"It’s a singular opportunity for a journalist to make a splash on issues of race and poverty at a crucial time in the media world," says Laura Washington, the interim publisher. Washington and interim editor Rui Kaneya are holding down the fort while the Community Renewal Society, which launched the Reporter in 1972, looks for someone permanent to do both jobs. The previous editor/publisher, Kimbriell Kelly, resigned last fall.
Washington was a reporter for the Reporter back in the early 80s. She left to join the Harold Washington administration and later returned to become editor/publisher. Because she also writes a column for the Sun-Times and contributes political analysis to Channel Seven (plus she's on the masthead of In These Times as a contributing editor), Washington is formally a part-timer who spends two days a week at the Reporter. In fact, Kaneya tells me, Washington's available by phone whenever needed, be it ten at night or seven in the morning.
Kaneya has spent 15 years at the Reporter, the last ten as managing editor. He says he hasn't completely ruled out applying for the editor/publisher job himself, but he doubts that he'll apply because fund-raising "is a very big part" of the job, and it "doesn't appeal to me all that much." Reporting and hands-on editing does, and he expects to wind up with a title along the lines of senior writer.
According to Kaneya, the Reporter hopes to hire someone "who is already a presence in the journalism world." That ambition represents something of a shift for the Reporter, which over the years has normally promoted from within, its young reporters mastering their craft and moving on, Kimbriell Kelly to the Washington Post, Alden Loury, the editor/publisher before her, to the Better Government Association.
I asked Washington why this time the Community Renewal Society is casting such a wide net.
"After 40 years, the Reporter is no longer a small, non-profit monthly," she replied. "Today, it is a 21st century news organization that publishes daily across multiple platforms—digital, radio, print and television. The next editor and publisher will be someone who can take the publication into new, higher-impact territory."
The Community Renewal Society asks us to think of the Reporter as a trailblazer. Announcing its search for an editor/publisher, CRS put it this way: "As the journalism industry embraces digital publishing and innovative and sustainable nonprofit news models, the Reporter is positioned to capitalize on this trend." Actually, it's less an embrace of nonprofit models by the news industry than it is a desperate clutching at them to keep from drowning. But the Reporter has been held up by the CRS and other funders since it set to sea 41 years ago. It knows how to float and to paddle.