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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Name change

Following the footsteps of our national union, the executive board voted to change our name to Chicago News Guild. The national changed its name to The News Guild, dropping “paper” from the name at the national multi-sector conference in January.

Chicago News Guild is working on adjusting its photos, logo and other material to reflect the name change.

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Welcome members of the Reader

From Chicago Newspaper Guild President Dave Pollard:
I first would like to say thank you all for taking the first step toward becoming a part of Chicago Newspaper Guild.
Your unanimous vote toward being recognized under the Guild shows your solidarity toward making positive changes in your workplace and creating a strong unified voice in the workplace. I believe I speak for all members of Guild and The Newspaper Guild when I say “Welcome!”
You’ve made a brave and bold decision, but you’ve joined a union that advocates aggressively on behalf of our members who work in the newsroom and our members in different industries represented by us.
This is just the beginning but it is a strong and resounding one that I believe will result in very positive outcomes in the future.
Once again: welcome, and I look forward to serving you and working with you to achieve your goals.
Yours in solidarity,
David Pollard
Chicago Newspaper Guild

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McKinney situation update

Nearly 500 people have signed a Chicago Newspaper Guild online petition asking whether political influence was the reason the Chicago Sun-Times took reporter Dave McKinney off his beat covering state politics at a critical moment during the last election, a move which ultimately led to McKinney’s resignation.

After writing a story about gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, McKinney was placed on leave and removed from his beat.

Continue reading

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President’s letter in support of McKinney

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Recently, we lost a good member of the Chicago Newspaper Guild. It was not due to disinterest in the union or a new job opportunity, but for just doing a good job.

Dave McKinney has worked for the Chicago Sun-Times as its Springfield bureau chief for 19 years. For the most part, he’s a lone reporter in the state capital among hundreds of political heavyweights who would love to have his favor in reporting the news, but you don’t get that type of job if you are easily swayed and lack journalistic integrity.

Continue reading

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