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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.
By CHRISTOPHER HEIMERMAN
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.”
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Digital Public Relations Specialist
Ten $1,000 scholarships now open to Midwest high school seniors
High school seniors from Illinois and five other Midwest states have a chance to earn the scholarships
WEST DES MOINES, IOWA — High school seniors from Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin now have a chance to receive one of 10 college scholarships worth $1,000. Registration is open now through April 28, 2023. Parents are also now able to register their student.
High school seniors or their parents may register for the ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Midwest. ISL Education Lending will award $1,000 scholarships to 10 students whose names are randomly drawn after the registration period. There are no financial need, grade point average or class rank requirements. The ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship can be used at any eligible institution in the United States.
Registered participants also receive emails highlighting financial literacy tips, such as the importance of early career and college planning and ways to reduce student loan indebtedness.
“Student loan debt is a huge concern for new college students,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of ISL Education Lending. “As a nonprofit, we provide tools and resources to help high school seniors plan so they can reduce the amount of debt they need to take on while achieving their education goals. Students sign up for a chance at a $1,000 scholarship, and we take that opportunity to share information with them about our free resources.”
The ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are seniors at a high school in one of the qualifying states during the 2022–2023 school year and who intend to attend college, either virtually or physically, in fall 2023. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Midwest.
Additional Resources Available
In addition to offering student loans, ISL Education Lending has other resources for families planning for college and for students who intend to pursue advanced degrees. The Parent Handbook consists of valuable tips to help families of students in sixth through 12th grades prepare for success in college and other postsecondary options. Parents of students in eighth through 12th grades can also sign up to receive twice-monthly emailed tips on academic, college and career planning through the Student Planning Pointers for Parents program. The College Funding Forecaster helps families understand the total cost of four years of college based on a freshman-year financial aid offer. Information about these resources is available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SmartBorrowing.
# # #
About ISL Education Lending
Established in 1979 as Iowa Student Loan Liquidity Corporation, a private, nonprofit organization, ISL Education Lending helps students and families obtain the resources necessary to succeed in postsecondary education. ISL has helped nearly 400,000 students pay for college, offering student loans and other products under the name ISL Education Lending. The organization, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, also provides an array of borrower benefits, financial literacy tools and community reinvestment programs, including support for free college planning services for students and their families. For more information, visit www.IowaStudentLoan.org.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stephanie Benson, program chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Illinois Reading Council
http://illinoisreads.org and www.illinoisreadingcouncil.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/IllinoisReads #Illinoisreads
Illinois Reading Council's
2023 Illinois Reads Book Selection
featured at the
IRC Conference on March 9-10, 2023
The Illinois Reading Council (IRC) has just released the list of ILLINOIS READS books for 2023. ILLINOIS READS is a statewide program that promotes reading for all Illinois citizens. The program promotes six books in six different age categories by authors and illustrators who have ties to Illinois. The books range from read-to books for infants to books for adult readers. Bookmarks and posters highlighting the ILLINOIS READS books will be available in early 2023. Order early as supplies are limited!
The 2023 ILLINOIS READS Program will also be featured at the annual IRC Conference in Springfield on March 9-10, 2023. Conference registration is now open for educators, librarians, and others interested in promoting literacy. More information is available at the Illinois Reading Council website.
The ILLINOIS READS book selections for 2023 are:
Ages Birth – 4 Years
Would You Come Too? by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Diana Sudyka
This is Music: Drums by Rekha S. Rajan
Chicago, Baby! by Feather Flores, illustrated by Kelly Leigh Miller
ABC Animals! by Stephen F. Majsak
I’ll Be Your Polar Bear by Justin Roberts
Molly on the Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal
Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by Janice N. Harrington
Pighearted by Alex Perry
A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga
Apple Crush by Lucy Knisley
Three Strike Summer by Skyler Schrempp
A Man Called Horse: John Horse and the Black Seminole Underground Railroad by Glennette Tilley Turner
Murder Among Friends: How Leopold and Loeb Tried to Commit the Perfect Crime by Candace Fleming
As Fast As Her: Dream Big, Break Barriers, Achieve Success by Kendall Coyne
Strike the Zither by Joan He
The Wolves Are Watching by Natalie Lund
Darling by K. Ancrum
The Most Haunted House in America by Jarrett Dapier
Stella Keeps the Sun Up by Clothilde Ewing
Elephant’s Big Solo by Sarah Kurpiel
The Meaning of Pride by Rosiee Thor and illustrated by Sam Kirk
Tortoise and Hare: A Fairy Tale to Help You Find Balance by Susan Verde and illustrated by Jay Fleck
Yetis are the Worst! by Alex Willan
Courage by Barbara Binns
The Civil War of Amos Abernathy by Michael Leali
Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa by Julian Randall Tumble by Celia C. Pérez
ReThink the Internet: How to Make the Digital World a Lot Less Sucky by Trisha Prabhu
Underground Fire: Hope, Sacrifice, and Courage in the Cherry Mine Disaster by Sally M. Walker
The Upstairs House: A Novel by Julia Fine
Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America by Cody Keenan
Eat, Drink, and Be Murray: A Feast of Family Fun and Favorites by Andy Murray
Remarkably Bright Creatures: A Novel by Shelby Van Pelt
The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel West
Last Summer on State Street: A Novel by Toya Wolfe
ILLINOIS READS is sponsored by the Illinois Reading Council, a nonprofit organization with close to 2,000 members across the State of Illinois. The mission of the Illinois Reading Council is to provide support and leadership to all who promote and teach lifelong literacy. Book lists from 2013 to 2022 may be found on the ILLINOIS READS website. More information is also available at www.IllinoisReads.org and www.IllinoisReadingCouncil.org.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nic Skovgaard
Certifiable Marketing Maniac
TED talk brings entrepreneur full circle
HERRIN, Illinois — Nic Skovgaard, owner of AlterEgo Marketing in Herrin, has been named one of eight presenters at the upcoming TEDxSIUC conference, March 4 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Skovgaard will share his first-ever TED talk, “The Future is Vertical: Why Vertical Video Will Flip Your Screen Forever.”
The trip to the TEDx stage will be special for Skovgaard, who said it was other TED presentations which laid the foundation for his company, a recognized leader in brand development, digital presence and traditional marketing.
“I built my company (AlterEgo Marketing in Herrin) because of two TED talks,” he explained. “Everything about who I am as a person and everything I’ve done of the last decade can be traced back to those two TED talks.”
Skovgaard said a 2009 presentation by Simon Sinek called “Start with Why” and Drew Dudley’s 2010 talk “Everyday Leadership” greatly impacted him. Sinek’s speech explored how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust and change.
“I will tell you that everything I’ve done with my company, in working with the Jackson CEO program, any volunteering I have done and any mentoring work, all can be traced back to those TED talks. Drew Dudley’s talk completely changed my life as he talked about ‘lollipop’ moments and leadership and how you could be a leader at any place and at any time” he said.
Skovgaard said since first seeing the two presentations, he has tried to follow the speakers’ advice.
“I have been on this quest to have that same kind of impact that those two individuals have had on me,” he said. “If I could make just a bit of that impact on another person’s life, it would mean the world to me."
As one of those speakers who influenced Skovgaard, Dudley said he feels as though the Herrin native already is changing others’ lives and he is honored to have Skovgaard relate his impact.
Dudley said, "’Lucky’ is a more appropriate term, because knowing Nic feels like that can impact me every day. I believe leadership exists in individual moments of interpersonal impact and it's the role of a leader to create those moments every day. On the days I feel too tired, too angry, or too filled with self-doubt to try to live like that, words like Nic's can be a reminder how much recognizing someone else's impact on your life can matter to that person.”
TED talks are presentations, often recorded, at conferences on a variety of topics to educate or inspire. Called “ideas worth sharing,” speakers are selected for TED-sponsored or individual local gatherings called TEDx events. Skovgaard was among those chosen from a pool of 50 potential presenters.
In his talk, Skovgaard will be sharing what he sees as a shift in how videos are presented online, exploring a shift to a vertical (or portrait) orientation rather than the once-encouraged horizontal format. He said the change, driven in part by the TikTok social media platform, is based on how individuals consume video content.
“There is no such thing as horizontal video anymore. If I were to give one piece of advice for online video, it would be to never turn your camera sideways again,” he said, emphatically. “TikTok has completely changed that game and everyone else is copying it. I would tell you there is no reason from this day forward to shoot any video landscape unless you are doing it for television.”
Skovgaard said it is a dream come true to be scheduled for the TEDxSIUC event. Dudley said he knows Skovgaard is looking to help others through his presentation.
“While delivering a TED Talk might be a personal goal for Nic, the work he's been putting in to make it happen has focused on creating content that helps others at every step of the way. I think Nic sees the TED stage not as a platform to make him look good but rather as a platform to do good; to share ideas that he thinks will make the lives of other people better,” Dudley said.
The 2023 TEDxSIUC event is set for Saturday, March 4 in the SIU Student Center. Tickets will be available in January.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Deborah A. Newman
Deborah Newman Marketing/Communications
Turning Pointe to fund critical support services for families of students with autism; lucky raffle winner to take home $80,000 luxury hybrid SUV
NAPERVILLE, IL — Supporting Turning Pointe Autism Foundation will prove lucky for one family who will win an MSRP $80,000 2023 Toyota Sequoia Capstone Twin Turbo V6 Hybrid SUV for the cost of a $100 raffle ticket. But for scores of autistic students and their families who attend Turning Pointe, the proceeds of the raffle will provide critical funds to aid the Family Support and Respite activities at Turning Pointe.
Thanks to Toyota of Naperville, a member of the Dan Wolf Automotive Group, Turning Pointe is selling just 2,000 tickets at $100 each for the luxury family SUV. The winning ticket will be drawn at Toyota of Naperville, 1488 West Ogden Ave. in Naperville on Dec. 15. The winner need not be present to win.
Giving Families Skills and Resources
“Our son Alex needs to be under constant supervision,” says dad Arnold. ”Even though he’s 19, it’s kind of like raising a toddler. If I step away for a moment, I’m still worrying that he’ll need something and not be able to find me to get help. Everything about our family life revolves around him. My wife and I are always on guard. But since we’ve been at Turning Pointe, instead of living in a bubble, we have been empowered with Family Support seminars on legal, financial and health issues. As Alex’s behavior has become more manageable, his relationship with his sister has improved, and we’ve learned so much that now we can take him on outings and even travel.”
Expanding Resources Needed Most
“The raffle is an important and exciting fundraiser for Turning Pointe,” says Carrie Provenzale, executive director. “The funding it generates will give us an opportunity to support the growing number of families living with children impacted by autism. We know best-practice interventions can vastly improve students’ future independence. The past few years, as more families have learned of an autism diagnosis, supports have been stretched and classrooms at other providers have closed as a result of the pandemic. The raffle funds will allow Turning Pointe to continue expanding support for families.”
Engaging Compassionate High School Volunteers
Arnold says the Saturday Respite program allows Alex to be among friends and staff who understand him and keep him safe. “My wife and I can actually do things together, like enjoy a meal in a ‘non-Alex-friendly’ restaurant and just let our guard down for a bit. It’s a program that Alex enjoys, and he can spend time with neuro-typical high school student volunteers from the Benet Academy Benet Buddies program, who help him socialize. Before Turning Pointe, our life was pretty chaotic. But Turning Pointe has become our family and now we see hope.”
Ensuring Specialized Quality Education and Employment Training
Turning Pointe Autism Foundation was founded 15 years ago by Kim and Randy Wolf, who together with other parents of autistic children, teamed with professionals to build on programming which has proven effective for children diagnosed with Autism. Turning Pointe strives to raise the quality of educational support for children and young adults through a Day School for students from ages 5 to 22 and Adult Services offering support for independent living and employment. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, the organization relies on the partnership of volunteers, donors, school districts, and employment partners to build a thriving center for students learning with autism.
For more information on Turning Pointe Autism Foundation visit https://turningpointeautismfoundation.org. To buy tickets to the 2022 Toyota Sequoia Capstone Raffle by Dec. 15, 2022, visit https://turningpointeautismfoundation.org/2022-toyota-raffle/.
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