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Sustaining journalism in a pandemic: ‘We need each other’


Members of the Chicago Independent Media Alliance share a laugh during a recent Zoom event to promote the organization. CIMA recently raised more than $160,000 for its member news organizations with a fundraiser that had been planned for 2021 but was bumped way up the calendar because of the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic was having on their revenue.


Fast-tracked fundraiser generates $160K-plus for Chicago media outlets

For Illinois Press Association

CHICAGO – The writing has long been on the wall for plucky, vital weekly newspapers: If new revenue streams aren’t created, the light that media outlets shine on their communities, many of them underserved, will be dimmed if not put out altogether.

Tracy Baim, a legendary journalist who co-founded her first publication in the city in 1985, is the publisher of the Chicago Reader, which has covered the city with a unique literary voice and a fine focus on the arts. Unearthing corruption is a hallmark of the Reader, as well.

“We’ve seen corruption increase, and scandals and politicians that have gone unchallenged,” Baim said. “Corruption loves when newspapers die.”

Seeing the plight of her publications – she also owns the Windy City Times – and her colleagues throughout the city, she hatched an idea last year to form an alliance that would unite outlets in the spirit of collaborating and, in turn, becoming more viable.

The kickstarting initiative for what would become the Chicago Independent Media Alliance, was a mass fundraiser that would happen in 2021.

Then the pandemic hit, and Baim buried the accelerator on a project that was rolling along at a comfortable pace. A website needed to be built, just one of several proverbial plates that needed to start spinning.

“I was really worried it wasn’t going to play out,” Baim said. “Lots of things could go wrong, so all I could think of was the worst-case scenarios. There was a lot of stress because of all the need that was there at a very scary time, and we had three weeks to get ready to launch.”

Not only did it play out; the public donated more than $100,000 – about $40,000 more than the goal. Additionally, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, the Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation and two anonymous foundations matched funds to the tune of $60,000.

“It’s honestly way more than we could have expected,” said Yong Lee, marketing manager for the Korea Times which, like the Reader, has been in business since 1971.

He said the Times, which prints in Korean only and serves about 10,000 readers, received about $8,000 from the fundraiser.

Baim said the alliance plans to develop ways for the outlets to raise funds individually, but also as a collective. In the meantime, those looking to support local media may find a list of all 43 outlets at the campaign’s website, savechicagomedia.org.



Yazmin Dominguez (Credit: GlitterGuts)


Fast-riser helms rapid-fire rollout

Baim said the only concerns with the launch were technological. Most notably, the website needed to be built and launched. She otherwise was confident because she had a rising star in Yazmin Dominguez, who’d joined the Reader less than a year ago as an administrative assistant and risen to the role of media partnerships coordinator in six short months. She became the project coordinator of CIMA.

She contacted about 160 local organizations, the list was narrowed to 103, and eventually the alliance had 62 members, 43 of which participated in the fundraiser.

“She masterfully herded cats,” said Charlie Meyerson, who has worked in Chicago media since 1979 and launched the independent news site Chicago Public Square in January 2017. “I’ve been very impressed with the way Yazmin kept the wheels on the tracks.”

“Impressive is not enough,” Lee said. “There has to be another word to describe the awesomeness of how she pulled this off.”

Dominguez said many publications lost 90 percent of their advertising revenue “overnight” – including the Reader, where that loss was more than $250,000.

Ron Roenigk is publisher of Inside Publications, which features three papers on the North Side: Skyline, Inside Booster and News-Star. Much of its revenue vanished along with its summer activity guide.

“Until this year, we had a North Side summer activity guide, and now since there’s no activity, there’s no guide,” he said during one of three Facebook Live videos Dominguez moderated in the last week of the fundraiser, a last-ditch push that she said drove up donations significantly.

Baim said two-thirds of the fundraiser’s donors asked that their contributions be split among the 43 outlets.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” she said. “That really shows that people wanted to support a strong journalism ecosystem.”


Jesus Del Toro, director general of La Raza Newspaper, has worked in local media for 16 years, since moving to the U.S. from Mexico. He’s seen damning signs of the times. So while the funds raised can only help, he’s optimistic for what the alliance can mean for local media’s sustainability.

“The most important thing is that the fundraiser is the first step toward a much wider benefit, given the struggle of local media,” he said. “We needed a transformation of the local media model. We need to show advertisers the value of our product, and that they need to preserve it. The fundraiser helped, but of course what’s more valuable is what will happen in the long run, with collaboration and a unified front.”


A future built on trust

It’s a scary place these days. Revenue was dwindling before the pandemic, and the rise of armchair journalists has hamstrung the industry with fake news, Baim said.

In 2019, the Chicago Defender closed its legacy print paper and the weekly Latinx paper Hoy has been shut down by the Tribune.

“We knew before COVID that journalism wasn’t in the best shape in Chicago,” Dominguez said. “A lot of newsrooms are closing – a lot of papers we really admired. We knew we had to do something about it.”

Baim said she’s relieved that, thus far, no CIMA member has had to close its doors or cease production.

Meyerson said media outlets, large ones in particular, have long used the term right-sizing – “which means layoffs, basically,” he said – but like it or not, it’s reality. What’s yet to be seen is what that right size is for the media landscape at large.

“Is it going to be the big companies shrinking, or the small companies growing?” Meyerson said. “This is an opportunity for small, digital organizations to grow. That’s what I love about this campaign. This was a chance for those small organizations to grow. And for the bigger organizations, like the Reader, their audiences can be convinced to get involved monetarily in ways they weren’t before.”

“The fundraiser gives hope for news outlets like ours,” Lee said. “It was completely built on trust. And we don’t even know each other, but we have the same mission.”

“The communities that are most affected, their papers tell a unique story, in an authentic way than the mainstream has never been able to do,” Baim said. “I’m an evangelist for local media of any kind. It could be the only paper in a rural area, or a paper that serves the black, Asain or LGBTQ community. The papers are part of their ecosystem.”

Baim said evidence of fast-built trust is encouraging, given that the alliance was spearheaded by the Reader specifically.

“It’s kind of an odd duck when an alliance is created by one of its members, to have one paper raising money for another paper,” she said. “But we all needed to survive. We need each other.”



The power of good

Baim said feel-good stories do more than make readers … well … feel good. She said showcasing the hard work businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals are putting in to better their communities creates a contagious buzz of good will. And having local media eager to preach the gospel of good not only engenders trust, it strengthens all parties involved.

“We don’t just tell the stories when they’re bad. We tell the stories when they’re good,” Baim said. “When you tell a story about a business, a nonprofit, there are many residual benefits to that. You develop partnerships and allies.”

Dominguez is proud, but not satisfied with the alliance’s immediate success.

“This has been attempted many times in the past, alliances of this sort in Chicago media,” she said. “Now we have a lot of public attention. CIMA is such a baby project right now, and the fundraiser put us in the public eye. Two months ago, only the Chicago Reader and member outlets knew about the alliance.”

A key goal going forward is to create a pooled journalism fund featuring multiple funding streams, including public and private foundations, private donors, and government.

More than half of the alliance’s members are unable to offer insurance to their full-time employees, so a pooled insurance fund for Chicago-area journalists – full-timers and freelancers alike – is in the works.

“We have way bigger goals for 2021,” Dominguez said. “This is just the beginning.”

CIMACampaignPhoto1  CIMACampaignPhoto5




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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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