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.
Jillian Melero, Vice President
Jillian Melero is a multimedia journalist and the associate digital editor/producer for WTTW News, including “Chicago Tonight.” She’s worked as a science communicator and energy reporter for Climate Central, an independent science and news organization. Her work has also been featured by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Getting her start in South Florida as a student journalist and print editor, Jillian has reported on the environment, infrastructure, climate change, energy technology, and policy in the U.S. and abroad since 2016. She earned her master’s degree in Journalism, specializing in health, environment, and science reporting, from Northwestern University in 2019. She’s also a mentor with the Latinas in Journalism Mentorship Program, which launched October 2020.
Rachel Hinton, Secretary
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.
Executive Board of Directors
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 Chicago-based 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, Chicago Sun-Times Urban Affairs Reporter/Columnist with 30 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 pens the Sun-Times “Chicago Chronicles,” long-form columns on “people and places that make Chicago tick.” She is the author of “Escape From Nigeria: A Memoir of Faith, Love and War.”
In 24 years with the Sun-Times, she has served as assistant city editor and covered beats from crime and the inner city to housing and education, politics and philanthropy. 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.
Since 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 is an award winning magazine editor and former editor-in-chief of a weekly Chicago-area newspaper. When he 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 CJA history. Rafalson 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.”
Other Past Presidents
Hon. William J. Bauer, Senior Judge,
U.S. Appeals Court-7th Circuit
Lourdes M. Ceballos