OP:ED: ProPublica & ProPublica Illinois Hit With Discrimination Suit!

“The goal was to encourage Black reporters to come forward . . . “

The award-winning newsroom ProPublica NY and its satellite ProPublica Illinois have both been named as defendants in a federal discrimination lawsuit.

The lawsuit accuses the newsrooms of age, race and color discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991; violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution; violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 , as amended; and violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 as amended.

On April 12, 2019, I appeared as guest commentator on WVON AM 1690, where I shared what I experienced with the newsrooms with the WVON listening audience. The goal was to encourage Black reporters to come forward with their stories, if they may have encountered similar circumstances.

I want to hear your story – if you or someone you know applied to ProPublica Illinois in 2017, or at any other time – please message me at: www.facebook.com/ProPublicawherearetheblackreporters?

Here is the commentary that aired on WVON:

#ProPublicaWhereAreTheBlackReporters?

#FactsMatter

Disclaimer:

This is a personal blog for the above named writer. The views, information and/or opinions expressed are solely those of the individual writer and do not necessarily represent the views of any entity, organization or company that I may have been affiliated with in the past, present or future.

This blog is for education, information and entertainment purposes. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of any entity other than the author(s) and due to critical thinking these views are subject to change and revision.

 

 

 

 

Commentary: This is What Happened the First Day I Met ProPublica’s Illinois Editor-in-Chief Louise Kiernan

“Little did I know that our brief encounter was going to transform my life forever.”

     On May 3, 2017, I met ProPublica’s Illinois editor-in-chief Louise Kiernan at the Lookingglass Theater, where she was a guest panelist discussing the ethics of investigative journalism.

     Initially, I was excited to meet her. We both were attending one of the final performances of “Beyond Caring,” a play about the abuses of Black and Hispanic workers at the hands of the temporary staffing industry.

     The play, the brainchild of British playwright Alexander Zeldin, was inspired in part by ProPublica’s 2013 “Temp Land” series, written by their staff reporter Michael Grabell. Grabell and I had met the week before. He encouraged me to apply for a reporter’s position even though I initially missed the deadline of March 24, 2017.

     I sent an email to Mr. Grabell asking if he would forward samples of my work to Ms. Kiernan. Included was a letter of introduction, several links to stories, witness slips, guest audio commentary from WVON radio regarding the destruction of the Chicago police misconduct records, and a JPEG of a front-page story I wrote that was soon copied by all the major dailies including: the Sun Times, Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reader to name a few.

     This was a soft inquiry and I wanted to know if there was any possibility of applying post-deadline.

Edwin-Lee-Gibson-Caren-Blackmore-and-Wendy-Mateo-star-in-Beyond-Caring-Lookingglass
Edwin Gibson, Caren Blackmore and Wendy Mateo in Beyond Caring.  Photo courtesy of Lookingglass Theater

    Immediately following the play was a panel discussion about ethics moderated by WBEZ. Ms. Kiernan and two other female reporters discussed ethics and discriminatory practices raised in the play. They also fielded questions from the audience about maintaining professionalism when dealing with sensitive matters, and where to draw the line when conducting interviews in intimate settings.

     Post-discussion, I approached Ms. Kiernan and introduced myself to put a face with the name. Little did I know that our brief encounter was going to transform my life forever.

louise-kiernan-2000x2000
ProPublica Illinois editor-in-chief Louise Kiernan

After shaking my hand, Ms. Kiernan’s body appeared to recoil. As she struggled with her coat while holding some items in her hand, I stepped forward towards her as any gentleman would do and offered assistance.

She said “No” and turned her back on me.

I was completely stunned and taken by surprise that the Pulitzer Prize-winner and co-director of Northwestern University’s social justice initiative could be so cold and callous.

I graciously thanked her, turned and walked away to meet my guest, who witnessed everything from across the room. My guest asked me: “How did it go?” I responded, “I don’t think it went so well.”

     There was absolutely no reason for a new editor-in-chief and ambassador for the ProPublica news organization to react in such a negative, condescending and dismissive manner. Inside, I felt deeply humiliated and violated in a profound way, but I was determined not to be discouraged.  

     After all, this was my first time meeting her, and all I wanted to do was introduce myself and work for the celebrated newsroom.

     In an interview with Broadway World News Desk, playwright Zeldin summed up his work: ” . . . I’ve found that looking at the lives of those working in the conditions of the temporary economy, the margins of society, says so much about the moral, spiritual, and emotional place that the country is in, much like it did the UK.

      It tells us about how the sentiment that lives are to be lived with dignity, respect and a sense of value is only a hollow set of words. But it says something else, too — here in the U.S., it tells us about race in this country . . .”

ProPublica and ProPublica Illinois: I deserved much better!

Stay tuned for this developing story . . .

#ProPublicWhereAreTheBlackReporters?

Disclaimer:

This is a personal blog for the above named writer. The views, information and/or opinions expressed are solely those of the individual writer and do not necessarily represent the views of any entity, organization or company that I may have been affiliated with in the past, present or future.

This blog is for education, information and entertainment purposes. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of any entity other than the author(s) and due to critical thinking these views are subject to change and revision.

 

 

OP-ED: Dear ProPublica Board Members, Business Advisors, Journalism Advisory Board, Content Partners, Editors, Reporters and Supporters: What’s wrong with this picture?

ProPublica says they’re committed to diversity. Their hiring record raises some serious questions

Louise Kiernan with ProPublica Chicago employees in elevator

Hint No 1: On May 19, 2017 ProPublica posted the following advertisement:

capture propublica

Hint No 2: They were very specific in whom they were targeting using the following language:

“We are dedicated to improving our newsroom, in part by better reflecting the people we cover. We’re committed to diversity and especially encourage members of underrepresented communities to apply, including women, people of color, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.”

Hint No 3: However, as the above photo depicts, there were no Black reporters hired. Yet, the ensuing headlines occurred:

nina martin

Written by Nina Martin and published on December 7, 2017: https://www.propublica.org/article/nothing-protects-black-women-from-dying-in-pregnancy-and-childbirth

ProPublica Adrianna Gallards

Written by Adriana Gallardo and published on Dec 8, 2017: https://www.propublica.org/article/black-women-disproportionately-suffer-complications-of-pregnancy-and-childbirth-lets-talk-about-it

Annie Waldman

And: https://www.propublica.org/article/how-hospitals-are-failing-black-mothers, written by Annie Waldman

published on December 27, 2017.

Now I may not be a Pulitzer Prize-winner or a Harvard graduate, but it shouldn’t take that to see that your blatant exploitation of Black women’s pain and suffering is not only wrong, but also morally and ethically reprehensible.

No disrespect to the three smart reporters who did what they were told to do. But, this pattern and practice of exploitation flies in the face of your published advertisement “improving our newsroom.”

Those three stories were specifically written about what some Black women might encounter when it comes to health care. So for the sake of clarity: Could you please explain how assigning three non-Black reporters to write their stories somehow better reflects the people that you cover?

If you really meant what you said then the photos above would look entirely different. Who do you think you’re fooling? 

Stay tuned for this developing story. There’s much more to come!

Disclaimer:

This is a personal blog for the above named writer. The views, information and/or opinions expressed are solely those of the individual writer and do not necessarily represent the views of any entity, organization or company that I may have been affiliated with in the past, present or future.

This blog is for education, information and entertainment purposes. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of any entity other than the author(s) and due to critical thinking these views are subject to change and revision.

Can Receivership Have an Impact on the Black Community?

Court receivership training program aims to increase minority participation

dearborn realtist
Dearborn Realtist Board 2018 Receivership Specialist and board members (seated front row)

Three thousand housing court cases are filed per year, according to county court records. Many of which are vacant, abandoned and distressed properties that may be eligible for some level of court-ordered receivership. These properties are throughout the city particularly in neighborhoods like Austin, Englewood, Garfield, N. & S. Lawndale and  Woodlawn.

With prime areas of the city experiencing various degrees of gentrification, receivership is now being viewed by city officials as a possible tool to help stabilize the Black community. Could this be an answer to prayers?

courtney
DRB president Courtney Jones engage trainees

Just last week, over 70 real estate professionals, investors and concerned residents from Chicago convened at East-West University in the South Loop. For the second time, the Dearborn Realtist Board (DRB) and its president, Courtney Jones, hosted the Receivership Training Program sponsored in conjunction with the City of Chicago Department of Planning & Development at the university.

DRB – the oldest Black real estate trade association, established in 1941 – hosted the five day, 30-hour course designed to introduce the public to the basic tenets of what it takes to become a court-appointed receiver.

Stemming from the English Chancery Courts, the concept of receivership as it relates to housing is simple: the court appoints someone to be responsible for the property of others to maintain, service, manage and/or repair the property.

Receivership – An Overview

According to attorney of counsel M. Faisal Elkhatib, who represents private receivers, there are several ways a property can end up in receivership. In the majority of instances receivership arises “. . .from a city lawsuit about several major municipal building violations on a property and the owner is: no where to be found, deceased, or failing to show up in court and failing to correct the violations.”

The process typically starts with a call to the city’s 311 center and falls under one of three categories: heat call, vacant building call, or a conservation call. Last year, over 50,000 such calls were placed to 311.

Once a call is logged, a building inspector is sent out to the site to investigate the complaint(s). If the violations are substantiated, the building owners, responsible parties including the mortgage company – if there is a mortgage – will be hauled into the Department of Administrative Hearings or the Cook County Circuit Court to address the municipal violations.

Illinois Compiled Statues 65 ILCS 5/11-13-15 and 5/11-31-1 & 2 grants police power to Chicago to determine if a building or structure “. . fails to conform to the minimum standards of health and safety” and “the owner or owners of such building or structure fails, after due notice, to cause such property to conform, the municipality may make application to the circuit court for an injunction requiring compliance,” according to the statue.

Sanina Ellison
Sanina Ellison Jones, Chicago Homes Realty Group

Sanina Ellison Jones, managing broker for Chicago Homes Realty Group, and one of the trainers presented that once all interested parties are notified and given the opportunity to respond, but fail to reply, at this stage the process to appoint a receiver may commence.

According to other presenters, anyone can become a receiver provided they meet the court’s exacting requirements. During the week-long course attendees learned the fine points of receivership including: the difference between a limited versus general receiver, how to read a court order, conducting a feasibility study to determine if a property is worth taking on and the potential risks involved, etc.

The overall goal is to move qualified parties towards receivership as soon as possible.

As attorney Elkhatib goes over the requirements, it becomes readily apparent that this process isn’t for everyone. An interested party must have knowledge of: general contracting, financial wherewithal to pay for the process, administrative training to manage the heavy documentation and legal requirements to obtain a receivers’ certificate. And most importantly, the ability to weather long-term risky cash outlays, he shares.

Investor Lonnie
Investor Alonzo Anderson preps for a quiz

Undaunted, real estate investor Alonzo Anderson – who heard about the class from the Bronzeville Chamber of Commerce president – recognizes the connection between being a receiver and taking control of his community.

It’s an opportunity to “convert the dangerous and hazardous properties to something more appealing,” he states. And “not only can we influence the evolution of our neighborhoods,” but also “increase its value.”

Social media producer Bertina M. Power, of the Power Hour undeniably agreed: “We have to work together. Collaborating our knowledge, resources, experiences and funds – house by house, block by block – we can do it,” she said with the realization the receiver may end up owning the property.

In some cases, for little or nothing, in others, for the initial investment and time spent on the case which could tarry from several months to 2 years in more challenging cases.

bertina powers
Media producer Bertina M. Power chats with Chetzi M. Canada, Broker Coldwell Banker

At times, for some attendees, the information appeared to be overwhelming but foreclosure specialist/activist            Jah Ranu Menab said: “I’ve been to many classes and this one was by far the best,” as he praised DBR for the well-organized  handouts, presentations and speakers,  including attorneys from Corporation Counsel and Honorable Leonard Murray, supervising judge over Housing.

During any given year the city of Chicago appoints up to 250 receivers; currently, there are 172 receivers appointed and only five of them are Black, according to sources close to the court. The training program is held only once per year.

Next up – a detailed analysis of Chicago’s receivership program. Meet some of the movers behind the scenes including an active receiver. See how the courts operate up close. What’s required? What are some of the challenges? What happened in the past? And, how this opportunity could potentially benefit you, your block and the community at large.

You don’t want to miss this intriguing development.

Stay tuned . . .

Disclaimer:

This is a personal blog for the above named writer. The views, information and/or opinions expressed are solely those of the individual writer and do not necessarily represent the views of any entity, organization or company that I may have been affiliated with in the past, present or future.

This blog is for education, information and entertainment purposes. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of any entity other than the author(s) and due to critical thinking these views are subject to change and revision.