Susan Smith Richardson
Editor and Publisher
Susan Smith Richardson is editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter. She’s been a crusading journalist for more years than she cares to remember, most of the time with daily newspapers. Her columns about gentrification helped her land a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, where she also earned a Master in Public Administration.
Before becoming a journalist, she was a community organizer in Texas and the South, working in communities of color and with rank-and-file labor organizations. Susan lives in the South Side neighborhood of Woodlawn and has a standing date at 9 p.m. Thursdays with Viola Davis and the cast of “How To Get Away With Murder.”
Lorraine served as editor-in-chief of the Reporter’s sister publication Catalyst Chicago from 2004 to 2015 and as deputy editor prior to that. Her experience includes stints as a journalism instructor at Northwestern University and Columbia College; a writer and producer at WGN-TV; and reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times and the Daily Southtown. She received a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in English literature from The Ohio State University.
Lorraine thinks her journalism career was probably inevitable, since she was raised in a household where reading the newspaper was mandatory. She escapes from current events by biking, reading fiction and watching pro basketball.
Marketing and Operations Manager
Christine Wachter is the marketing and operations manager at The Chicago Reporter. She may not be the one calling all the shots in the office, but she’s the staffer with the most seniority. Christine started out as a designer for the Reporter’s sister publication, Catalyst Chicago, back in 2002— fresh out of graduate school at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In 2006, she decided she didn’t have enough on her plate, so she took over the design for the Reporter and became presentation editor for both publications.
During her many, many years here, Christine has helped launch new websites and spearheaded redesigns for both magazines. She established the Reporter’s photojournalism fellowship program and serves as the unofficial AP style police/grammar police in the newsroom. In her spare time, Christine collects Peter Lisagor Awards—particularly for her graphics and design. She also gets a kick out of throwing great parties, and she wants to be an event planner when she grows up.
Asraa Mustufa is digital editor at The Chicago Reporter. A Chicago transplant by way of New Jersey, Asraa has worked with various community organizations in the Chicago area, and has written and reported on national security, immigration, and police issues for Colorlines.com. She studied journalism, political science, and south Asian studies at Rutgers University.
Matt Kiefer is data editor at The Chicago Reporter. He spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and researcher for several Chicago-area newspapers — then took a sabbatical of sorts to do computer programming for a local software company. He learned a few new tricks during his stint in tech. Now, Matt helps the Reporter find needles in the haystacks of data concerning race and poverty in Chicago.
Matt studied English and education at Northeastern Illinois University. In his spare time, you might find him pedaling a bike across town, slogging through an amateur carpentry project or catching a Bulls game. He’s into vegetarian, refuses to consult a cookbook and has never uttered the phrase, “This food’s too spicy.”
Jonah Newman joined The Chicago Reporter in October 2014, after two years at The Chronicle of Higher Education, in Washington, D.C. He is a database reporter, which means he uses data of all kinds to tell stories that investigate, explore and, ultimately, complicate our understanding of the world. He loves few things as much as a good public-records fight and he is dogmatic about holding powerful institutions accountable. He received a 2013 National Award for Education Reporting for data journalism. His work has also appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Marketplace, Thirty Two Magazine and Tablet Magazine.
Jonah received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has always had a special kind of affection for Chicago, which is both intensified and complicated by the city’s many shortcomings. He lives in Wicker Park with his fiancee, but he’s not a hipster – although he does enjoy a good farmers market.
Kalyn Belsha writes about education for The Chicago Reporter — the same beat she covered at Catalyst Chicago before the two publications merged in 2016. Prior to that, Kalyn reported on schools in Chicago’s western suburbs for the Aurora Beacon-News and had a brief stint as a deputy press secretary for Chicago Public Schools. She received a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and teaches at Loyola University Chicago.
Kalyn grew up on Long Island in New York and sometimes you can still hear her accent. She lives in Logan Square with her boyfriend and cat, Remy, who may or may not be named after the best House of Cards character.
La Risa Lynch
A passion for community, enterprise and international reporting landed South Side native La Risa Lynch her dream job — a position at The Chicago Reporter. It is not her first stint at the investigative news organization, however. With her communications degree in hand from Alabama State University, La Risa interned at the Reporter many moons ago. Her experience ignited a fire in her to report on social justice issues that continued to burn while she worked at the Austin Weekly News, The Final Call, Streetwise, ProgressIllinois.com and other news organizations. La Risa enjoys traveling, jazz, reading and learning French. Toujours soucieux de faire bon journalisme!
Melissa Sanchez began covering children, youth and families for The Chicago Reporter in July 2016, after spending more than two years at Catalyst Chicago. Prior to coming to Chicago, she spent four years in Miami writing about city government and politics in both English and Spanish for el Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald. Before that, Melissa reported on immigration and crime for the Yakima (Wash.) Herald-Republic, and also spent a year in Nicaragua as a reporting fellow for the Inter American Press Association. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2007.
Melissa was born in Detroit to immigrant parents (from El Salvador and Mexico), and perhaps appropriately went on to marry a guy who was also born in the Midwest to immigrant parents (though his come from Cuba and Poland). They live in a bungalow in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood, surrounded by Spanish- and Polish-speaking neighbors, and are proud caretakers of two cats.
Editor and Publisher of The Chicago Reporter
1972 to 1985
“Race,” John A. McDermott wrote, “touches everybody and everything. Racial peace and progress are more than moral ideals today. They are matters of profound self-interest to every person and institution in this community.”
That philosophy, posed in the inaugural editorial in The Chicago Reporter, was the mission of McDermott’s life and his most lasting legacy. In 1972, the civil rights activist founded a publication that he promised would go far beyond “mere muckraking.” The Reporter would be “dispassionate, accurate and constructive in its approach” to the “make or break” issue of race.
McDermott dedicated his career to fighting for racial progress. In 1960, the Philadelphia native moved to Chicago to serve as director of the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago. There, he helped organize the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic 1966 trip to Chicago, as well as King’s meeting with then-Mayor Richard J. Daley. He also marched with King in Selma, Ala., and in Chicago. And McDermott helped create the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, a Chicago-based fair housing group.
McDermott served as editor and publisher of the Reporter from 1972 to 1985. Chicago magazine once hailed McDermott the “Editor for the Public Conscience.” His publication became the foremost, most trusted resource on race and poverty in the city, winning more than 30 journalism awards under his tenure.
He passed away in 1996 after a long battle with leukemia, leaving behind his wife, Marie Therese, and three sons: John Jr., Michael and Matthew.
And an award-winning news organization that continues McDermott’s original charge: To “tell it like it is.”
Publisher of Catalyst Chicago
1990 to 2016
In 1989, when the Chicago School Reform Act gave rise to local school councils and other major policy changes, Linda Lenz, then an education writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, saw the need for a publication that would focus on public education with the kind of detail and depth that her newspaper and others could not.
At the time, Chicago was about to elect its first LSC members, and Lenz knew from her reporting that while many of the parents, teachers and community members on these panels would bring fresh insights, they also would face a knowledge gap about the larger issues that would affect their work and their schools.
She brought her idea to the Community Renewal Society, and soon after published the first issue of Catalyst in February 1990.
It quickly became a trusted watchdog and resource for school improvement in Chicago.
Catalyst combined data analysis, extensive on-the-ground reporting and a wealth of knowledge about the Chicago Public Schools to address a wide range of topics, among them issues in teaching and learning, school choice, equity in school resources and the latest relevant research.
Most notably, it was Catalyst reporting that sparked the federal investigation into a questionable $20 million no-bid CPS contract for principal training, which led in turn to corruption charges against CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett, who pleaded guilty.
Such reporting brought Catalyst and its small staff dozens of national and local awards.
In 2016, Lenz retired from her position as publisher, and Catalyst and The Reporter began a merger that aims to broaden education coverage by examining other issues, besides schools, that have an impact on student learning.