CJA Announces Collaboration with South Side Weekly for 2023 Training Program

After a successful inaugural year, the Chicago Journalists Association, one of Chicago’s oldest journalism organizations, will resume its multi-part, virtual training series, “Freelance MasterJourno Class,” next month the organization announced Tuesday.

The association will collaborate with South Side Weekly and the Hyde Park Herald to produce this year’s program, which will focus on reporting essentials, from interviewing to fact checking. The groups agreed to join forces after a survey, conducted by the Weekly and Herald, of nearly 100 Chicago area freelancers revealed a need for resources in the foundations of journalism.

The event series will once again be a three-part virtual training series detailing essential tools and strategies for individuals looking to launch a freelance/journalism career without traditional training. The first session, “How to be a Better Listener,” will discuss interviewing tips, such as connecting with sources and interviewing with empathy. The second session, “Structuring a Great Story,” will focus on the writing and outlining process, including grabbing readers’ attention and choosing impactful quotes. The third session, “Fact Check Your Way to Success” will share fact checking resources and advice for identifying and avoiding misinformation.

The conversations will take place via Zoom on three consecutive Wednesdays – May 10, 17 and 24 – from 7-8:30 p.m. CST. Each panel will feature local award-winning journalists, editors and fact checkers, who have gained the trust of sources and readers/listeners alike. Those who attend all three classes will receive a certificate of completion, listing the skills acquired throughout the sessions. As a new addition to the program, certificate recipients will also be honored at an in-person reception, where they will have the opportunity to network with the panelists.

CJA awarded more than 30 individuals with certificates last summer following the inaugural Freelance MasterJourno Class. More than 100 people, some of whom resided as far as Pakistan and South Africa, registered for one or more of the panels, which discussed the business and financial side of freelancing, crafting successful pitches and creating a respectable online presence.

This training program is FREE for CJA members and costs $15 per session for non-CJA members. 

To reserve a spot in one, two or all three classes, RSVP to chicagocja@gmail.com. Non-members: To make a payment for one or multiple sessions, please visit chicagojournalists.net/donations and follow the instructions.


Alejandra Cancino: Alejandra Cancino is a senior reporter at Injustice Watch. Most recently, she was City Bureau’s deputy editor, where she led the editorial team and a fellowship program for emerging reporters. Previously, Cancino was a senior investigative reporter at the Better Government Association, where she exposed systemic failures in local government and focused on the intersection of government and business. Earlier in her career, she covered economic development and labor at the Chicago Tribune. She was a 2015 Associated Press-NORC journalism fellow at the University of Chicago, where she audited classes and wrote national stories focused on aging and long-term care. Her work has been recognized with local and national journalism awards.

Jim Daley: Jim Daley is a journalist from Chicago. His work has appeared in South Side Weekly, Scientific American, Nature, Al Jazeera, The Trace, In These Times, and Smithsonian Magazine. In 2023, he joined The TRiiBE as digital news editor. From 2022 to 2023, he was the news editor at the Chicago Reader. While there, he managed three staff writers, edited more than 150 stories, oversaw more than a dozen investigations, restructured the paper’s news and commentary sections, started the first column in a Chicago newspaper by an incarcerated writer, initiated partnerships with several community media outlets, and produced the first-ever voter guide to Police District Council races. Previously, he was the South Side Weekly’s politics editor and interim managing editor. The newspaper’s June 2020 issue, “Chicago Reacts to the Killing of George Floyd,” won a Peter Lisagor award for best special news section. His investigation of how the Chicago police used the city’s gun-violence prevention center and CPD’s press office to surveil political protesters won the 2021 Lisagor for best in-depth reporting in a community newspaper. Before becoming a journalist, he worked in kitchens, bookstores, bars, restaurants, retail shops, political campaigns, painting crews, lawns and gardens, science laboratories, and (briefly) a planetarium.

Duaa Eldeib: Duaa Eldeib is a reporter for ProPublica. Her work has examined the death of children in state care, the treatment of juveniles in adult court and police use of polygraphs in cases where suspects were wrongly convicted. Her reporting has sparked legislative hearings, governmental reforms and led to the exoneration of a mother who was convicted of murdering her son. In 2015, Eldeib and two colleagues at the Chicago Tribune were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting after revealing that youths were assaulted, raped and prostituted at state-funded residential treatment centers. Before joining the Tribune, Eldeib was a reporter at the Daily Southtown, where her stories uncovering theft and corruption at a regional office of education resulted in the arrest of the superintendent and spurred lawmakers to abolish the office. In 2014, she was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the National Headliner Award for Public Service, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Investigative Reporting and the Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics.

Mary Hall: Mary Hall is an award-winning reporter, producer, and editor. She’s currently a Solutions Reporter for NewsNation. Previously, she was a producer at WBEZ, an editor and reporter at the Daily Journal, and has collaborated on projects with the Chicago Tribune, the Better Government Association, YES! Magazine, and the Solutions Journalism Network. She also produced a documentary on pregnant women facing addictions, which was accepted into the American Documentary Film Festival. Hall received a master’s degree from Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism in Social Justice and Investigative Reporting. Hall, an adopted Chicagoan, was born in St. Louis, and grew up in Quito, Ecuador. She still has strong opinions about South American food.

Sky Patterson: Sky Patterson is a copy editor, fact-checker, and reporter who has covered local policy and electoral politics. He got involved with the Weekly in 2021 as a volunteer fact-checker and moved on to serve as the publication’s director of fact-checking. Now they’re excited to help facilitate more reporting on labor, politics, and organizing as a section editor. Patterson is a life-long Chicagoan from the South Side neighborhood Ashburn.

Adam Przybyl: Adam Przybyl is the managing editor at South Side Weekly. He enjoys working with writers to develop and structure stories from start to finish. In addition to editing at the Weekly, Adam has been a fact-checker for over six years.

Danielle Sanders: A lifelong resident of Chicago’s South Side and proud mom of three, Danielle Sanders is a multimedia professional with over 20 years of experience as a writer, journalist, and editor. She is currently the Managing Editor of Chicago News Weekly. Previously she served as Managing Editor of the Chicago Defender and National News Manager for Real Times Media. In addition, Sanders also serves as the official content creator for The Chosen Few DJs, and The Summer Oasis Music Festival held in Idlewild, MI. She is also the Media Relations Manager for Grammy-nominated DJ and Producer, Terry Hunter, and his TsBox Record label as well as the Imagine No Music Festival held annually in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. A frequent contributor to the Chicago music scene and culture, she is featured in the award-winning documentary film, “Thee Debauchery Ball.” “It Started in Chicago” and the book, “In Their Own Words” by Chosen Few DJ, Jesse Saunders. Her work has been featured in the Philadelphia Tribune, Afro-American Newspapers, Newsbreak, The Cincinnati Herald, Jacksonville Free Press, The Florida Star, Education Post, Orlando Advocate, Texas Metro News, National Geographic and more.

Jackie Serrato: Jackie Serrato is a “barrio journalist” and Editor-in-Chief at South Side Weekly newspaper. She also manages Spanish translation at the Sun-Times’s La Voz. Serrato was born and raised in Little Village. You can follow her on Twitter at @HechaEnChicago.

Photo credit for Sky Patterson: Ireashia M. Bennett