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Yazmin Dominguez checks out a copy of the Chicago Reader newspaper at the publication's office in Chicago. Dominguez, 24, is project coordinator for the Chicago Independent Media Alliance, a coalition formed to help the independent local news organizations. (Photo supplied)
By CHRISTOPHER HEIMERMAN
For Illinois Press Association
CHICAGO – Yazmin Dominguez is digging up weeds.
The 24-year-old media partnerships coordinator at the Chicago Reader recently took on the role of projects coordinator for the Chicago Independent Media Alliance, which is facilitated by The Reader and recently raised more than $160,000 for 43 of its 62 members.
The influx of funds will help offset massive losses in advertising revenue amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dominguez is going after deeper-rooted issues with journalism and media.
“We as young journalists are passionate about dismantling all the wrongs in the media,” Dominguez said. “I’ll say that for all young journalists. We’re aware of the issues, and we’re going to fix them.”
Dominguez said that for as long as she can remember, she’s been aware of the struggles of journalists – particularly those in marginalized communities, which make up much of the alliance members’ readerships.
“As a young journalist, I think we grew up in an era, starting in 2001, when things started falling apart,” she said. “The media industry is no exception of that. I am a child of immigrants. Going into journalism with that background, you see the industry differently. You see the power of words and the power of publishing.”
As a teenager, Dominguez would leave Huntley High School every day to make it on time for newsroom meetings at The Mash, Chicago Tribune’s teen newspaper. While attending DePaul University, she was a reporting fellow for City Bureau and worked as an intern for Chicago Tonight, where she was hired part-time to work on an aldermanic project – which involved bringing aldermen into the WTTW studio and working on production and online.
It was around that time she heard The Mash had closed.
“Being in Chicago, which has a very lively and active media scene, watching these newsrooms shut down was what made me realize the system is broken,” she said. “[The Mash] was one of the first things to go from the Tribune. That hit me a little different, because that’s where I started as a young reporter.”
As Dominguez begins to unearth the weeds of the industry, she’s going for the roots. She said she’s angry, and that most young journalists are. But that anger can be turned into results.
“We need to fix the roots of the issues to have success down the line,” she said.
During a recent phone interview, she had an unprompted list of issues at the ready – beyond the oft-cited rise of armchair digital journalism and the crash of advertising revenue industrywide.
CIMA recently polled its members on various topics. Of the 48 outlets that responded, 56 percent are unable to offer insurance to their full-time staff. Of 49 respondents, about 86 percent can’t offer insurance to part-timers and freelancers.
That’s not acceptable for a line of work where journalists regularly put themselves in harm’s way in order to inform their readers on how to stay safe.
“That’s really not OK,” Dominguez said. “Them not being able to have insurance or be employed full-time. Some media companies can’t even afford a physical building.”
About one-third of 50 respondents said they don’t have a physical office.
Dominguez said with help on the local, state and federal levels, media outlets would be able to hire more full-time staff and rely less on part-timers and freelancers.
“There just needs to be more funding in the industry,” she said. “The City of Chicago needs to work more with local media.”
Every day, she looks at the CTA ads promoting events, the CTA itself, the U.S. Census, and she wonders, “What if?”
“Why not do an ad buy with a bunch of local media outlets?” she said. “Certain bodies of government haven’t utilized the sort of potential the media has. I think that speaks to the disconnect between the city and its local communities.”
She said there’s strength in numbers, particularly if you bring together dozens of like-minded outlets that are hungry for change and willing to get elected officials’ attention.
“That’s the mindset the alliance has, and it was created in that mindset,” she said.
Mistreatment of the Muslim community after 9/11 wasn’t reserved for run-of-the-mill American citizens. Dominguez said racism abounded in media coverage after the Twin Towers fell.
“Coverage of Katrina also painted the local community in a … not-so-good light,” she said. “Moments like that, young people notice and become disenfranchised. If you’re a young person in the media, you’re passionate for it. Moments like that affect your psyche as a young journalist.”
Dominguez decried editors’ practice of carefully selecting which pictures to publish – which ones capture the demographic they’re after and, in turn, generate the most clicks.
She said she’s optimistic that an influx of young journalists can stem the tide of tired, often misguided thinking.
“People who have been in legacy newsrooms are a bit old-school,” she said. “They’ve been in their position for decades. It can hurt the organization you’re trying to help, and more importantly the community you’re trying to serve. There’s a young crowd of journalists that are hungry and angry, and ready to change how reporting on their communities is done.”
The larger the media outlet, the harder it is to cover communities that are directly affected, Dominguez said.
“It’s the role of local media to fill the information gaps that larger media outlets can’t,” Dominguez said. “It’s glaringly obvious that communities of color are so affected compared to white, wealthy communities.”
Jesus Del Toro, director general of La Raza Newspaper, said the funds raised by CIMA point to an opportunity aching to be seized.
“Those who donated money, it’s an expression of the support of the community,” he said.
His readership still picks up the physical paper and relies on what’s inside of it.
“The Latinx community in Chicago still relies heavily on the print publication,” he said.
Dominguez is heartened to have a new member of the alliance that will also serve a marginalized community. The Cicero Independiente, fiscally supported by City Bureau, was created about a year ago by three young Latinx people, and it joined the alliance 2 months ago. Dominguez said Cicero has gotten a bad rap because of coverage that too often focuses on violence and crime, rather than the rich Hispanic heritage of the community.
Del Toro said local media collaboration has been attempted in Chicago, and has failed.
CIMA is different, he said.
“For the first time in this collaboration of media, we were fortunate to have one specific person doing the coordination of this effort,” he said of Dominguez. “Each of us, all the media and members of this group, have a lot of different interests and content, and problems, and level of resources. One big obstacle through collaboration is coordination. She was a big part of this success. What she provided was the glue we need to have in order to move, and to grow.”
Charlie Meyerson, who’s worked in the Chicago market for more than 40 years, whether in radio, print, or his recently launched independent news site, Chicago Public Square, signed on with CIMA and was blown away by the 24-year-old who accepted nitpicking with a smile.
“People who have worked with me over the decades have learned that I’m the squeaky wheel – this needs to be fixed, or that needs to be reworded,” he said. “She took it all in stride.”
Dominguez said the feedback was invaluable.
“It’s definitely a good problem to have, that we’ve found out people aren’t shy about offering us feedback,” she said. “That external suggestion box has been very helpful.”
Meyerson said a lot of organizations will ask for feedback, then bristle at constructive criticism.
“I can’t remember once being told to tone it down,” he said. “They accepted feedback and acted on it. When they didn’t have the resources to do something, they were forthright.”
This all comes as little surprise for Tracy Baim, longtime Chicago media touchstone and owner of the nearly half-century-old Reader. She saw star power in Dominguez when she interviewed her about a year ago – when the ink had barely dried on the journalism degree Dominguez earned at DePaul.
“She really hit the ground running,” Baim said. “She has a fantastic personality, she’s hard-working and knows the need for journalism. It’s rare to have someone with all her qualities.
“She understands our job here is to save jobs of journalists.”
Yazmin Dominguez works from the Chicago Reader office. (Photo supplied)
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Alison Maley
Government & Public Relations Director
Illinois Principals Association recognized by
Great Place to Work® on Certification Nation Day,
a national celebration of outstanding workplaces
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Principals Association is proud to celebrate Certification Nation Day on May 17, along with the community of Great Place to Work-Certified™ companies across the country. Great Place to Work® has designated May 17, 2022, as Certification Nation Day to salute and recognize the companies working to create great places to work for all.
“The positive culture at IPA allows our team of richly talented individuals to support one another with a shared mission of developing, supporting, and advocating for innovative educational leaders,” shared Dr. Susan Homes, deputy executive director for professional learning. “To achieve this mission, we serve each other first so we can serve our members. I'm proud to be part of an association that is not only forward thinking but is recognized nationally for our innovative solutions and support for school leaders.”
Great Place to Work Certification™ is recognized worldwide by employees and employers alike and is the global benchmark for identifying outstanding employee experiences.
“Certified companies put employees first” says Michael C. Bush, chief executive officer at Great Place to Work. “Thriving employees increase revenue, profit and provide market-leading customer experiences. I hope that Certification Nation Day can inspire other executives to create and sustain employee-first cultures."
“Great Place to Work Certification™ isn’t something that comes easily” says Sarah Lewis-Kulin, vice president of global recognition at Great Place to Work. “It takes ongoing dedication to the employee experience.”
“My favorite thing about working for IPA is the team-oriented culture,” said Arlin Peebles, Ed Leaders Network director and IPA staff member. “Our staff motto is ‘Serving each other, serving educators, serving children’ and it is put in that order for a reason. Whenever we need something from another staff member it is immediately prioritized and taken care of. We have a huge amount of respect for each other, and it is always exciting when we get a chance to collaborate on a project to serve our members.”
“Everyone at IPA works together as a high-functioning team,” said Janice Schwarze, professional learning associate and former principal. “I feel valued as a professional, and I also feel like I am part of a big family who looks out for me personally.”
According to Great Place to Work research, job seekers are 4.5 times more likely to find a great boss at a Certified great workplace. Additionally, employees at Certified workplaces are 93% more likely to look forward to coming to work, and are twice as likely to be paid fairly, earn a fair share of the company’s profits and have a fair chance at promotion.
About Illinois Principals Association
The Illinois Principals Association is a professional association serving more than 6,000 building-level administrators in Illinois. IPA provides professional learning and advocacy opportunities, supporting principals and other school administrators to lead effective learning organizations.
About Great Place to Work Certification™
Great Place to Work® Certification™ is the most definitive “employer-of-choice” recognition that companies aspire to achieve. It is the only recognition based entirely on what employees report about their workplace experience – specifically, how consistently they experience a high-trust workplace. Great Place to Work Certification is recognized worldwide by employees and employers alike and is the global benchmark for identifying and recognizing outstanding employee experience. Every year, more than 10,000 companies across 60 countries apply to get Great Place to Work-Certified.
About Great Place to Work®
Great Place to Work® is the global authority on workplace culture. Since 1992, they have surveyed more than 100 million employees worldwide and used those deep insights to define what makes a great workplace: trust. Their employee survey platform empowers leaders with the feedback, real-time reporting and insights they need to make data-driven people decisions. Everything they do is driven by the mission to build a better world by helping every organization become a great place to work For All™.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Emily Warnecke
Merger creates Illinois' largest school
energy management group
The Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO) and the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) have announced a merger to create the Illinois Energy Consortium powered by Future Green — Illinois’ largest energy management group. The initiative will help member school districts reduce their energy spending, protect them from market volatility and invest in renewable energy.
“Price volatility, supply disruptions and the transition to lower carbon generation are just a few of the long-term trends facing the energy markets that we are responding to,” said Dr. Michael Jacoby, executive director/CEO of IASBO. “This initiative will provide school districts with much-needed stability and cost certainty through aggregating their respective energy loads to secure lower prices than they could on their own.”
The new entity is a merger of the Illinois Energy Consortium (IEC) and Future Green Energy Consortium (FGEC). The IEC, created in 1997, is Illinois’ largest electric and natural gas pool. More than 30 percent of all Illinois public school districts and colleges are members. The FGEC was created in 2016 as a way to provide members with renewable electric power solutions at no out-of-pocket cost.
“Illinois member schools have saved tens of millions of dollars in the past by joining forces under the umbrellas of the IEC and FGEC,” said Dr. Brent Clark, executive director of IASA. “By merging the two, districts will be able to invest more dollars into the classroom while also exploring green-energy solutions such as onsite solar generation and electrification of bus fleets.”
After the passage of the Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act in 2021, Illinois school districts are in a unique position to install solar panels on site and reduce their carbon footprint. In addition to saving money, onsite solar provides protection from extreme weather events and can potentially generate revenue for the district in the event it is able to sell excess renewable energy back into the grid.
“In February 2021, there were school districts in Illinois forced to close due to a sudden massive spike in the price of natural gas,” said Dr. Tom Bertrand, executive director of IASB. “That volatility creates stress on the school district, parents and students. Providing more stability with energy costs can allow districts to avoid major disruptions to learning.”
Illinois Energy Consortium powered by Future Green will be actively managed by Econergy LLC, based in Chicago. Econergy has helped more than 2,500 schools and businesses across the country unlock access to renewable energy savings by building energy coalitions.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Alicia Martin
The Associated Builders and Contractors
of Illinois endorse Richard Irvin for Governor
SPRINGFIELD – Crime, corruption, taxes, and burdensome regulation have decimated businesses and communities over the past four years. But unfortunately, there is no indication that this will change unless there is a different direction in leadership. After thoughtful deliberation of all candidates, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Illinois is proud to endorse Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin and State Representative Avery Bourne for Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
Mayor Irvin is not a stranger to challenges. Born to a single mother and raised in the projects in Aurora, Mayor Irvin became the first member of his family to graduate college. Mayor Irvin is a decorated combat veteran, former prosecutor, and the first African American Mayor of Aurora. There is no question about his dedication to service and helping others.
Representative Avery Bourne has served in the General Assembly since 2015 and has a proven track record of supporting ABC Illinois issues. Since taking her oath, she has been a strong advocate for fixing education funding disparities, ethics reform, and economic development across the State. In addition, her deep roots in central and southern Illinois will provide a much-needed voice for rural communities.
“While we admire and respect the other Republican candidates for Governor it is the opinion of our Board of Directors that Mayor Irvin and Representative Bourne best represent our state and will help all of Illinois and our members prosper. “As Mayor, Richard Irvin has demonstrated his ability to work in a bipartisan manner to find solutions for his community and small businesses. Providing an environment for businesses to grow and safety for our families are both important for our members”, says Alicia Martin, President of ABC Illinois.
Mayor Irvin responded to the endorsement “I am honored to have the endorsement of the Associated Builders & Contractors, Illinois Chapter. Growing up in public housing surrounded by gangs and crime, I understand the importance of providing opportunities to individuals with barriers to employment by helping them enter the construction industry and getting them on the right trajectory. ABC's faith in my candidacy due to my proven record on economic
development as Mayor of Aurora confirms their belief that I am the best candidate to turn Illinois around economically and lift up our communities that have been struggling under J.B. Pritzker's administration”.
About ABC: The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Illinois is the affiliate of the national ABC trade association. ABC of Illinois advocates for the merit shop philosophy within the construction industry and represents a diverse group of businesses across Illinois.
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