News Guild turns up the pressure on stingy owners of the Chicago Reader


Unionized editorial workers at the Chicago Reader are intensifying their campaign to convince management that higher wages and strategic investments will keep the publication viable. The campaign, using the slogan “Save the Reader,” is expanding to include advertising and a public rally.

The employees, members of the Chicago News Guild, are asking that supporters of the Reader gather at noon October 6 in front of 350 N. Orleans, the building that contains the paper’s offices. Also, the guild has begun an ad campaign on CTA trains and buses starting this week. The ads ask people to relay to management their support of the Reader, its tradition of investigative and long-form journalism, and its incisive coverage of music, arts, and culture.

grace-catania-at-steppenwolf-1Guild members have documented a pattern of disinvestment by the Reader’s owners, Wrapports LLC. Since buying the Reader in May 2012, Wrapports has reduced the paper’s staff by about a third and cut the publication’s pages nearly 40 percent.

The staff reductions primarily have affected operations such as advertising sales and distribution. Most editorial workers, meanwhile, have not had a raise in nearly a decade.

“The media business is tough, but downsizing and paying people substandard wages aren’t paths to success,” said Craig Rosenbaum, executive director of the guild. “We want a contract that will compensate people for excellence and increased workloads. We also want management to pay attention to this valuable asset.”

The October 6 rally is being planned with the support of the Chicago Federation of Labor and other unions. “This is a fight for fair treatment of our members, but it’s also about preserving a voice for progressive journalism at a time when a progressive voice must be heard,” Rosenbaum said.

The Reader has been published since 1971 and is one of the nation’s premier alternative newspapers. It is circulated for free, but much of its content now appears only online at

In an online article explaining the Reader’s plight, award-winning political writer Ben Joravsky said the paper’s survival is at issue. “The Reader’s story during the Wrapports years has two recurring themes: editorial achievement and a baffling pullback of business operations. We need investment so the Reader doesn’t die of malnourishment,” Joravsky wrote.

The employees already have collected more than 5,000 signatures on a petition to support the Reader and have spread the message at public events throughout the summer. Despite negotiations lasting more than a year and a half, the workers have yet to see the Reader’s owners offer anything in improved wages or benefits.

The petition is accessible via the “Save the Chicago Reader” page on Facebook or at Supporters also are invited to contact Bruce Sagan, the Wrapports board member who is overseeing the Reader, by calling 312-321-3127 or emailing

Wrapports previously was led by Michael Ferro Jr., who in early 2016 donated his stake to a charitable foundation and purchased a controlling interest in the parent company of the Chicago Tribune.

The CTA ad brings the “Save the Reader” message to Red Line trains and to buses with north-side routes.




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Help us win the fight for the Reader: its bold writing must be saved


By Ben Joravsky

on behalf of the Chicago News Guild bargaining unit


As much as I may not like to admit it, I’m the old guy on the Reader staff. And so I’m writing on behalf of all the employees in our guild bargaining unit.

My first Reader story—a freelanced restaurant review—ran in 1977, before many of my current colleagues were even born.

I started covering politics for the paper in 1984. I’ve been a staff writer since 1990.

That’s long enough for me to have learned a thing or two about what makes this paper so great. Yes, the Reader runs provocative theater, music, film, and food criticism, but just as important, its editors give writers the freedom to tell it like it is, even if we irritate the hell out of the powers that be.

This tradition of hell-raising and muckraking stretches from John Conroy’s fearless reporting on police brutality in the 1980s to Aimee Levitt and Christopher Piatt’s recent exposé of harassment and abuse at Profiles Theatre. Every editor—from Bob Roth, Mike Lenehan, and Alison True in the early days to the current one, Jake Malooley—has kept this going.

In terms of editorial freedom, I got off to a strong start with Wrapports, the consortium of business executives that now owns the Reader as well as the Sun-Times.

A few days after Wrapports bought the paper in 2012, Reader employees were called to the Sun-Times offices to meet Michael Ferro, then the publisher.

My brief conversation with Ferro went a little like this:

Me: So, what are you going to do when the mayor calls to complain about something I wrote?

Ferro: I’ll tell him to get a new press agent.

Despite that much-appreciated editorial independence, the Reader is at a crossroads under the Wrapports regime—our very existence is threatened. The Reader’s story during the Wrapports years has two recurring themes: editorial achievement and a baffling pullback of business operations. We need investment so the Reader doesn’t die of malnourishment.

Wrapports bought the Reader from a hedge fund, which had in turn taken control of the paper after the previous owners went bankrupt.

As you can see, the newspaper business is a tough one.

Frustrated by cuts and pay freezes and an uncertain future, the editorial staff unanimously voted to form a collective bargaining unit in January 2015—we joined the News Guild.

We’ve been negotiating with management for a contract since not long afterward.

While Wrapports allows us to maintain our editorial independence, we have suffered on the financial end.

Most of the staff hasn’t gotten a raise in nearly a decade. Many of our editorial employees work more than 40 hours per week for less than $40,000. Most staffers are male, but the lowest-paid workers are predominantly female.

The biggest salary goes to some old goat who makes $55,000 to write about politics. Obviously, no one got in this racket to make it rich.

But we do need stability. We’re getting just the opposite. There’s been a steady stream of cuts since Wrapports took control. When they bought the paper in 2012, we had 47 full- and part-time employees. We now have 31.

Most of the cuts have been on the business end. We’ve lost ad reps and marketing strategists—the very staffers who bring in the money we need to function.

In 2012, each issue of the Reader ran from 72 to 80 pages. Now, it’s generally 44 to 48 pages.

You can’t build a paper by starving it. Neglect is not a sustainable business strategy.

If you like the Reader—if you appreciate its voice of independence in politics and the arts—help us out.

Please put pressure on Wrapports. Let them know they should invest the money to build the paper and pay its workers a fair wage.

To continue down this path means a great Chicago newspaper will slowly die.

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Here’s how to help ‘Save the Reader’

  • Find Save the Chicago Reader on Facebook, where you can sign our petition. Or access the petition at
  • Call Bruce Sagan, Wrapports board member who oversees the Reader, at 312-321-3127. Email him at
  • Attend our rally at noon October 6, rain or shine, on the street outside the Reader’s offices at 350 N. Orleans.
  • Find the Reader and read it!
  • Last but not least, why not advertise in the paper? Call 312-222-6920.
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The Reader—a timeline of excellence and turmoil

May 2012

Wrapports LLC, a private group of investors, purchases the Reader from Atalaya Capital Management for slightly less than $3 million. Wrapports is the brainchild of Michael Ferro Jr., chairman and CEO of private equity firm Merrick Ventures. Serving on its board are John Canning Jr., chairman of the Chicago News Cooperative, and Bruce Sagan, publisher of the Hyde Park Herald. Other wealthy business leaders funding Wrapports include Joe Mansueto, Michael Sacks, Rocky Wirtz, and Bruce Rauner.

Wrapports has recently purchased Sun-Times Media—which includes the Chicago Sun-Times and 38 suburban newspapers—and named Jim Kirk, formerly of the Chicago News Cooperative and Crain’s Chicago Business, as editor in chief.

As a condition of employment, Wrapports mandates that Reader staffers declare themselves to be at-will employees. The company offers no severance or matching benefits for retirement.

At time of purchase, the Reader has 47 full- and part-time employees, and issues run 72 to 80 pages.


June 2012

At the annual Altweekly Awards, presented by the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, the Reader is honored for arts criticism (J.R. Jones), feature story (Steve Bogira), food writing (Mike Sula), investigative reporting (Ben Joravsky, Mick Dumke), and special section (the staff-written 40th anniversary issue).


August 2012

The Reader vacates its longtime office space at 11 E. Illinois, which included ten editorial offices, and moves into the Sun-Times Media suite at 350 N. Orleans, where it has five editorial offices and an open-seating plan for the remaining employees. As part of the move, three employees involved in operations leave the Reader.


October 2012

Mary Jo Madden, general manager of the Reader and a 35-year veteran, leaves the paper, and her position is eliminated. Her employees in advertising and operations will now report to three different Sun-Times executives, and the Reader’s printing and distribution will be overseen by the Sun-Times.

The Reader’s marketing director leaves, and her position is eliminated. A marketing and sales assistant assumes her duties.

Steve Bogira’s “Divergent Paths to College” traces the high school careers of two young women from opposite sides of the tracks: Hayley Himmelman of New Trier High and Jasmeen Wellere of Hirsch Metropolitan High.

January 2013

The Reader publishes its first 56-page issue. Excluding “special” issues (Best of Chicago, Fall Arts, et cetera), page counts in the coming year will range from 56 to 96, averaging 77 pages.


March 2013

The Chicago Headline Club honors the Reader in its annual Lisagor Awards with nominations for feature writing, in-depth reporting, nondeadline reporting, blog post, and news column or commentary.


April 2013

Two longtime classified-ad and display-ad representatives leave, and their positions are eliminated.

Media outlets report that Bruce Rauner, who is running for governor, has sold his 10 percent stake in Wrapports to Michael Ferro Jr.


May 2013

Senior writer Mike Sula wins a James Beard award for his 2012 Reader story “Chicken of the Trees.”

The Reader hires a business development specialist.

The Sun-Times replaces its old Weekend section with the new Agenda insert, combining its own arts coverage with copy reprinted from the Reader. Senior writer Michael Miner reports that the new owners “have let us know that the Reader is a rare paper of theirs that turns a profit.” Subsequently the Sun-Times will repaint its street boxes with the Reader’s familiar black-and-gold color scheme.


June 2013

A planning strategist for the Reader’s “Real Deal” promotion leaves the paper, and her position is eliminated.


July 2013

At the annual Altweekly Awards, the Reader is honored for beat reporting (Steve Bogira), illustration (Johnny Sampson), and staff-written blog (the Bleader).

The Reader’s marketing manager leaves and is replaced.


September 2013

A sales representative leaves, and her position is eliminated.


October 2013

An ad account executive leaves, to be replaced ten weeks later.


November 2013

Darryl Holliday and E.N. Rodriguez’s graphic feature “How to Survive a Shooting” tells the story of a mother trying to cope after her 19-year-old daughter is gunned down at the corner of King Drive and 72nd Street.


December 2013

Mick Dumke’s “Heroin, LLC” breaks down the economics of the west-side drug trade.


January 2014

The Reader hits a new low in page counts with its first 48-page issue. Excluding special issues, page counts in the coming year will range from 48 to 80, averaging 68 pages.


March 2014

The Chicago Headline Club honors the Reader in its annual Lisagor Awards with nominations for in-depth reporting, feature story, education reporting, arts criticism, and news website.


July 2014

At the annual Altweekly Awards, the Reader is honored for arts criticism (Tony Adler), food writing (Mike Sula), political column (Ben Joravsky), long-form news story (Mick Dumke), cover design (Paul John Higgins, Mike McQuade), illustration (Jason Wyatt Frederick), innovation (Darryl Holliday, E.N. Rodriguez), and multimedia (the People Issue 2013).


August 2014

Jake Malooley’s “Debauchery Ahoy” provokes controversy with its unvarnished account of the Chicago Scene Boat Party, a bacchanal in the pocket of Lake Michigan known as “the Playpen.”

Steve Bogira’s “The Toll of Violence on Children” reveals the long-lasting impact of street killings on the city’s youngest.


October 2014

The Reader loses its veteran senior design coordinator.

Wrapports launches the Sun-Times Network, described by one journalist as “a templatized, national/local, ready-to-go network of 70 news sites and apps that aim to make use of all the au courant digital news business knowledge of the day.” This experiment will later be abandoned.

Wrapports sells six daily and 32 weekly suburban newspapers to Chicago Tribune Media Group for an undisclosed sum. Crain’s Chicago Business reports the Chicago Sun-Times’ average weekly and Sunday print circulation as 140,000 (the Reader’s weekly circulation is 90,000) and its digital circulation as 65,500.


January 2015

The Reader editorial staff votes 19-0 to join the Chicago News Guild.

Mara Shalhoup resigns after four years as editor of the Reader to become editor of LA Weekly. “I recognize that the timing of this announcement is coming on the heels of your decision to unionize,” she writes in a memo to staff. “I had accepted this job prior to last week’s vote but didn’t want to tell you sooner—because I didn’t want my decision to persuade you one way or the other.”


February 2015

A classified advertising representative leaves, and her position is eliminated.


March 2015

The Chicago Headline Club honors the Reader in its annual Lisagor Awards with nominations for feature story, education reporting, arts criticism, investigative/public service reporting, and photography.

In “Chicago Police Are Spying on Citizens,” Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky share the results of their FOIA request for information on “First Amendment-related investigations . . . prompted by or based upon a person’s speech or other expression.”

The Reader loses its advertising director, whose position is eliminated.


April 2015

An advertising account executive leaves, and his position is eliminated.

“The Greatest Ever Chicago Book Tournament,” a six-month contest judged by Reader staffers and notable Chicagoans, names Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns the best book ever written about the city.


May 2015

Film editor J.R. Jones publishes The Lives of Robert Ryan (Wesleyan University Press), which originated as a 2009 Reader story.


June 2015

At the first bargaining session between the company and the Reader unit of the Chicago News Guild, the guild submits a set of contract proposals dealing with noneconomic matters, but the company refuses to agree to anything without first seeing the economic package.


July 2015

Following six months as acting editor, Jake Malooley is named editor of the Reader. His previous position, managing editor, is eliminated. He and creative director Paul Higgins announce a redesign of the paper that will eliminate the “B Side” arrangement of the music section (it ran upside-down behind a music-themed back cover) and consolidate the paper’s film, theater, and other arts listings into a single three-page spread.

At the annual Altweekly Awards, the Reader is honored for food writing (Mike Sula), arts feature (Max Blau), political column (Ben Joravsky), long-form news story (Steve Bogira), special section (Bar Issue 2014), and multimedia (People Issue 2014).

Two advertising account executives depart, and their positions are eliminated.


August 2015

An advertising production manager leaves and is not replaced. An editorial assistant also leaves, and his work compiling the Reader’s event listings is redistributed to existing staff and to freelancers.

The company notifies the guild that it is contemplating laying off one full-time and one part-time employee covered by the Reader unit. At subsequent meetings, the company declines to specify which employees it wants to dismiss. The guild responds with a letter requesting financial documents that will prove the need to eliminate these unnamed employees. The company never responds, and the layoffs are not carried out.


September 2015

Senior writer Mick Dumke leaves the Reader, and his position is eliminated. Robin Amer joins the Reader as deputy editor for news; the company will contend that, unlike Dumke, she is ineligible for union membership.

The Reader eliminates another position when its senior marketing manager leaves.

Aimee Levitt’s “Don’t Be a Rapist” profiles student activists who persuaded the University of Chicago to reevaluate its campus rape policy.


October 2015

An associate editor leaves and is not replaced. Her social media duties are assigned to a new staffer four months later.

A senior account executive leaves and is not replaced.

Wrapports CEO Tim McKnight resigns, and his position is eliminated. The command structure now consists of Jim Kirk; Paul Pham, senior vice president for business operations; and Tim Landon, CEO of the Sun-Times Network.

The Reader publishes its first 40-page issue. Excluding special issues, page counts for 2015 will range from 40 to 64, averaging 52 pages.


December 2015

Photo editor Andrea Bauer leaves the Reader, and her position is eliminated. Many of her duties will be assumed by Danielle A. Scruggs, who joins the Reader as director of photography in March 2016; the company will contend that, unlike Bauer, she is ineligible for union membership.

Adrienne Hurst’s “Black, Autistic, and Killed by Police” investigates the police killing of an autistic man inside his Calumet City home.


January 2016

The Reader unit of the Chicago News Guild submits the economic component of its contract proposal (salary, retirement, jurisdiction, et cetera).

For two years running, the Reader has dropped its last issue of the year. Now it drops an additional issue, billing the subsequent January 21 edition as a “double issue.” Excluding special issues, page counts for 2016 will range from 40 to 52, averaging 46 pages.

Beginning with the year’s first issue, the Reader eliminates its glossy cover, switching to a cheaper paper with a matte finish.


February 2016

Michael Ferro, chairman of Wrapports, buys 5.2 million shares of Tribune Publishing stock for $44.4 million. To avoid potential antitrust problems, he soon donates his shares in Wrapports to a California charitable foundation. Following Ferro’s departure, John Canning Jr. becomes chairman of Wrapports and Bruce Sagan is named chairman of Sun-Times Holdings, which now consists of the Sun-Times, the Reader, the society weekly Splash, and the Sun-Times Network.


March 2016

Yana Kunichoff and Sam Stecklow are honored by the Sidney Hillman Foundation for their story “How Chicago’s ‘Fraternal Order of Propaganda’ Shapes the Story of Fatal Police Shootings.”

The Reader’s business manager leaves; her position is eliminated, and the company hires a vice president of new media.


April 2016

The Chicago Headline Club honors the Reader in its annual Lisagor Awards with nominations for in-depth reporting, news column, political reporting, and general excellence in print journalism.

After three months, the company responds to the Reader unit’s economic proposal with two counterproposals: no salary increase and a severance package to consist of one day’s pay for every year worked.

Wrapports sells its society paper, Splash, to Tribune Publishing. Wrapports spokesman Glenn Harston says the board “decided it would rather focus on its core newspaper asset, the Chicago Sun-Times, and digital properties.”

Unionized editorial staffers at the Reader, working with the Chicago News Guild, launch the “Save the Reader” online campaign. Within a week, more than 3,000 readers sign the campaign’s petition to Bruce Sagan of Wrapports LLC.


June 2016

Aimee Levitt and Christopher Piatt’s “At Profiles Theatre the Drama—and Abuse—Is Real” exposes allegations of mistreatment at a local cutting-edge theater company. Six days later, Profiles Theatre closes.


July 2016

At the annual Altweekly Awards, the Reader is honored for arts criticism (J.R. Jones), political column (Ben Joravsky), race reporting (Steve Bogira, Mick Dumke), and special section (the Food Issue 2015).


August 2016

The Reader hires a vice president of business development.


September 2016

Alison Flowers and Sarah Macaraeg are honored by the Sidney Hillman Foundation for their story “I Thought to Be Charged With Murder You Had to Kill Somebody,” examining three cases in which people were charged with murder for deaths caused by police who were pursuing them.

Contributing writer Derrick Clifton is honored by the National Association of Black Journalists for three Reader columns about the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Senior writer Steve Bogira, a four-decade veteran responsible for some of the paper’s best in-depth social justice reporting, leaves the Reader.

Four years after Wrapports’ purchase of the Reader, staff has diminished from 47 full- or part-time employees (23 editorial, 24 advertising/operations) to 31 (21 editorial, 10 advertising/operations).


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Keep Seidenberg in Evanston, petitioners tell Pioneer Press

By Ralph Zahorik

An online petition drive has been launched to keep news reporter Bob Seidenberg in Evanston.

As of Monday evening, the petition had 149 signatures and scores of comments from supporters, almost all of whom identified themselves as residents of Evanston.  Several urged Tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing), owner of the Review, to “fire the editor” of Pioneer Press, the Chicago suburban newspaper chain that includes the Evanston Review.

Seidenberg is one of several veteran Pioneer Press reporters targeted by Pioneer. Others have been hit with warning letters or verbal threats that they might be “terminated” for various alleged infractions. The Chicago News Guild, a union local that represents the reporters, has filed about 10 grievances in connection with the warnings. In Seidenberg’s case, an Unfair Labor Practice charge has filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

Seidenberg was notified he was being transferred to the Franklin Park area after he withheld his byline from one of his stories. The story had an inaccurate lead rewritten by a Pioneer editor, he said. Reporters for Pioneer can withhold their names from stories for any reason. Seidenberg earlier had a disagreement with editors over a deadline change. He said he objected to moving up the deadline for the weekly Review to Friday for all but meeting stories. The newspaper comes out on Thursday.

Initially, Tronc editors and managers did not respond to requests for comment on the situation at Pioneer Press.  After Seidenberg’s removal was made public by the News Guild, a spokeswoman for Tronc said Seidenberg’s transfer had nothing to do with his byline. He is being moved because there is a vacancy in Franklin Park, she said.

In an email sent the day Seidenberg was told he was being moved out of Evanston “for business reasons,” Pioneer Editor John Puterbaugh wrote the action was being taken “based on general business needs and will be most beneficial to our overall coverage and business strategy.”

The Seidenberg petition was started by Gina Speckman on a Web site called Speckman could not be reached for comment.

“We think very highly of Bob Seidenberg, and we’re thrilled to see that the Evanston community and many within the media feel the same way,” said Rick Kambic, chairman of the Guild’s Pioneer Press unit. “Bob is a prime example of why it’s important to have union-protected journalists. Thirty years of contacts and insights, that’s not easy to find these days. He’s given a lot of his life to Pioneer Press and the people who live, work and go to school in Evanston.”

In a statement, Seidenberg said, “I really am amazed at the outpouring of emails, tweets, Facebook posts and just expressions of support. Some came from the recipients of tough coverage yet they took time to express support. It has been a truly humbling experience for a reporter used to standing in the background.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t heard from anyone at my company. I really hope I do and there’s a change of mind.  It’s an auspicious time: Evanston is at the start of a once in four years’ election season and I believe my background, nearly 30 years covering the town, can be a real asset. I would love for that to be so.”

Among the comments made by petition supporters:

  • “Bob is a true asset to the Evanston Review and the community: a principled dedicated reporter. This ill-disguised retaliation for exercising his contractual rights is absurd and intolerable.”
  • “Having been born in Evanston, and having grown up with the Evanston Review and the Pioneer Press, this reassignment strikes me as a blow to retaining the integrity of the publication.”
  • “This is a bad decision if you care about quality in community journalism.”
  • “The editor should go … Bob is good for Evanston; the editor is not.”
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Veteran Reporter Yanked From Evanston

By Ralph Zahorik

An outsider might think Tronc, formerly known as Tribune Publishing, is waging a war on its own reporters at Pioneer Press, the Chicago suburban newspaper chain Tribune acquired last year.

In the latest incident, veteran Evanston reporter Bob Seidenberg was told that he is being removed from his beat. Seidenberg, an award-winning writer for the Evanston Review, has been covering the city for nearly 30 years.

Seidenberg was ordered to start covering Franklin Park and several other west suburbs starting Sept. 26.

About a week before he was informed of his new beat, Seidenberg riled his editors by withholding his name from a story. He considered a new lead written by one of the editors inaccurate. Pioneer reporters represented by the Chicago News Guild, A CWA (Communications Workers of America) local, have a contractual right to withhold their names from their own work.

Seidenberg said he got a call from top Pioneer editor John Puterbaugh, his local editor’s boss in Chicago. Puterbaugh, he said, asked why he withheld his name from the story and questioned the story’s value. The story dealt with an Evanston official declaring, for the first time in print, that the city was planning to build a new $30 million community center instead of renovating the existing center.

Seidenberg said Puterbaugh told him he was tired of dealing with such matters. The Pioneer editor told him to call his local editor and discuss the matter with her, he said. His local editor called the byline withdrawal “hostile,” he said. Continue reading

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Guild Ratifies New Contract For Court Interpreters

The Court Interpreters represented by the Chicago News Guild ratified a new collective bargaining agreement 32-4 last week. The new agreement gives the approximately 95 members in the bargaining unit a 10.5% wage increase over the five year term of the contract, which ends on November 30, 2017. However, court interpreters and all other Cook County employees will be required to make an additional .5% increase to health care beginning on December 1, 2015 and another .5% increase on December 1, 2016.

For certified full-interpreters, they will receive a grade increase, which amounts to another 5-10% increase on top of the 10.5% wage increase. For the existing certified session interpreters, they will receive an hourly rate of $33.50 per hour in addition to the 10.5% wage increase. Certified session interpreters will also have priority of assignments over all the other session interpreters. If no certified session court interpreters are available, then all registered session court interpreters will have priority over all the other session court interpreters.

This is the first time that Cook County has recognized the skills of certified court interpreters. Cook County, the second largest court system in the U.S. after L.A. County, now joins all other major jurisdictions in paying certified court interpreters a higher rate of pay.

The contract also requires the Guild and Chief Judge to discuss compensation for any other additional session interpreters who become certified by August 31, 2016. The parties must also discuss a higher compensation grade for full-time interpreters who have twenty or more years of service.

“I would like to thank our bargaining committee for all of their hard work. Special thanks to Unit Chair Grace Catania whose exemplary leadership made it possible for our members to achieve such a good contract,” commented the Guild’s Executive Director Craig Rosenbaum.

The Guild also owes much gratitude to Commissioner Jesus Garcia whose unyielding support made this contract possible. Rosenbaum said, “Without the support of Commissioner Garcia, we would never have achieved this contract. I also would like to thank the Chicago Federation of Labor and Jobs With Justice who circulated our petition throughout the immigrant rights community.”


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September mixer & workshop

Working Journalists is a unit of Chicago News Guild, uniting and representing freelance journalists in the Chicago area. It offers its members monthly events and programming. Check out what it has lined up for September!

September mixer flyer

Data journalism flyer



We had a fascinating panel discussion on the merits of organizing independent contracts in August. Panelists included Chicago News Guild President Dave Pollard, NABET-CWA Local 41 President Don Villar and SAG-AFTRA Chicago’s Sean Hennessy. Check the video out:



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Protecting whistleblowers

Careful steps must be taken to protect the identities of whistleblowers whose information could lead to serious consequences. Chicago journalist Brandon Smith led a workshop addressing how journalists can provide security for their sources sponsored by Working Journalists.

“They (whistleblowers) are relying on you the journalist to keep them safe,” Smith said.

He cited the McAfee incident as a cautionary tale. Software developer John McAfee had shared his location with one reporter so the reporter could interview him while he was in hiding on the condition the reporter would keep McAfee’s location a secret. However, the reporter inadvertently led officials to McAfee’s door because the proper precautions to remove metadata from the photo accompanying the story were not taken.

Assess what information a whistleblower has given away when he/she has contacted you the journalist, Smith said. That includes what is said but also the method of communication, which in certain cases can tip off an employer to the fact that one of his or her employees is talking to you.

Security measures vary depending on how the journalist is getting information from a whistleblower. If it’s via e-mail, Smith recommended the informant use an e-mail account not connected to any personal information for the whistleblower. If it’s via the phone, a burner phone paid for in cash. If it’s in person, neither source nor reporter should bring a cell phone to hide the location.

None of this actually ensures security. Security is all about knowing who you’re up against. And because nearly any kind of detection is theoretically possible, defense is all about making it prohibitively expensive for your adversary to figure out what’s going on, Smith said.

About 85 percent of large media outlets have been hacked so the hacker can identify the journalists’ sources, according to two security researchers who worked for Google. Disk encryption defends against your research or contacts being read in the event your *powered off* device is stolen or confiscated. If it’s asleep or screen-locked, no dice. And if your data is backed up to the cloud, you have to worry about the security of the cloud protocol.

-Sunlight Foundation () and Muck Rock ()for FOIA tutorials
-Tor, anonymous Web browser to hide the location of the user
-Tails, an operating system that masks browser traffic, stored on a USB drive
-encryption apps: TextSecure to protect text messages for Androids
RedPhone to protect voice
Signal for iPhones (includes RedPhone)

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Working Journalists

WJ logo small

Working Journalists helps Chicago-area freelance journalists get jobs, get paid for those jobs and bolster their skills so they can do their jobs better. We are a union because its structure gives us the means to serve freelancers with such benefits as press credentials, assistance collecting payment and monthly workshops. The ultimate goal is to create better working conditions for freelancers and get them jobs!

A look at WJ’s upcoming events:
Freelance Mixer & Open House
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 15
Where: CivicLab, 114 N. Aberdeen, Chicago (between Washington and Randolph), 3 blocks from Green Line Morgan/Lake stop
What: Casual networking opportunity with fellow freelance journalists as well as to explore CivicLab’s space. Working Journalists has an opportunity to partner with CivicLab to offer work space to its members–if the members like the space.

Source Security Workshop
When: 6 p.m. Monday, April 27
Where: CivicLab, 114 N. Aberdeen, Chicago
What: How to protect sources who need their identities hidden during your story’s preparation or after it’s filed.

Freelance Mixer
When: 6 p.m., May 14
Where: TBA

DIY Web sites
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 26
Where: 17 N. State St., room 820 (8th floor)
What: Do-it-yourself Web sites workshop covering platforms such as WordPress and NationBuilder.

Past events:
Getting Found on the Web 101 link to presenter’s blog:
Freelancer Finance 4-1-1 link to YouTube video:

Questions? E-mail us at

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