Columnist Maudlyne Ihejirika to ‘pass the baton’ of Chicago media leadership

Maudlyne Ihejirika (Photo: Karen Kring)

Maudlyne Ihejirika, the prominent Sun-Times columnist and one of the most powerful women in Chicago journalism, has announced she’s stepping down as president of two influential professional organizations.

In relinquishing the top leadership roles with the Chicago Journalists Association and the National Association of Black Journalists-Chicago Chapter she has held since 2017, Ihejirika said she plans to concentrate on her “Chicago Chronicles” column for the Sun-Times.

“After four years of steering both organizations in their shared mission of highlighting pressing issues facing the profession in our rapidly evolving industry, as well as guiding NABJ’s laser focus on newsroom diversity, it’s time to pass the baton,” she said.

“Our nation is in pain. I’m compelled and inspired to go deeper in unearthing stories at this critical juncture we find ourselves, with race and policing, social justice and equity, politics and division. Those of us in positions to curate and translate those stories simply must do more.”

Ihejirika said she was proud of her accomplishments at both groups.

“Through forums, member trainings, journalism award programs and more, we tackled downsizing and journalists forced to reinvent themselves; professional development for members needing to stay abreast of new media skills and platforms; a continuing search for a successful business model by
an industry pummeled by the Internet, and the woeful, entrenched gender pay gap and attendant lack of diversity within our newsrooms,” she said.

Stephanie Choporis

Succeeding Ihejirika as president of the Chicago Journalists Association is Stephanie Choporis, a freelance multimedia journalist and co-founder of Happenstance, a mobile app sharing mini-podcasts. As vice president of the group, Choporis served as co-president alongside Ihejirika last year.

“Stephanie has been the glue of CJA and a diverse board I am very proud of,” Ihejirika said. “I’m confident she will shepherd this storied organization in what former president [Allen] Rafalson described as ‘the spirit, style and principles our founders shaped,’ in passing the baton to my generation. CJA is in good hands with this creative, insightful and forward-thinking millennial.”

Ihejirika’s successor as president of the National Association of Black Journalists-Chicago Chapter will appear at an online candidates forum today and take office with a new board May 20.

A graduate of Downers Grove South High School and the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Communications, Ihejirika earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

She joined the Sun-Times for the first time in 1987 and has served as urban affairs reporter, assistant city editor and columnist over two stints at the paper. In between she spent two years as press secretary for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

In 2016 Ihejirika wrote her first book, Escape from Nigeria: A Memoir of Faith, Love and War, published by Africa World Press. It recounted her mother’s escape from the famine and deprivation of the Nigeria-Biafran war with six children and the global effort to reunite with her husband.

“Few of us have been untouched by the distress of the current news cycle — local to international,” she added. “I want to draw upon my global perspective to now focus on propelling the journey to justice in all its forms through storytelling.”

Wednesday’s comment of the day: Mike Braden: I heard Dave Hoekstra on with Bob Sirott on WGN Radio yesterday morning, talking about the Illinois music exhibit. He’s the right guy for it – what a great combination of knowledge and passion. And Sirott was just the right person to interview him.