Meet the 2022-2023 CJA officers, who are leading one of Chicago’s oldest organizations of journalists.
Stephanie Choporis, President
Stephanie Choporis is a multimedia journalist who has been telling stories across the Chicago area for nearly a decade.
In 2014, she joined the Chicago Journalists Association as the inaugural Associate Board Chairman, a committee specifically geared for college students and recent graduates. During her four years in this role, she grew the board to roughly 15 directors, organized journalism events/workshops and regularly contributed articles for CJA’s website. She also launched the organization’s Facebook and Twitter pages and organically grew them to several hundred followers. In 2018, she was promoted to Vice President/Secretary.
Aside from CJA, she served as the co-founder and managing editor of Happenstance, a mobile app that aimed to share little-known mini-podcasts about the people and places in the city, from 2015-2020. While there, she oversaw the production of 80 mini-podcasts and handled all company communication. Happenstance was named one of four Tech + Apps finalists at the RedEye’s 2017 Big Idea Awards and voted a top exhibiting startup at Chicago’s 2018 FUND Conference. She is currently a freelance writer in Chicago.
Stephanie holds a B.A. in Journalism and Communication & Media Studies from DePaul University (’12) and an M.S.J. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University (’15). More on her here.
Executive Board of Directors
Rachel Hinton is an enterprise reporter with the Better Government Association. She was previously the chief political reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times, where she also covered Cook County government and the county’s Democratic Party. She graduated from DePaul University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism.
Jean Hodges is an independent media and communications consultant, currently coaching newsrooms on content and business strategy with the Medill Local News Accelerator at Northwestern University. She previously worked as senior director of news culture and communications at Gannett, owner of USA Today and hundreds of local news organizations. Jean has dedicated her career to journalism training, ethics and transforming news organizations into inclusive, welcoming workplaces. She has coached newsrooms for the past 15 years, and she mentors young journalists as part of Report for America. As a news veteran, Jean led groundbreaking projects that won national acclaim and held the powerful to account. She got her start covering criminal justice in New Mexico, and she has worked in California, England and Texas before moving home to the Chicago suburbs.
Jesus J. Montero
Jesus J. Montero is a multimedia journalist and community reporter at Cicero Independiente, a hyperlocal news outlet covering Cicero, Illinois. He graduated from DePaul University with a master’s degree in Journalism, Media, and Communications. The Chicago native is a first-generation college graduate and a recipient of the 2019 Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship.
Jesus was previously an investigative researcher at NBC Chicago and Telemundo Chicago as well as a fellow at NBC News for Dateline.
Jamie Friedlander Serrano
Jamie Friedlander Serrano is a freelance writer and editor. She writes about a variety of topics but has a particular interest in mental health. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, New York Magazine’s The Cut, VICE, Glamour, the Chicago Tribune, Business Insider and Inc., among other publications. She has profiled everyone from Dr. Oz and Marie Forleo to Sophia Amoruso and Jennifer Hyman. She received her master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and her bachelor’s degree from New York University.
Courtney Sturgeon is a professional storyteller and the founder and CEO of The Resume Reporter, LLC (“RR”), a multimedia production company producing original content for job seekers, executives, and industry leaders looking to elevate their personal brand.
Courtney’s television career began in the Upper Midwest, where she reported for NBC and FOX affiliates. She also reported for an ABC affiliate in New England before returning home to Chicago. A reporter turned public relations professional, Courtney continues mining impactful stories for Fortune 500 companies, tech startups, newswires, and nonprofits. Courtney’s latest documentary project features her stories with elderly friends, specifically, Holocaust survivors.
Maudlyne Ihejirika, President Emeritus
Maudlyne Ihejirika is an award winning, Urban Affairs Reporter/Columnist with 35 years experience in Journalism, Public Relations and Government. She holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Iowa (’85) and an M.S.J. from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism (’87). She is currently the Media & Storytelling Program Manager at the Field Foundation and the author of “Escape From Nigeria: A Memoir of Faith, Love and War.”
In nearly 30 years with the Chicago Sun-Times, she served as assistant city editor and covered beats from crime and the inner city to housing and education, politics and philanthropy. She penned the Sun-Times “Chicago Chronicles,” long-form columns on “people and places that make Chicago tick.” As Weekend City Editor in 1997, she left to work for Gov. Jim Edgar as press secretary for the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services until 1999, when she launched the Ihejirika Media & Communications Group, managing media operations for members of the U.S. Congress, Illinois Legislature and City Council.
After returning to the Sun-Times in 2003, her numerous journalism and civic awards include the prestigious Studs Terkel Award, and top national and local awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and National Association of Black Journalists. A frequent guest contributor on PBS-TV’s “Chicago Tonight: Week In Review” and FOX-32’s “Good Day Chicago,” she has appeared as a political analyst on CNN, TV One, ABC, CBS, NPR and WBEZ.
Allen Rafalson, President Emeritus
Rafalson was an award-winning magazine editor and editor-in-chief of a weekly Chicago-area newspaper. He launched his journalism career as a copy boy at the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. He also ran his own public relations consulting firm and penned the fictional novel, “The Santa Claus Trial.”
When Rafalson joined the Chicago Journalists Association, it was known as the Chicago Press Veterans Association. Interested in expanding opportunities to all journalists, he rebranded the group as CJA and served as president for 15 years, the longest term of any president in the organization’s history. He remained a strong supporter of CJA and his successors after retiring from his post in 2018. He died in 2022 at age 92.
Other Past Presidents
Hon. William J. Bauer, Senior Judge,
U.S. Appeals Court-7th Circuit
Lourdes M. Ceballos