Two years in—We’re just getting started.

By Darryl Holliday

City Bureau

City Bureau

Earlier this month, I was asked to explain City Bureau’s “practical” impact on the local media landscape—as in how, exactly, does City Bureau “move the needle” for a city in need of big ideas, solutions and action?

I could have talked about how our #PublicNewsroom model is spreading to more local newsrooms (we’re listening) or how our Documenters program is paying and training Chicagoans to document public governance meetings(we’re out here). And I could have talked about how one of our recent stories led Chicago’s City Council to call on the Department of Public Health to testify on a “lack of oversight and enforcement” of rules designed to protect the public from residential demolition debris (we’re having an impact). But none of those things came to mind first—instead, the words of one of City Bureau’s earliest advisers did. He said we should always focus on our current group of reporting fellows—to always prioritize their training, development and success. And I’m happy to say that for the last two years, we’ve been doing exactly that.

When it comes to practical impact at City Bureau, nothing represents what can be done to strengthen the local media ecosystem better than the diverse range of journalists we hire and train to report on local issues and involve the public at each step of the way. These folks are remarkable in their own right; they’ve helped City Bureau become what it is today and, likewise, we’re proud to have been a part of their development.

Here’s where some of our alums have gone on to work in media—and where you can follow/support them on their journey:

Maha Ahmed is currently “thinking and writing about power & justice” at The Intercept, but her work in journalism began at our sister publication, the South Side Weekly. In addition to being a fellow in our very first reporting cycle, Maha has worked with the Invisible Institute, Mother Jones and In These Times.

Jenny Casas moved from St. Louis Public Radio to Chicago to join City Bureau in the fall of 2017. After reporting on Chicago’s restorative justice specialty court as a Team Leader for two City Bureau fellowship cycles, Jenny went on to join the all-star team of USA Today’s Chicago-based “The City” podcast. In addition to her work on “The City,” Jenny was accepted as a 2018 Third Coast Radio Resident in February.

Sebastián Hidalgo joined City Bureau in the fall of 2017 as a photojournalist eager to represent his community and hone his craft. By the end of that reporting cycle, he had been featured in the New York Times Lens Blog. He’s currently creating and coordinating a community of local photographers while taking on new assignments at a variety of news publications.

Like many CB alums, Spring 2016 alum Kel Lyons worked closely with youth media reporters from Free Spirit Media’s Real Chi Youth program during his fellowship cycle. He also elevated that collaboration by featuring his youth media partners in a project at Northwestern University, designed to amplify their voices along with his own. Kel has gone on to work as a criminal justice reporter for The Eagle in Brazos Valley, Texas.

Summer 2016 City Bureau fellow Andrea Salcedo is currently a fellow at ProPublica, but she got her start as campus news editor for the Columbia Chronicle (Columbia College’s student newspaper) and later interned for the Sun-Times.

Since her Fall 2017 reporting fellowship Bashirah Mack has gone on to land a multimedia internship at WBEZ’s Curious City. Before reporting on opioids and health care in Chicago for City Bureau she worked as a social media coordinator for Sapelo Square, an online resource for Black Muslims in the U.S.

Two-time alum Alex Hernandez landed a role as In These Times’ assistant editor since beginning as a City Bureau Reporting Fellow and, in his final civic journalism fellowship in our newsroom, he became a Fellowship Team Leader in the fall of 2016.

Two-time alum Eleanore Catolico joined us early in City Bureau’s fellowship program and has gone on to report for the South Side Weekly.

Activist, organizer, journalist Charles Preston is redefining the intersection of organizing and journalism. Since his last reporting fellowship, the two-time City Bureau fellow has gone on to report for the Chicago Defender. His new role is at Chicago’s Black Star Project, a group “committed to improving the quality of life in Black and Latino communities of Chicago and nationwide by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap.”

Jackie Serrato currently works as a multimedia producer for Hoy in Chicago, but her work in local, community journalism is long and varied, from City Bureau’s Spring 2016 fellowship to the Social Justice News Nexus, WBEZ, the Latino Policy Institute and her own hugely popular La Villita Facebook group, created to help the people of Chicago’s Little Village (where Jackie has lived her whole life) neighborhood connect online.

Fall 2017 Team Leader alum Lee V. Gaines came to our team through an accomplished career freelancing on a range of issues in Chicago. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Tribune, the Marshall Project and Chicago magazine. She’s since landed a role as education reporter for Illinois Newsroom.

Fall 2016 alum Lee Edwards went from our newsroom straight to report for the historic Chicago Defender. This month, he joined the new neighborhood news outlet Block Club Chicago as a reporter—prompting me to summarize this blog post:

Lee’s response sums up a lot of what we, as founders of the organization, love about City Bureau: We get to work with, teach and learn from the future of Chicago journalism every day, and it’s a ton of fun.

Support City Bureau’s work to reimagine local news by becoming a City Bureau Press Club member today.

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