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Wednesday Journal publications taking leap into nonprofit model


Publisher Dan Haley, left, talks with reporters about coverage expectations during an editorial meeting for the transition to Growing Community Media on Oct. 16 at the Wednesday Journal, Inc. office in Oak Park. (Photo by Alex Rogals/ Wednesday Journal staff photographer)

‘Moment’ of change results in formation of nonprofit to own four Chicago area weeklies


Illinois Press Association


OAK PARK – Has Dan Haley’s journalism career come full circle, or are he and the newspapers he publishes embarking on something new, uncertain and invigorating?

Well, both, actually.

Haley is editor and publisher of four weekly newspapers. Three are in near west suburban Chicago – Wednesday Journal in Oak Park, Forest Park Review, and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark. The Austin Weekly News is on Chicago’s West Side.

Like most newspapers large and small, daily and weekly, the papers Haley publishes have struggled in recent years. Ten years ago, Wednesday Journal Inc. published nine weekly newspapers and Chicago Parent Magazine. There were about 75 people working on those publications.

Today, about 20 employees work from a cozy second-floor newsroom and offices that are in a downtown Oak Park building that serves as the company’s home base. They continue to write what Haley describes as intensely local, community journalism. They continue to be among the better weekly newspapers in the state – Austin Weekly News and Wednesday Journal Group finished second and third, respectively in the Division C sweepstakes of the 2018 Illinois Press Association Editorial Contest; the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark placed third in Division A.

But revenue has lagged, enough that Haley announced in September what many would consider a radical business decision. It was, as Haley calls it, a “moment” when something needed to change.

“The last few years have been really hard,” Haley said.

That decision? The four newspapers will soon operate under a nonprofit model. By the end of the year, Wednesday Journal Inc. will be dissolved and the four newspapers will be owned by a nonprofit organization being formed called Growing Community Media. Financial donations and sponsorships will be sought, and digital subscriptions will be sold. Wednesday Journal Inc. also sold Chicago Parent Magazine.

Haley said the goal is for 30 percent to 40 percent of the funding for the print and digital operations to come from philanthropic donations to the nonprofit. Advertising will continue to be sold, as will print subscriptions. Haley said print advertising revenue has declined in recent years, but not by a lot. “Print advertising started to stabilize at the beginning of this year,” he said.


Michael Romain, editor of Austin Weekly News, Village Free Press and reporter for Wednesday Journal, works on a story Oct. 10, at the Growing Community Media office on Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. (Photo by Alex Rogals/ Wednesday Journal staff photographer)


Attorneys continue to guide the company through the process of “unspooling” the for-profit entity. “All assets of Wednesday Journal Inc. will go into the nonprofit and Wednesday Journal Inc. will go into the history books,” Haley said.

Haley said the nonprofit business model was chosen after more than a year of discussions and exploration that included attending last year’s Institute for Nonprofit News convention in Houston.

“Our roots are deep in our communities,” Haley said. “If anyone could pull this off, it might be us.”

In many ways, Haley is at the same point of his career as he was when he and two others started publishing newspapers in the west-side neighborhoods he grew up in.

“We were about six months into Wednesday Journal back in 1980 and the money we'd raised was running out,” Haley wrote in his announcement to readers on Sept. 11. “The check to the printer the previous week had bounced — not by much but it bounced — and now the printer wanted a certified check before he'd print the next issue.

“That was a moment. And I remember thinking as a chastened 24-year-old, ‘This is the greatest job ever but, Dan, you don't have a God-given right to publish this newspaper. Figure it out. Make this work.’”

So, he and his business partners went out and sought shareholders to buy stock in Wednesday Journal Inc. They found about 60 people to make investments in relatively small amounts, most around $1,000. That gave the startup company enough financial runway to get off the ground.


Andy Mead, editorial designer, works at his desk Oct. 10 at the Growing Community Media office on Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. (Photo by Alex Rogals/ Wednesday Journal staff photographer)


During our interview in his Oak Park office, Haley made repeated references to a printed sheet with a promotional advertisement from 1980 that displayed the names of each of the papers’ investors. Today, there remains 14 shareholders, including Haley and his wife, Mary.

“It feels like we’ve come full circle,” Haley said of the company’s current status. “… We’d reached another moment when we knew we were going to have to do something different if we were going to survive.”

While nonprofit journalism has been booming in recent years, Haley said he’s not aware of any other weekly newspapers employing the nonprofit approach. Most nonprofits, he pointed out, are digital-only products, and there a few daily print product examples nationally.

Haley and others have begun reaching out to community organizations and individuals to make their pitch. That pitch, essentially, is that the West Side neighborhoods are full of very worthy nonprofit entities that are important to the community. “At the end of the conversation … we ask, ‘Where would a nonprofit community journalism project fit in your rankings of worthy entities?”

The responses so far, Haley said, have been “gratifying.”

“Oak Park would not be the same place if the Wednesday Journal had not been here the past 40 years.”

But something else interesting has happened, said Dawn Ferencak, the papers’ associate publisher and chief revenue officer who leads the ad sales efforts.

“I think our advertisers now see us as more of a community partner than they did before,” she said. “By sharing our message, they have a deeper respect for what we do for the community and what we mean to the community.”


Marc Stopeck, Answer Book editor, works at his desk Oct. 10 at the Growing Community Media office on Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park.  (Photo by Alex Rogals/ Wednesday Journal staff photographer)


That’s a message Haley encourages other publishers to spread in their own communities. What would his message be to others who might consider a nonprofit or hybrid model?

“To most people in our situation, I would say face the reality that our model is broken,” he said. “There was a process I went through of saying, ‘It’s not your fault, Dan. The world changed around you, and now you have to adapt to it.

“Accept the reality, have faith in your community that they will see the value in the work you’ve done over time. … You have a foundation of readership and advertisers, you are in great shape. Be proud of the asset that has been built, and that take that asset in a new way.”

In fact, Haley plans on continuing to build on that asset by sharpening the focus of coverage on the “normalcy” of life in the seven communities his papers serve. He thinks the new model will actually allow him to add staff and reporting beats. And, given the feedback she’s received from advertisers, Ferencak is projecting an increase in ad revenues.

“There’s an enormous positive energy,” Haley said. “It’s invigorating.”


The editorial staff listens to Dan Haley, the publisher, go over material Oct. 16 during an editorial meeting for the transition to Growing Community Media at the Wednesday Journal, Inc. office in Oak Park. (Photo by Alex Rogals/ Wednesday Journal staff photographer)

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Press Releases



Retired teachers to mentor students virtually

CONTACT: Nathan Mihelich, IRTA
(217) 481-6915
April 6, 2020
For Immediate Release

(April 6, 2020 - Springfield, Ill.) Members of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association, a statewide association of retired educators, their families and supporters, are volunteering during this COVID-19 pandemic to assist students tackling the unprecedented challenge of finishing the school year at home.

“We want to help students learn,” said John Flaherty, a former high school and special education teacher and current president of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association. “Our members are ready to help students build their learning skills and tutor in highly advanced subject areas like chemistry and mathematics. For elementary students, self-paced and self-directed learning is a foreign concept. A teacher-mentor will help students take their own initiative and focus their learning at their own pace.”

Parents desiring to match their student with a retired teacher may sign up on the Association’s website, www.irtaonline.org. Mentors are on a first come, first serve basis. Mentors will meet with students in virtual environments. Mentorships will last from now until the end of the school year or June 1st. Mentorships are at the sole discretion of the teacher-mentors.

“A retired Illinois public school teacher’s depth of knowledge is so great, it may be just what parents need to energize their children into at-home students,” Association Executive Director Jim Bachman said. “Retiree-mentors can specifically target aspects of learning that need the most attention, whether it’s mathematics, science, history, writing or reading.”

“Younger students may simply need help reading a story; other students will need advanced tutoring. If we retirees can find a way to help, we will,” Flaherty concluded.

IRTA encourages former teachers, spouses and supporters of teachers to join the Association. Learn more, join or renew your IRTA membership today at https://www.irtaonline.org.




Watch your well-being during coronavirus distancing


By Graham A. Colditz

Siteman Cancer Center

For Immediate Release


Daily life has changed to an amazing degree in the last few weeks. As individuals and communities work to contain the spread of COVID-19, one major adjustment for most of us personally is that we now spend much more time at home. This form of physical distancing, or sheltering in place, limits contact between people, which can help curb the infection’s spread.

As necessary as this distancing is, it is a change that can also be stressful, tedious and isolating, among many other things. So, as we all work to get used to our new and, ultimately, temporary reality, here are eight ways to look after your health, your well-being and yourself during these unique times.

Be kind to yourself. The great thing about physical distancing is that by doing nothing — just staying inside — we’re doing something really important. Despite what you may see on social media, you don’t need to be writing a novel, conducting your children in a symphony or even reorganizing your sock drawer — unless you really want to. Be kind to yourself, and just take time to figure out what works best for you and your family.

Take a break from the news. Even in normal times, the sheer volume of news can feel overwhelming. These days, it’s even worse. So, be sure to carve out chunks of the day when you take a rest and shut off the news and pandemic-related social media feeds. Pick up a book. Stream a TV show. Play a board game. The news will still be there when you get back to it.

Keep up healthy food choices. When our regular routines are upended, our food choices can be, too — and often not for the better. A healthy diet can be a good way to maintain some normalcy, help keep the immune system working well and keep calories in check during these times when we’re less active and may feel urges to eat because of stress or boredom. When stocking up at the grocery store, focus on nourishing and filling foods, such as whole-grain breads and cereals, brown rice, fruits and vegetables (frozen, canned or fresh) and beans. And if you buy sweets and less-healthy foods, store them out of sight so they’re less tempting. With the economy hard hit, food insecurity can also be an issue for many. For food assistance, or to donate, contact food banks in your area, or visit feedingamerica.org.

Keep moving. Although gyms are closed and exercise classes canceled, it’s still important to stay physically active. It can take a little extra creativity and more planning than before, but the payoff in energy, mood and overall well-being make it well worth it. YouTube is a great source for free yoga, dance and cardio videos. Exercise apps are another option. And, for most people, getting outside for a walk or bike ride is still allowed (while keeping a safe distance from others). Don’t worry about hitting specific goals, just try to fit something in on most days. You’ll be happy you did.

Stand more. This can sound a bit odd. But, on top of staying active, try to make an effort to stand more than you normally would when you’re at home. In our normal days before COVID-19, it’d be rare to sit for most of the day. Going to class, walking to meetings, doing errands or spending time with the kids, we were on our feet a good amount. Now, while most of us are spending much more time at home, we’re probably also spending much more time sitting. Long term, sitting too much is bad for health, and short term, it can sap some of our energy and just make the long days at home feel even longer. So, try to work some standing breaks into your schedule. Set a timer that chimes every half hour to remind you to get up for a short leg stretch. Or try standing when watching TV shows, working on your computer or playing with your pet.

Stay connected — virtually. While we may no longer be able to meet up with friends and colleagues in the real world, we can still stay connected through technology. Host a trivia game over group video chat, share recipes via text message or email, or just pick up the phone and have a long talk with your best friend. The options are wide open for making connections.

Check in with your health-care provider if you have an existing medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer. See if there are any changes you should make during this time, such as rescheduling appointments, extending prescriptions or connecting remotely by telehealth rather than in person. Because COVID-19 can be more serious in some people with pre-existing diseases, it’s also especially important to follow recommendations for keeping safe, such as staying at home, avoiding groups and close contact with others, keeping surfaces clean and washing hands frequently.

Look after your mental wellness. This can be a time of stress, anxiety and loneliness for many people. So, as you’re looking after your physical health, it’s extremely important to also look after your mental and emotional health. Try to keep up with those things that can help with mood: physical activity, mindfulness and meditation, and connecting with friends using technology. Many people also need professional help. So, don’t be shy about calling a health-care provider or visiting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org) for resources. If you ever feel you’re in crisis, call 911 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) immediately.

We’ll get through this together, even as we’re safely distancing ourselves for now.

It’s our health. Let’s take control.

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Dr. Graham A. Colditz, associate director of prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is an internationally recognized leader in cancer prevention. As an epidemiologist and public health expert, he has a long-standing interest in the preventable causes of chronic disease. Colditz has a medical degree from The University of Queensland and a master’s and doctoral degrees in public health from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


Greystone Health Centers offering employment opportunities to displaced workers and retirees Edit

For Immediate Release – March 17, 2020

The spread of COVID-19 has greatly impacted all our lives, especially our vulnerable, elderly population and those in senior living communities across the United States. As we continue to take guidance from The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, The Center for Disease Control, The World Health Organization as well as the local Departments of Health to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents and employees,  our teams at all of our Greystone Health Centers continues to be dedicated to our residents and staff by remaining not only vigilant but compassionate.

It takes a village to provide loving care to our residents daily and now more than ever with the ever-changing situation with COVID-19 affecting so many people, we are looking for new employees to be a part of our village. As a skilled nursing facility, we are open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, caring for residents and keeping them safe.

We understand many people have been affected in various ways by the pandemic including businesses temporarily closing or shutting down altogether. We also know there are many people out there seeking to find ways where they can make a difference and help those in need. We encourage those that have been displaced or want to make a difference in the lives of our nation’s seniors to come join us.

We have a wide range of roles available such as certified nursing assistants, nurses, concierge, activities, dining staff, cooks and more to support our residents. We have full-time, part-time and PRN opportunities. A list of all of our openings is online at www.greystonehealthcareers.com or text CARE to 97211 to learn more about our facilities in Florida, Illinois & Missouri.

Greystone Health has great benefits and competitive wages but most of all we can offer the opportunity to WORK WHERE PEOPLE MATTER.



Press Release
Contact: Monique Whitney, Monique@TruthRx.org, m. (505) 480-4150
Immediate Release: March 16, 2020


Illinois Independent Pharmacies Launch
Their Own Medicare-D Plan This Fall

Newly Licensed Indy Health Insurance Company Aims to Restore Trust with Independent Pharmacy-Owned
Medicare Part D Plan

SPRINGFIELD, IL (March 16, 2020) – Who better to design a patient-centered, pharmacy-friendly pharmacy benefit plan than a pharmacist?
That’s the premise behind a new Medicare-D plan making its debut this fall thanks to a group of independent pharmacies and pharmacy organizations who got sick of being pushed around by the largest pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), deciding instead to take matters into their own hands. 
The result is Indy Health Insurance Company, newly licensed and on track to roll out its first plan offering this October when Medicare open enrollment begins.
"Ours is a 100% independent pharmacy and independent pharmacy organization-owned plan built on a network of 22,000 pharmacies across the country," said Indy Health Chair Laura Atkinson. "We envision a more transparent, affordable, cost effective alternative for independent pharmacies and their patients."
Indy Health's Medicare-D plan will offer seniors an affordable prescription plan that pairs with their Medicare medical plan. Indy Health allows enrollees to receive their medications from their local community pharmacies in a preferred network that does not force the use of mail order or large retail chain pharmacies. “Participants may use their neighborhood pharmacy, and that pharmacy can provide mail service if needed, which is often restricted under other plans,” said Ms. Atkinson.
“It was important to us to protect patient choice,” said Todd Evers, Collinsville, Illinois-based pharmacist and board member, and managing partner for Indy Health.  “Community pharmacies are uniquely positioned to care for patients, meeting the same demands as the big-box retail pharmacies but with quality and attention to detail you’d expect from a community pharmacy.”
Under Indy Health, pharmacies will pay no direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees -- a type of “claw back” PBMs collect to offset Medicare plan member costs. In 2018 small pharmacies paid average DIR fees of $129,613 per store– an 87% increase from 2017 according to 2019 industry survey. DIR fees are a primary factor in the epidemic of community pharmacy closures. “The absence of DIR fees is a big win for independent pharmacies, who could move from surviving the current U.S. drug pricing crisis to thriving,” said Ms. Atkinson.
With approved licensure in Arkansas, Indy Health will expand to Georgia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Illinois, and has begun the application process with the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS). Upon CMS approval, Indy Health will begin enrolling patients in October 2020.

The Indy Health Medicare-D plan is owned by investors in 34 states, including Illinois.
About Indy Health:
The Indy Health team has over 616 combined years of experience in Medicare-D plans, Health Insurance, Med D Actuarial Health Insurance Law, and Pharmacy. The Indy Health team’s mission is to create a transparent Medicare-D plan that provides fair reimbursements for independent pharmacies as well as transparent pricing and affordable medications for consumers.
Through Indy Health Insurance Company, Medicare-D plan independent pharmacies will be able to create their own formulary, medication therapy management services and to negotiate their own rebates through an independently owned sustainable entity that provides them with equitable representation within the prescription drug system.  To learn more about Indy Health, including information about investment opportunities, please visit IndyHealthInc.com.

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Press Release
Contact: Kim Schilling, Melting Pot Productions, 712-326-9964
Immediate Release: February 28, 2020

Antique Spectacular Vintage Market

March 6-8 inRock Island, IL

(Rock Island, IL) The annual Spring Antique Spectacular Vintage Market will be March 6th-8th at the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island, Illinois. This anticipated event, will feature 70 exhibitors with antiques & vintage items galore at Antique Spectacular. The show, now in its 26th year, is located at the QCCA Expo Center, 2621 4th Avenue in Rock Island, Illinois! It is overflowing with a wonderful variety of fine antiques and vintage collectibles for sale. Featured will be select antique dealers with unique merchandise from around the world. Hunters of vintage will have an opportunity, all weekend, to shop the wide range of quality antiques.

With the Antique Spectacular, there is always something to interest every collector, whether they have a new interest in vintage & repurposed for decorating their home or have been collecting antiques for years. This includes great furniture, art pottery, country, stoneware, books, prints, primitives, jewelry, silver, antique glassware, American Indian items, china, postcards, coins, quilts, dolls, toys, advertising, marbles, rugs, vintage textiles and period pieces. The list of amazing vintage items is endless and all under one roof for the convenience to shop all weekend, for a timeless vintage treasure, that is new to you.

March 6th-8th, the Antique Spectacular show hours are Friday, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parking is FREE and Patrons can check out and register on the website: www.antiquespectacular.com to print a $1 off coupon.
Antique Spectacular Vintage Market Show Hours:
Friday, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
$8 Weekend Pass
More information about the Antique Spectacular is available at www.antiquespectacular.com or by calling Kimberly Schilling at 712-324-9964. The Antique Spectacular is presented by Melting Pot Productions, Inc.

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