and veteran NABJ Member Charles Whitaker.

“Each of this year’s inductees is a pioneer and innovator in her field. We are honored to call them alumnae and induct them into this year’s class.”

Other inductees were: Jeanie Caggiano, executive vice president and executive creative director at Leo Burnett​; Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning Hollywood writer/producer Cindy Chupack; Mary Dedinsky, director of the journalism program and associate professor in residence at Northwestern University in Qatar; Los Angeles Times Sports Columnist ​Helene Elliott; and Kary Mcllwain, chief marketing and communications officer at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago​.

Ihejirika is an award-winning urban affairs columnist/reporter with 30 years of experience in journalism, public relations and government.

Recently named among the Power 25, an annual ranking of the 25 most powerful women in Chicago journalism, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Iowa before attending Medill.

She currently writes the Sun-Times “Chicago Chronicles,” long-form columns on “people and places that make Chicago tick,” and is the author of “Escape From Nigeria: A Memoir of Faith, Love and War,” a tale of her family’s survival of the brutal Nigerian-Biafran War, and miracles that brought them to the U.S.

President of both NABJCC and the Chicago Journalists Association,

Ihejirika was in 2018 inducted into the Hall of Fame at her high school, Downers Grove South, as well as the hall of fame at University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

She is a member of the Professional Advisory Board at the University of Iowa, and a member of the prestigious Council of 100 at Northwestern, which will honor the 2020 Hall of Achievement inductees at a spring ceremony at Medill in 2021, due to coronavirus precautions.


Felicia Middlebrooks leaves WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM after 35 years

Felicia Middlebrooks (Photo: WBBM Newsradio)


(Excerpt taken from Robert Feder’s article entitled, “Chicago radio ratings: Middlebrooks exits with WBBM Newsradio on top.” Read the complete story here)

Audience shares declined from their sky-high levels in April for Chicago’s news and news/talk radio stations, but WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM continued to lead the market in May for the fourth consecutive month.Nielsen Audio figures released Monday showed the Entercom all-news combo No. 1 overall as well as in mornings, afternoons and evenings.

Felicia Middlebrooks, who signed off May 29 after more than 35 years as morning co-anchor at WBBM Newsradio, went out on top. Her replacement alongside co-anchor Pat Cassidy has not yet been named.Holding steady in second place was Chicago’s most popular music station —Hubbard Radio classic rock WDRV 97.1-FM — with Bob Stroud still reigning supreme as king of middays.

Chicago Sun-Times promotes Nykia Wright to CEO

(Excerpt taken from Robert Feder’s article entitled, “Sun-Times promotes top execs Nykia Wright, Chris Fusco.” Read the complete story here)

The Chicago Sun-Times boosted two top bosses Friday with the promotion of interim CEO Nykia Wright to CEO and editor-in-chief Chris Fusco to executive editor.

“I am very happy for Nykia and Chris,” Jorge Ramirez, board chairman of the Sun-Times Media, said in a statement. “They have done a great job navigating a volatile business model in volatile times.

The Sun-Times and all of our constituents are lucky to have them.”Wright, 40, joined the company as chief operating officer in 2017 and was named interim CEO after Edwin Eisendrath stepped down in 2018. She previously worked as a strategic and financial marketing consultant.

The Atlanta native has an MBA from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and holds a degree in business administration and finance from Carnegie Mellon University. She also has an international business certificate from the University of Cambridge in England.

In 2019 Wright was named among The Most Powerful Women in Chicago Journalism here.

Lolly Bowean recipient of the Anne Keegan Award

(Excerpt taken from Robert Feder’s article entitled “Lisagor Awards honor journalists in virtual celebration.” Read the complete story here)

Lolly Bowean, reporter for the Chicago Tribune, will receive the Anne Keegan Award for her “deeply-reported and beautifully-written stories” about life in the city’s African American community. “Bowen impressed the judges with her eye for detail, her sense of humor and humanity and – in true spirit of the Anne Keegan Award – her ability to capture the dignity and resilience of common men and women,” the judges said.

Congratulations to Amanda DeVoe!

Please join us in congratulating our VP of Archives, Amanda DeVoe! Amanda is the new morning Traffic Reporter at WKRG! She will be covering Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida. She’s the best and we will miss her!


Chicago Journalists Association honors ABC7’s Cheryl Burton with Lifetime Achievement Award


CHICAGO (WLS) — Congratulations to ABC7’s very own Cheryl Burton!

Our Eyewitness News Anchor has been named the recipient of the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Journalists Association.

In a big surprise, she announced the establishment of the Cheryl Burton Scholarship at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, which is her alma mater.

Each year, a girl and boy planning to study journalism will each receive a $5,000 scholarship.

CBS 2 Chicago Celebrates Newly Elected NABJ President Dorothy Tucker

NABJ Chicago Applauds 2019 Studs Terkel Award Winners Deborah Douglas, Britt Julious and Nikole Hannah-Jones




By  Robert Feder 

Robservations on the media beat:

Just days before ending his 25-year run as host of “Worldview” on Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM, Jerome McDonnell has been named recipient of a 2019 Studs Terkel Community Media Award. His Monday-through-Friday noon talk show on international affairs was canceled to make room for a new local talk show to air from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., starting October 14. McDonnell’s last broadcast will be October 4. He’s expected to shift to reporting on energy and environmental issues for the public radio station.

This year’s other Studs Terkel Award winners are Deborah Douglas, managing editor of MLK 50: Justice Through Journalism; Annie Sweeney, criminal justice reporter for the Chicago Tribune; and Britt Julious, freelance writer and editor. Now in their 25th year, the prestigious awards are presented by Public Narrative, the nonprofit community media organization. They’re named for the late Chicago author and broadcaster. The group also will cite Jeff McCarter, founder and executive director of Free Spirit Media, with its Uplifting Voices Award, and Nikole Hannah-Jones, lead reporter of the New York Times’ The 1619 Project, with its first Ripple Effect Award. All six will be honored October 17 at Zhou B. Art Center, 1029 West 35th Street. (Here is the link for tickets.)



NABJ Chicago Celebrates Diversity: A Special Recognition of Dorothy Tucker

On Aug. 9, 2019, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) elected Dorothy Tucker, an investigative reporter for CBS 2 Chicago, as the 22nd President of the largest organization of journalists of color in the nation.

The election of Tucker, former NABJ VP of Broadcast and longtime Board Member of NABJ-Chicago, represents only the second time the position will be held by a Chicago native – the last time being 1977-79, when NABJ Co-Founder and legendary Chicago Sun Times civil rights
journalist Vernon Jarrett steered the national organization.

Co-Founded with a group of 44 men and women on December 12, 1975, in Washington, D.C., the NABJ will cost a hometown celebration of new Chicago leadership, whose mission is promoting diversity as a Fourth Estate.

“Highly respected within Chicago’s journalism and civic communities, Tucker, who joined CBS Chicago in 1984, is the ideal leader for our national organization,” said NABJ Chicago Chapter President Maudlyne Ihejirika. “Raised in Chicago’s Lawndale and Austin communities, Tucker has risen from reporting positions in Memphis, Denver and Pittsburgh, to her enviable position in our nation’s third largest market, and this brings to her leadership a keen sensitivity and understanding of issues that matter to the Black community, which NABJ serves.

On September 25, 2019, NABJ Chicago will honor Tucker with a program that includes awarding a newly-created scholarship, “The Vernon Jarrett/Dorothy Tucker NABJ Presidential Scholarship,” to a deserving broadcast student who attends a college or university in the Chicago

The event, which takes place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Per.So.Na Chicago Ultra Lounge, 408 South Wells Street, Chicago, Illinois. The event will also include a dinner and cocktail reception.

CBS-2 Chicago’s Ryan Baker and Audrina Bigos receive promotions


Official WBBM-TV release:

Ryan Baker is leaving his sports chair in favor of the anchor chair. Ryan will join Erin Kennedy at the desk to anchor our morning newscast. I’m happy to tell you Audrina Bigos will also join the morning team as our new Breaking News Anchor. Let’s also welcome Yasmeen Hassan to the morning team as our traffic anchor – Ryan, Audrina and Yasmeen will begin their new roles on September 30th.


South Side youths get surprise visit from President Obama

Former President Barack Obama surprised a group of South Side teens participating in the Obama Youth Jobs Corps program with a visit, sitting down to chat and listening as they shared their experiences, at the Obama Foundation offices in Chicago on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. Provided by The Obama Foundation

By Maudlyne Ihejirika

A group of about a dozen South Side youth participating in a summer job corps program got an unexpected surprise Tuesday when President Barack Obama popped in on them during their visit to The Obama Foundation.

The former president sat down for a chat with the teens, participants in the Obama Youth Jobs Corps, a workforce-readiness partnership between his foundation and a national nonprofit youth development organization, Urban Alliance.

Obama spoke about the importance of job-training programs to creating opportunities for young people across Chicago, answering many questions from the teens and listening as they shared their experiences.

“Part of the goal of this program is to expose you to what’s possible,” Obama said.

“Everybody here has already shown extraordinary talent and initiative. All of you all are focused in a way that I can’t say I necessarily was when I was your age. So you guys are already ahead of the game,” he continued.

“Part of our goal is also to make sure that you recognize that even as you succeed, that the communities from which you come are going to need you to be active and involved and engaged and focused. Because all of us, as citizens and generally, have an obligation to make sure that we’re tending to the city we live in.”

The teens had come to the foundation offices to meet with Chief Engagement Officer Michael Strautmanis. Launched last year, the job corps program plans to bring year-long workforce-readiness training and internships to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors on Chicago’s South Side over the next five years.



It is the end of an era for the Chicago Defender with the historic organization, printing its final print copy this morning and shifting to a digital focus. Brandon caught up with leaders in the Black Press to reflect on its legacy.

It is important to note this is not end of the Defender as an organization. The company says no one is losing jobs from this, but having the paper itself to print its last copy ever today, still hits hard.

Soda Tax Debate Overlooks Sugar’s Sinister History

[Flickr/Photo by Victor]

The world has been a slave to sugar for so long that Cook County residents who are sour on a new penny-an-ounce sugar tax have missed the social justice implications of the measure.

While folks aren’t buying the health argument for taxing the ubiquitous substance directly linked to poor health, almost no one has made the connection to the role of sugar in creating systems of oppression that cause us to debate whether black lives (also) matter.

Sugar drove the slave trade. Everything from income inequality to unequal education outcomes are linked to how we handled things — or didn’t — after slavery ended, leaving white supremacy a part of everyday life.

“There’s definitely a relationship between sugar and slavery,” Josef Ben Levi, who teaches classical African civilization at Northeastern Illinois University, said of West Indies sugar cultivation. “The very foundation of France and its control of what became Haiti had to do with sugar. When Europeans got hold of sugar, they just freaked out.”

Now the Cook County Board of Commissioners has been cowed into considering repealing the sugar tax in October because folks can’t fathom freeing themselves from their unhealthy sugar fix. This controversy has also brought out an ugly provincialism among critics of New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s pro-sugar tax ad campaign, and has the characteristically unperturbed County Board President Toni Preckwinkle seemingly running scared for her political future.

Most of us are familiar with the role of cotton and slavery in making America rich. And whether we want to admit it or not, black bodies were the investment that enriched Southern states so much that they betrayed their country and fought a war to protect their investment in free labor. This ethos lives on in white supremacist violence and rhetoric, as debates over things like removing Confederate monuments keep these issues alive, with life-or-death implications for people on the losing end of racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism.

The Napoleonic Wars brought sugar into the picture, paving the way for Thomas Jefferson’s negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase and manifesting a destiny of sugar cultivation in rich Louisiana soil. Slaves better not sneak a piece of cane because that was “eating up somebody’s money,” Ben Levi said.

British author Jim Walvin explores the link between sugar, the slave trade and modern-day health in his upcoming “Sugar: The World Corrupted, From Slavery to Obesity”: “There is a link between the history of African slavery and modern-day racism,” Walvin said. “For three centuries and more, the West treated Africans as things — bought and sold them as items of trade — objects and commodities. That image and attitude embedded itself in Western society. Viewing people as things formed the foundations of a deep-seated racist view, which survived.”

Walvin says slavery made possible the mass production and consumption of sugar, which early on was revealed to be bad for health, especially dental health.

“Yet at the same time it provided energy for low-income laboring people,” according to Walvin. ‘Sweet tea and coffee and jams helped them do their work, while rotting their teeth. Obesity came much later with modern industrialized drinks and foods.”

Cook County residents facing sticker shock when they go to buy a case of soda, or who now add a grocery stop when they go to Indiana to fill up on cheap gas, are so focused on their fix they cannot see their role in a historic and economic through-line—or their power to stop the scourge of sugar and what we’ve been always been willing to do to get it, beverage industry be damned.

It would behoove Cook County taxpayers to consider the devastating effects of high fructose corn syrup and other forms of sugar, according to Dr. Terry Mason, CEO of Cook County Department of Public Health. Among processed sugar’s harmful effects is the human body’s inability to metabolize it, creating scar tissue in the lining of blood vessels that can lead to strokes and heart attacks. When the liver can’t break down sugar, it turns it into fat.

Maybe folks are so high on sugar, they can’t remember when cigarette smoke wafted everywhere until public health policies seriously curbed smoking and where the nasty habit could occur.

“We know what the health issues involved with tobacco are,” Mason says. “We are at the same point with food.”

The fact that Can the Tax is dueling the Bloomberg ad for hearts, souls and ‘sweet tooths’ shows Mason is right. We’re living in a toxic food environment, and just because something is available on a store shelf doesn’t mean it should be consumed. The food and beverage industry is primed to spend big money convincing us otherwise. Businesses that profit from our poor health, like kidney dialysis centers, count on certain communities to get sicker than most so they can build more.

“Besides the fact the industry is throwing smoke over people,” Ben Levi said, “not only obesity but diabetes is waiting to happen—basically, death. Our community doesn’t realize the danger that’s involved in high-fructose corn syrup. It’s not even real.”

The truth is, we get upset at tragedies we can see in real-time, like carnage from storms and street violence. It’s the slow death that lulls us into complacency on pushing smart social policy. With the obvious health and historical implications of sugar consumption, one wonders why more taxpayers aren’t using their agency to embrace a tax with the underlying value that life matters.

Journalists and educators, it’s time to get to know each other

There may be no better time than now to help more working journalists and working educators get to know each other.

I came to this conclusion after moderating a panel at the National Association of Media Literacy Educators (NAMLE) conference in Chicago in June. NAMLE is a 20-year old international organization of about 4,000 members from across the globe — mostly researchers and educators. Even though I’ve worked in local media for many years, and spent the past year researching Chicago’s local media ecosystem with my colleague Andrea Hart, this organized group of educators was new to me. I’m sure I’m not the only journalist this would be true of.

“By the time the conference was over, I felt as if I’d just discovered a new army of advocates for the work of rebuilding local news.”

A lot of those advocates are right in my own backyard (and probably yours, too).

The educators spoke about wanting to arm students and parents with knowledge of the standards of quality journalism. Teachers said a lot of their students don’t believe anything they read or hear in the media. And over and over again, these educators said they don’t know how to engage local journalists in their efforts to empower students.

In our research of Chicago’s news ecosystem, we continue to come across innovators, youth-based organizations and new content providers. The rise of these innovative organizations is a huge opportunity for educators and journalists to work together to strengthen local news

For example, I moderated a plenary panel called “View From The Ground: Narratives From Within Chicago” with panelists who included a neighborhood organizer, two high school students, a reporter from a Spanish-language newspaper and the editorial director of a civic journalism lab. The conversation highlighted how so many people who’ve given up on the so-called “mainstream media” haven’t given up on being informed. Instead, they’re using new ways to get the information they need. What would it look like if these organizations collaborated with the media literacy educators in the room that are empowering students to learn fact from fake?

Across Chicago, as we have been hosting workshops and interviews in our research for Democracy Fund, Andrea and I continue to see people creating new content sources. Even neighborhood organizations have embraced their new roles as alternative content providers for their constituents. Other unique content providers from Chicago’s media ecosystem were seen and heard throughout the conference, including representatives from the Illinois Arts Council, local youth media groups, an internationally recognized award-winning film company, and even a 10th-grader from Elmhurst, IL who is a webmaster for Global Student Square, an international student journalism network.

Understanding the role of non-traditional media makers like these is a key part of understanding of how local news is created and consumed today, in Chicago and beyond.

But one sector was not as present. I did not see many local “traditional” media covering the conference. What a(nother) missed opportunity for journalists to understand the urgency to educate students and citizens about media. What a missed opportunity to identify potential collaborations.

Imagine the potential for newsrooms when NAMLE members are creating and testing so many models through their classrooms to help youth grow into engaged citizens. Many of these educators already have strong track records, and others want to learn what they can do.

In Chicago, and no doubt around the country, there are more opportunities to collaborate with these media educators, experiment and rethink community engagement and a stronger local media, together.

(Lead photo via CC/Justine Warrington

sheilaSheila Solomon is an award-winning former newspaper reporter and editor and has worked for the Hampton Monitor, Daily Press, Newsday, The Charlotte Observer and Chicago Tribune. Currently she’s a senior consultant in Chicago for Democracy Fund, and the manager of recruiting and internships at Rivet Radio in Chicago. Among her honors is being inducted into the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications Hall of Fame at Hampton University (Hampton, Va.) and the Ida B. Wells award, given by Medill and the National Association of Black Journalists. She just completed her fifth year as a judge for the National Headliner Awards, has been a lecturer and adjunct professor and serves on numerous journalism-related boards and advisory committees.

NABJCC 2017 Annual Meeting

Dometi Pongo is on the move.

He’s just been hired as weekend news anchor at Tribune Broadcasting news/talk WGN AM 720. Todd Manley, vice president of content and programming at WGN, called him “one of the brightest young stars on the radio.” Pongo will continue as weekday morning news anchor on Midway Broadcasting urban news/talk WVON AM 1690, where he’s worked since 2013. The Chicago native is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. At WGN he succeeds Veronica Carter, who’s rejoining CBS Radio all-news WBBM AM 780/WCFS FM 105.9 — this time as traffic reporter.

Goodman Theatre Hosts NABJCC – April 28, 2017

(April 28, 2017) Chicago, IL — NABJ-Chicago Chapter enjoyed our recent #NightAtTheTheatre, for the world premiere production of Goodman Theatre’s #ObjectsInTheMirror, a new play that opened this week, shining light on the global #refugeecrisis. It’s based on the life of #African refugee #ShedrickYarkpai, who fled his war-torn #Liberian homeland on a walking trek through three countries and #hellish refugee camps in #CoteDIvoire and #Guinea, before finally emigrating to #Australia. The play is the newest work of lauded Playwright #CharlesSmith and equally lauded #Goodman Resident Director #ChuckSmith. The playwright, a #SouthSide native, created this powerful work exploring identity, survival and sacrifices of assimilation after meeting #Yarkpai, an actor, in 2009.
Running thru June 4th, it’s a must-see, says #CHICAGOSUNTIMES Theatre Critic #HedyWeiss:…/paying-the-price-for-surviva…/
If you haven’t renewed your #NABJCC membership, you’ll want to do it now, so that you don’t miss events like this #NABJ first look!

Spring Fling Mixer 2017

(April 4, 2017) Chicago, IL — Area journalists joined at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company for a night of networking and conversation.

Fireside Chat w/ Kim Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney

March 16, 2017

Hosted at CBS 2 Chicago, WBBM-TV & Moderated by Derrick Blakley, CBS 2 Chicago – Political Reporter

The NABJ-Chicago Chapter March meeting featured an amazing fireside chat with State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, first African American woman chief prosecutor in #CookCounty history.
Foxx, who became a national name when a grassroots movement helped her boot a two-term incumbent. During the meeting Foxx opened up about her first 100 days. Aside from the challenges and politics of her prominent position, #NABJCC got a deep dive into the personal story of this attorney who grew up in the Cabrini Green public housing and being homeless and living in shelters.

Veteran radio producer leaves the Windy City for D.C.

Sherman “Sherm” Murdock, former producer of WGCI’s “The Tony Sculfield and the Morning Riot,” leaves Chicago to produce one of Washington, D.C. top radio shows, “The Fam in the Morning” on WKYS.

He’s had a long career with Clear Channel Radio and was recently an instructor for the Journalism/Music Studio for Teens of West Englewood.

Murdock starts at the Radio One-owned station Feb. 21.

Follow him on Twitter: @SHERMradio.



NABJ Mourns the Loss of Longtime Journalist Ronald Wade

WASHINGTON (Jan . 27, 2017) – The National Association of Black Journalists mourns the loss of longtime journalist Ronald Wade, who died Wednesday after a brief illness. Mr. Wade was 62.

Mr. Wade was news editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he arrived in 2006. Journalists from across the country are remembering and celebrating a colleague known for his knowledge and kind spirit.

“I came to know Ron from his days at the Philadelphia Inquirer,” said NABJ President Sarah Glover. “He was a warm person and admirable journalist. He is remembered fondly across U.S. newsrooms for his friendship, kindness, precision to detail and strong journalism skills. He encouraged many young journalists along their career paths, and warmly kept in touch via Facebook. He will be truly missed.”

“I can’t put into words what Ron Wade meant to me,” said Marlon A. Walker, NABJ’s vice president of print. Walker was a reporter at the Post-Dispatch from 2010 until 2013. “He always made himself available to me, either as a journalist, a source of endless information or someone who had seen so much of this country and knew all the best places to eat!”

At the Post-Dispatch, colleagues remembered a dedicated journalist with strong intellect and news judgment, said Post-Dispatch Editor Gilbert Bailon.

“Our top editors trusted his decision-making and ability to respond to big news stories from the many nights of protest in Ferguson to major election nights. He was a backbone involved in coordinating coverage among the various desks and also overseeing the website in the evening,” he said. “But even more important, Ron was beloved because of class, grace and great sense of humor. He had a lot of authority to make important decisions. He did so with clarity of thought, strong reasoning and it was always done with great respect for the people involved. Ron never shied away from tough calls, but he did it with aplomb. Respect for him and his friendship with him spanned the entire newsroom. . . The personal and professional loss in our newsroom is huge. All of the Post-Dispatch journalists were blessed to have worked with Ron. And we all miss him dearly.”

His career began in the Chicago Tribune newsroom as a copy editor, and he worked in newsrooms in Louisville, Ky., Long Island and Buffalo, N.Y., Springfield, Va., Minneapolis and Philadelphia.

“This has literally been his entire life,” daughter Tasha Wade said by phone.

Mr. Wade received a bachelor of arts degree in East Asian Studies from Harvard University.

In addition to Tasha, Mr. Wade is survived by his wife, Mollie, and six other children: Lisa, Sharon, Shawn, Aaron, Jaden and Deiontae.

Funeral services for Mr. Wade will be held in his native Chicago on Feb. 3 at 11 a.m. at Sacred Memories Funeral Home, 2024 E. 75th St.