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The Constant Media Gardener: Fast-rising coordinator ripping out roots of journalism issues


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)


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.


Little insurance

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.


Lack of funding

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.


Racial coverage

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.”


Strokes too broad

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.


One problem solved

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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Press Releases


Notification to Grassroots Organizations

Nov. 5, 2021
Media Contact: Velvet Mason
(630) 901-1310


DEKALB — This is to notify DeKalb County the Teen Reach plans to participate in the Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP).  CACFP is a federal program that provides monetary reimbursements to facilities so they can offer healthier meals and snacks to children.  We plan to offer CACFP beginning Nov. 18, 2021, from 2:30 - 6:00 p.m. in a supervised before and/or after-school program.  

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ABC of Illinois president honored as 2021 Outstanding Woman in Construction finalist

Nov. 4, 2021
Media Contact: Alice Martin, ABC Illinois
(217) 523-4692


SPRINGFIELD — Associated Builders and Contractors of Illinois today announced Chapter President Alicia Martin has been named as one of nine exceptional female construction leaders nationwide in Construction Business Owner’s Outstanding Women in Construction.

Finalists are selected based on their expertise, leadership, management and contributions made to their companies, specialties and communities, and they represent the most influential women working to build a better environment for all in construction.

“I am humbled to be honored among these extraordinary women in the construction industry,” said Alicia Martin, president of the ABC Illinois Chapter. “This type of recognition is not earned alone. Our members and staff have been instrumental in making ABC a leader in creating a more inclusive and welcoming industry for career-seekers, regardless of their backgrounds.”

Martin is dedicated to creating a more diverse and inclusive industry workforce. In 2017, Alicia recognized Illinois had a construction workforce shortage of more than 200,000 and launched the ABC–Illinois Community Builders Program, which focuses on creating diversity in the construction industry while working to fill the workforce shortage. Since its launch, the program has graduated close to 200 individuals in the electrical and carpentry trades. 

Martin has sat on the Illinois Workforce Investment Board Apprenticeship Committee, where she influenced state policies that highlight the need for a diverse and inclusive workforce. Martin also serves on the Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee of ABC National, where she works with other chapter leaders to ensure that everyone has a chance to build a career in the construction industry. Locally, Martin and her team work to ensure that there are educational opportunities available in communities that are characterized by high rates of poverty, crime, recidivism, unemployment and environmental injustice by bringing the program to them.  

Prior to her more than ten years with ABC, Martin was a social worker, helping runaway youths and single mothers, as well as a juvenile probation officer and legislative aide. Learn more about Martin’s contributions to the industry in her Outstanding Women in Construction profile.

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(Left picture) Postmaster General Louis DeJoy (right) swears in Rebecca Kruckenberg (left) as Rockford’s new postmaster with her husband, Richard Stryker. (Right picture) Postmaster General Louis DeJoy addressing employees at the Rockford Post Office.(Credit: U.S. Postal Service)


In Rockford, Postmaster General DeJoy Assesses Holiday Preparations, Says Americans Should Feel Confident Sending Holiday Mail and Packages with Postal Service

Nov. 2, 2021
Media Contact: Tim Norman
312.983.8371 (Office) 


• As part of visit, DeJoy swears in 24-year Postal Service veteran as new Rockford Postmaster

• Holiday peak season preparations include investments in new high-speed package processing equipment, seasonal hiring drives and expanded facilities across the Upper Midwest, nationwide

ROCKFORD — As the U.S. Postal Service prepares for the 2021 holiday peak season, U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General and CEO Louis DeJoy met and heard from USPS employees at the Rockford Post Office on Friday. DeJoy has visited Postal Service facilities across the nation over recent weeks as the agency readies for another potentially historic period of mail and package deliveries. As part of his Midwest facility tour, DeJoy also met with Postal Service employees and toured USPS facilities in Madison and Milwaukee.

As part of his Rockford visit, Postmaster General DeJoy swore-in Rebecca A. Kruckenberg as the 34th Postmaster of Rockford. Kruckenberg has more than two decades of Postal Service experience, having worked her way from a Rural Carrier Associate up through various managerial positions in Wisconsin and Illinois. Kruckenberg is well regarded for her dedicated leadership, commitment to exceeding performance standards and passion for the Postal Service.

“It’s an honor to be in Rockford to meet our employees in-person and to personally swear-in Postmaster Kruckenberg,” said DeJoy. “I am energized by the conversations I have been having here in Rockford and across the country with our Postal Service employees who have been working all year long to prepare for the upcoming holiday season.”

“We started investing in our equipment, people and facilities for the holiday season earlier than ever and we are ready to deliver,” DeJoy added. “Our customers should feel confident sending their holiday mail and packages through the Postal Service this year.”

Since April, the Postal Service has installed 88 of 112 new package sorting machines across the nation including Chicago, Des Moines, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis and Milwaukee. These new machines, part of a 10-year, $40 billion planned investment established in the Postal Service’s Delivering for America plan, will accommodate higher package volumes expected this holiday season and help expedite sortation and delivery to their local destinations. Additionally, more than 50 package systems capable of sorting large packages are expected to be deployed prior to December. With this new equipment, the Postal Service can sort an additional 4.5 million packages each day.

The Postal Service is also investing heavily in its people and facilities to meet the anticipated delivery demands of the 2021 holiday peak season. This includes a national drive to hire an additional 40,000 seasonal employees and the leasing of an additional 7.5 million square feet across more than 40 multiyear annexes that will create more space, resolve bottlenecks and improve the flow of mail and packages to customers.

The Postal Service generally receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

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For U.S. Postal Service media resources, including broadcast-quality video and audio and photo stills, visit the USPS Newsroom. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Subscribe to the USPS YouTube channel, like us on Facebook and enjoy our Postal Posts blog. For more information about the Postal Service, visit usps.com and facts.usps.com. 



Chicagoland Catholic Sisters to host
'Meet Our Sisters Tour' virtual tour event during National Vocation Awareness Week

Sisters will promote diverse ministries by offering virtual panel presentations and tours of ministries to promote religious life

Oct. 27, 2021
Media Contact: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso


CHICAGO — Chicago-area members of Communicators for Women Religious (CWR) are raising awareness of and celebrating religious life during National Vocation Awareness Week, November 7-13, through a series of primarily virtual tour events called “Meet Our Sisters Tour.” The events are open to anyone who wants to learn more about the life, mission and ministries of Catholic Sisters living in and around the Chicagoland area.

The third annual “Meet Our Sisters Tour” event includes an in-person chance to befriend your fears in the way of St. Francis at a brand-new intentional living community near Hyde Park called The Fireplace; a virtual praying of the Rosary with the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas for immigrants at the Broadview Detention Center; a virtual interview with School Sisters of Notre Dame and lay partners-in-ministry serving Latino immigrants and refugee families; an in-person premier of the Congregation of St. Joseph’s film Sisterhood; a meet-and-greet with the younger sisters (under age 50) who participate in Giving Voice; a virtual tour of the Jubilee Farm operated by Dominican Sisters of Springfield; and many more lively events to show the world the grace-filled lives of women called to religious life. 

WHO: CWR Chicago-area members: Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, the Sisters of St. Casimir, Giving Voice, the Dominican Sisters of Springfield Illinois, the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph, the Felician Sisters of North America, and the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.
WHAT: For a complete listing of virtual events please visit Meet Our Sisters Tour website
WHEN: Throughout the week of Nov 7-13
WHERE: Register for the virtual events here

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: To schedule an interview with a Sister, please contact meetoursisterstour@gmail.com or Siobhan O'Neill Meluso smeluso@osbchicago.org

Learn more about Communicators for Women Religious here: https://c4wr.org/





Illinois Principals Association to host
education leaders conference in October

Oct. 18, 2021
Media Contact: Alison Maley, government & public relations director


SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Principals Association will host its 50th annual Education Leaders Fall Conference and Exhibition, “A Legacy of Leaders,” Oct. 24-26, 2021, in Peoria. The annual conference provides an opportunity for principals and other administrators to learn from leaders in the education field and participate in sessions to better serve their schools.

“I am excited about the opportunity to bring school leaders together to celebrate 50 years of IPA, said Dr. Marcus Belin, IPA president and principal of Huntley High School in Huntley. “As leaders, we must continue to grow our craft in school leadership. In a time in which we are living and leading schools, we need the support of each other now more than ever. This conference will be the most epic celebration in the 50 years of the association.”

The Educational Leaders conference will begin Sunday with a golf tournament at Weaver Ridge Golf Club. The IPA Board of Directors, IPA Congress, and Legislative, Diversity & Equity, and Membership Committees will meet Sunday afternoon. The first day concludes with a welcome reception at Venue Chisca in Peoria, sponsored by Association Member Benefits Advisors. The reception will honor IPA past presidents.

The conference will include presentations from keynote speakers Gerry Brooks, Illinois State Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala, and Luis Cruz. Small group sessions at the conference include timely topics such as: building teacher resilience, virtual program planning, family engagement, educational equity, and legislative and legal updates.

The first general session on Monday morning will feature Gerry Brooks, principal at an elementary school in Lexington, Kentucky. Brooks’ 500,000-plus following on social media has developed through humorous videos that focus on real-world educational experiences. An encouraging speaker, he desires to help administrators focus on how to lead all staff in a positive and constructive manner. Brooks will present his keynote, “Personal Climate and Culture - The Choice is Yours” Monday morning, followed by a breakout session entitled “Building Community Through Your Own Personal Actions.”

Speakers at the second general session on Monday afternoon include Dr. Carmen Ayala, Illinois state superintendent of schools, and Dr. Marcus Belin, IPA president. IPA Principal of the Year awards, the Reaching Out & Building Bridges Award, and the Mr. John Ourth & Dr. Fred W. Singleton Professional Development Scholarships will also be presented at this session.

Monday evening’s reception, “A Golden Gala,” will take place at the Marriott Pere Marquette ballroom and is sponsored by Clubs Choice Fundraising. The event will recognize the Illinois Principals Association’s 50th Anniversary.

Luis Cruz will begin the conference Tuesday morning with his presentation, “Embracing our Role as Transformational Leaders: Why in 2021 and Beyond Leadership in Schools Can No Longer Be a Solo Act,” followed by a breakout session on understanding faculty and staff. Cruz is a former principal of Baldwin Park High School, located east of Los Angeles, and has been a teacher and administrator at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Dr. Cruz regularly presents on methods from the best-selling book "Transforming School Culture" by Anthony Muhammad.

The conference will conclude on Tuesday with the popular IGNITE session. This innovative, fast-paced session provides a unique way to hear from dynamic speakers who will inspire fellow leaders. Presenters include the following Illinois school leaders:

* Jennifer Lindsay, superintendent, North Pekin Marquette Heights 102
* Tommy Colboth, principal, Washington Elementary School, Marion
* Sara Kash, assistant principal, Liberty School, Orland Park
* Joi Wills, principal, Fulton Jr. High School, O'Fallon
* Andy Stumpf, principal, Winchester Elementary School, Winchester
* Sonia Ruiz, principal, Lincoln Middle School, Berwyn
* Courtney Marks, assistant principal, Bloomington High School, Bloomington
* Jeff Prickett, principal, McHenry East High School, McHenry

For more information about the IPA or to register to attend, please visit www.ilprincipals.org.

The Illinois Principals Association is a leadership organization which serves over 6,100 educational leaders throughout the state of Illinois and whose mission is to develop, support, and advocate for innovative educational leaders.

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Associated Builders and Contractors of Illinois highlights diversity strategies during Construction Inclusion Week

Oct. 13, 2021
Media Contact: Alicia Martin, president of ABC Illinois


SPRINGFIELD — ABC Illinois today announced how its members are creating the right  conditions to embrace an inclusive and diverse workforce during Construction Inclusion Week, Oct. 18-22.   

In 2017, ABC Illinois established the Community Builders Program, which gives people from diverse backgrounds who face employment barriers the chance to learn a trade and begin a career in construction. The program upskills directly in the communities where participants live, taking a holistic approach to teaching a skill, providing career mentoring, and helping with job placement. By bringing free craft education to over 200 individuals who have faced barriers to employment, ABC Illinois is expanding the talent pipeline and rehabilitating disadvantaged communities, families, and career-seekers.  
“The diversity of ABC Illinois helps drive business growth and profitability, and the Community Builders Program is based on our belief that inclusivity, diversity and equity will change the way we fill construction jobs here in our state,” said Alicia Martin, President of ABC Illinois. “We are breaking down the barriers that hold some people back based on factors that have nothing to do with their abilities and desires. The merit shop philosophy aligns with the principles of inclusion, diversity and equity, ensuring every individual has a chance to succeed.”  
“Construction Inclusion Week is an invitation to every member of the 7.4 million-strong construction work forces to unite to advance inclusion, diversity and equity,” said ABC Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Tia Perry. “Achieving an inclusive, equitable and culturally competent workforce that is welcoming to all people is the essence of the merit shop philosophy. ABC Illinois is creating the conditions that appeal to an inclusive workforce.”  
ABC’s diversity outreach is led by the association’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee on which both Martin and Perry serve. The committee was established in 1999 as a key component of ABC’s value proposition to develop people, win work and deliver work safely, ethically, and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which they work. Visit diversity.abc.org to learn about ABC’s IDE strategy.
About Construction Inclusion Week: Construction Inclusion Week harnesses the collective power of the construction industry to build awareness regarding the need to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the industry. For more information, visit constructioninclusionweek.com.

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