Award-Winning Magazine, Training Ground for Young Journalists Marks Four-Decade Milestone with “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” Gala in June
Chicago, Ill.— In 1972, veteran civil rights activist John A. McDermott imagined a monthly publication that would investigate and analyze racial issues. Founding Publisher McDermott recruited Lillian Calhoun, a veteran of the Chicago Sun-Times, as his co-editor. They met to plot the first issue, Calhoun recalled years later. “To save money, we decided on a newsletter, printed in good, clean Helvetica,” she said. “We chose extra-thin paper for inexpensive postage. Folded to letter size, it could fit in a busy executive’s pocket or purse.”
That little newsletter became The Chicago Reporter, now one of the nation’s most influential investigative new organizations.
For 40 years, the Reporter has been a Chicago institution, deploying its trademark style of dispassionate investigative journalism to influence policy and improve the lives of underserved communities and people. While still in its infancy, the Reporter broke dozens of stories documenting widespread discrimination against African Americans in corporate hiring, city services and governmental affairs. More recently, its reporting has made national headlines, tackling the disparities in nursing home treatment of black and white seniors, overly harsh sentencing for African American offenders, and racially discriminatory mortgage lending.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) says: "The Chicago Reporter gives us reflection, not reflex. In a digital world of speed and brevity, their coverage takes the time and invests the analysis in issues ranging from gun control to deficits to immigration. The Chicago Reporter earns its stripes with credibility and relevance."
The Chicago Reporter is “consistently focused on covering what continues to be Chicago’s toughest, yet most important story: race relations,” says Clarence Page, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune.
In recognition of the year-long observance of its 40th anniversary, the Reporter will host a “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” fundraiser on Thursday, June 13 at 7 p.m. at Chase Auditorium, 10 S. Dearborn St., that will include a live taping of the comedic National Public Radio current-events show. Registration information for the event can be found here: www.chicagoreporter.com/40th
If the Reporter had never existed, these are just a few of the things Chicago, Illinois and the nation might be without: an $8.7 billion settlement in 2008 against Countrywide, the nation’s largest mortgage lender and servicer, for its unfair lending practices to minorities; a federal law that struck down the Chicago Police Department’s disorderly conduct arrest policy as discriminatory; and a state law that improves the health and safety of minority and low-income workers at racetracks throughout Illinois.
Published by the Community Renewal Society, the Reporter’s magazine, “Muckrakers” blog and website are must-reads for decision makers like legislators, policy makers, academics, journalists, philanthropists and everyone who is seeks to eliminate racial and economic injustice. Among its subscribers and financial supporters have been President Barack Obama and his former senior advisor, David Axelrod.
“The Reporter will try to be dispassionate, accurate and constructive in its approach,” McDermott wrote in the Reporter’s July 1972 inaugural issue. It was aimed at the city’s influentials and sought “to enlighten readers, not browbeat them.”
Enlighten indeed. The Reporter’s investigations have had a major impact at the national, state and local levels. Its staff has won numerous awards, including the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Clarion Award, dozens of Lisagor Awards and the Salute to Excellence Award from the National Association of Black Journalists.
In recent years, the Reporter has partnered with high-profile media organizations to reach hundreds of thousands of new readers, viewers and listeners. Partners have included The New York Times, Chicago Public Media, NBC, the Huffington Post, FOX, WVON, Tribune Media and The Media Consortium.
Along the way, more than 700 reporters, editors and interns have been trained in the Reporter’s powerful brand of investigative reporting.
Many Reporter alumni have moved on to national publications and outlets, including: Tom Brune, Washington correspondent, Newsday; Kevin Blackistone, reporter/analyst, ESPN; Ann Grimes (editor), Kimbriell Kelly, John Sullivan (reporters), The Washington Post; Mick Dumke, reporter, The New York Times (Chicago News Cooperative) and the Chicago Reader; Clara Jeffrey, co-editor, Mother Jones; Laurie Abraham, senior editor, Elle Magazine; Rachel Jones, reporter, NPR; Doug Longhini, producer, CBS News. Others have gone to practice their craft at ABC, NBC, the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business, WBEZ, and the Better Government Association.
For 40th anniversary details, interviews and media tours of the Reporter newsroom, please contact Laura S. Washington at (312) 427-3838.
The 40th Anniversary Celebration is supported by the following sponsors and partners:
Chicago Community Trust, Chicago Tribune, Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Grand Victoria Foundation, Lloyd F. Fry Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Nielsen Company, and the Polk Bros. Foundation
Founded in 1972, The Chicago Reporter is an award-winning investigative monthly magazine that identifies, analyzes and reports on the social, economic and political issues in metropolitan Chicago.