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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: Sep. 12, 2023
Laura L. Scarry
(630) 690-2800 ext. 102
Village of Crestwood agrees to pay $1.8 million
to five former police officers
The Village of Crestwood Board of Trustees at its Thursday board meeting approved a $1.8 million settlement in a civil rights lawsuit filed by five former Village of Crestwood police officers against the village, former mayor, the chief of police and several other high-ranking village police officials.
Former part-time officers Don Preston, Joseph Cortesi, Gilbert Hueramo III and Eric Chmura; and full-time officer Robert Hoselton, filed a federal lawsuit alleging they were fired or not reappointed, forced to resign, or brought up on disciplinary charges within days of each other in October 2019 because of their efforts to unionize the village’s police officers. They filed suit against the village Chief of Police David Weigand, Deputy Chief David Alexander, Lt. Rich Wyman, Lt. Chris Spencer, Sgt. Michael Coutre, former Village of Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta, the Village Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, and current or former Commissioners Rob Lyons, Frank Caldario, Joseph Zangara and James Fowler.
In 2019 members of the village’s police department sought to unionize the part-time and full-time officers. On Aug. 1, 2019, the Illinois Labor Relations Board certified the Illinois Council of Police (ICOPS) as the exclusive bargaining unit for the part-time officers.
The lawsuit alleges the village and the other defendants engaged in a campaign of intimidation, threats and coercion against Preston, Cortesi, Hueramo, Chmura, Hoselton, and other village police officers in an effort to “bust” the union and intimidate officers who supported the union. Three months after the union was certified, Preston, Cortesi, Hueramo and Chmura were either terminated, forced to resign or not re-appointed, and Hoselton was brought up on disciplinary charges and later terminated by the Village’s Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.
The lawsuit, Don Preston et al. v. David Weigand et al., Case No. 20-CV-4272, was filed in the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois. At the time of settlement, no trial date had been scheduled. Preston, Cortesi, Hueramo, Chmura and Hoselton were represented by Laura L. Scarry of DeAno & Scarry, LLC, Chicago, Illinois.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 31, 2023
Claire Craig Evans, author
Peoria author releases new humorous travel memoir
Evans' debut book explores the comic side of moving to the UK
PEORIA — Claire Craig Evans, a former journalist and lawyer turned virtual presenter on UK culture, food, and history for libraries nationwide, will be launching High Tea and the Low Down: An American’s Unfiltered Life in the UK on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023.
Evans’ book chronicles the story of how she meets her English husband in Peoria, Illinois, and their move to the UK. She anticipates “a green and pleasant adventure” on an “enchanted island where somewhat mysterious women with dewy complexions made jam in thatched cottages.” But moving transatlantic proved easy compared to the unexpected yet amusing culture clash that awaited her.
“Now that we don’t have new episodes of 'Ted Lasso' to look forward to, someone has to fill the void of laughable Americans confused by British culture,” Evans says. “I wrote the book I wanted to read on my first flight to Heathrow.”
A lively transcontinental adventure teeming with clever humor and cross-cultural insights… Evans’ prose is breezy, lighthearted, and affably chatty, which elevates her account of her British adventures above the typical cross-cultural narrative. Her generous personal anecdotes will bring joy and solidarity to readers who have experienced the same bewilderment after relocating to a new country. The narrative includes amusing stories of losing her luggage on her way to meet Ben’s parents; passing the infamous 24-question “Life in the UK” immigration exam; navigating the language barrier (despite speaking English); and surviving a hilarious UK driving test. – Kirkus Reviews
"[A] hilarious and heartwarming read." – Midwest Book Review
"High Tea and the Low Down" will be available in ebook and paperback formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most other online print and ebook retailers. During its presale, it has been ranked the #1 New Release in England Travel on Amazon and is currently the #1 selling Great Britain Travel paperback carried by its distributor, IngramSpark. It is also available for order from independent bookstores. The audiobook will be available on Sept. 5, 2023.
For more information on Claire:
Since starting her speaking business five years ago, Claire Craig Evans has given more than 300 presentations inspired by her life in the UK to libraries and civic groups throughout the United States, Canada, and the UK. She grew up in Springfield, Illinois, and has also lived in Normal and Urbana. Aside from her UK years, she’s spent a majority of the past 20 years in Peoria. Visit www.teawithclaire.com for more details.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 14, 2023
Illinois Pharmacists Association
National Community Pharmacists Association
IPhA, NCPA Cheer Illinois law reining in PBM retaliation
HB3631 protects freedom of speech and promotes transparency into PBM business practices
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Pharmacists Association and the National Community Pharmacists Association are applauding a new law in Illinois that prohibits retaliation by pharmacy benefit managers against pharmacists and pharmacies for disclosing information to courts, hearings, legislative commissions, law enforcement or other government agencies if there is reasonable cause to believe the disclosed information is evidence of violation of a state or federal law, rule, or regulation. HB3631, which was led by Rep. Hoan Huynh (D) and Sen. Mike Simmons (D), was signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker (D) on Aug. 4, 2023. It has an effective date of July 1, 2023.
The top three PBMs control 80 percent of the market, and decide what medicines patients can take, where they must get them, and how much they pay. In recent years, they have leveraged their market power to implement abusive policies and practices that pad their profits at the expense of patients and pharmacies. Pharmacists who speak out oftentimes experience retaliation measures from PBMs that can include an exponential increase in audits, refusal to access future contracts and removal from preferred provider networks, among other punishments.
“PBMs for too long have been weaponizing contracting and auditing tactics to essentially force pharmacists into silence,” says Garth Reynolds, RPh, executive director of IPhA. “There’s more work to do to truly rein in these middlemen, but with HB3631, we can more freely share with government representatives how PBM policies harm pharmacy practice and our patients. IPhA is grateful to Rep. Huynh and Sen. Simmons for their leadership and support, and to Gov. Pritzker for signing this important bill into law.”
“For a marketplace to be free and healthy, there must be competition and transparency. PBMinsurers are fighting against both, even as policymakers at all levels of government look to crack down on business practices that stifle patient choice and disadvantage independent pharmacies,” says Joel Kurzman, director of state government affairs at NCPA. “This legislation is a great step forward in Illinois. Further PBM reforms and aggressive enforcement of policies like this one will be crucial if patients and taxpayers are to see the difference.”
The Illinois Pharmacists Association is dedicated to enhancing the professional competency of pharmacists, advancing the standards of pharmacy practice, improving pharmacists’ effectiveness in assuring rational drug use in society, and leading in the resolution of public policy issues affecting pharmacists. IPhA was founded in 1880. To learn more, visit ipha.org |@ILPharmacists.
Founded in 1898, the National Community Pharmacists Association is the voice for the community pharmacist, representing over 19,400 pharmacies that employ nearly 240,000 individuals nationwide. Community pharmacies are rooted in the communities where they are located and are among America's most accessible health care providers. To learn more, visit www.ncpa.org.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 14, 2023
MedGenyx enhances pharmacists' role as medication experts
URBANA - MedGenyx, a leading provider of pharmacogenomic test interpretation in Illinois, announces the launch of its services. MedGenyx pharmacists provide comprehensive medication review services and pharmacogenomic (PGx) test analysis. PGx tests help determine the safest and most effective medications based on a person’s DNA.
MedGenyx can facilitate these services in a variety of settings, including implementing PGx testing programs for prescribers, long term care facilities, and direct-to-consumer PGx testing for the individual client seeking answers to their medication concerns.
MedGenyx can cater to the needs of busy prescribing health care professionals that want to implement PGx testing to enhance their clinical decision-making processes. Pharmacists, certified in pharmacogenomics, walk patients through the testing process, from education, to a simple buccal swab, to making medication recommendations, to follow-up consultations.
The launch of MedGenyx comes at a crucial time when the demand for reliable medical information has never been greater. With the rapid development of medical treatments and technologies, the need for accessible and trustworthy medical resources has become even more critical. Pharmacists, as medication experts, are poised to step into this space and collaborate with prescribers to offer the latest in PGx capabilities.
"MedGenyx was developed to address the growing need to get medications, strengths and dosages right the first time, utilizing PGx testing. These tests can ultimately save time and money, both of which are in short supply in healthcare settings today,” said Theresa Johnson, Founder and CEO of MedGenyx. “MedGenyx pharmacists want to collaborate with prescribers to improve patient treatment outcomes in all types of health care settings.”
MedGenyx is committed to delivering accurate and reliable medication recommendations based on the cutting-edge science of pharmacogenomics.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 1, 2023
Biplanes and balloons over Greenville, Illinois
Greenville Airport will have its Airstravaganza event from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16. Plans include: open house with pancake breakfast, biplane rides in a Waco UPF-7 or Stearman, as well as rides in Cessna 172. Weather permitting, Brad Haege, balloonist from Nashville, Illinois, plans to be in attendance with his hot air balloon. Static displays will include Wings of Hope from Spirit of St Louis Airport with info on its mission of providing aircraft for medical and mission assistance worldwide. Also, medical evacuation helicopters from Air Evac and Air Methods will be on the ramp as well as equipment from local volunteer fire departments.
Kevin Kegin's American Warbird will be flying biplane rides of 20 minutes in a Waco for $250. You can also contact Kevin to schedule a flight in a North American T-6, $500 for 30 minutes or longer flights if desired. For additional info and schedule: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.americanwarbird.com, 314-809-7101.
For info on hot air balloon rides call Brad Haege, balloonist from Nashville, Illinois, at 618-410-6030.
For info on Stearman and Cessna 172 rides, call 618-322-3532.
Pilots flying in will receive one free pancake breakfast per aircraft and be eligible for a $20 discount on fuel purchased on the day of event in addition to being entered in a drawing for $250 of free fuel to be awarded on the day of the event.
For additional info, contact Craig Baumberger at 618-322-3532 or email@example.com.
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