Illinois Humanities Council will host panel discussion on school closings coverage

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On June 19, the Illinois Humanities Council will host The (Untold) Stories Behind the Story, a public forum on how the media have covered Chicago’s school closings.

Co-sponsored by Catalyst Chicago and Free Spirit Media, the forum will feature Sarah Schulte of ABC 7 News, Sarah Karp of Catalyst, Linda Lutton of WBEZ, Sidney Trotter of Free Spirit Media, and Charles Whitaker of the Medill School of Journalism. Catalyst publisher Linda Lenz will moderate.

Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointed School Board voted to close 49 elementary schools and the high school that shared space with Mason elementary and middle schools, the largest school closing in Chicago’s history. The closings rocked the city and have been a focal point of Chicago news coverage.

Whitaker, a magazine journalist and professor at Medill, will present a content analysis of selected media, documenting the kinds of stories that have been written and broadcast.

Clips from “Chicagoland,” the CNN documentary that features Fenger High School, and “The School Project,” a multi-platform documentary on school issues now under development by four local companies, will serve as prompts for discussion, as will a variety of school closing stories aired on WBEZ.

The forum is part of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation’s three-year, $6 million “Why News Matters Initiative,” a grant-making program designed to increase media literacy and help people become better informed and more engaged in their communities.

“This is a great opportunity for people to hear what reporters are learning and thinking about the issue, and engage in informed discussion,” said Mark Hallett, senior program officer for the McCormick Foundation.

The free open forum will take place in the Wells High School auditorium, 936 N. Ashland, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 19. Registration is required