The Board of Directors, its Officers, its Advisory Committee, and the staff of The Reporters Inc. are comprised of distinguished professionals in the fields of journalism, broadcasting, television and film production, public relations and marketing, government, education, health, human resources, psychology, computer technology, real estate, nonprofit management, finance, art, business, and law.
They are black and white, Latino and Asian, gay and straight, male and female, young and old(er), wealthy and not-so-wealthy, Christian, Jewish, spiritual and agnostic. They live in 27 cities across the U.S. and the world. All are committed to the mission of The Reporters Inc.
Mark Saxenmeyer created The Reporters Inc. in the mid-2000s, at a time when he was becoming increasingly frustrated by the limitations of television news. A shrinking TV news audience resulted in shrinking advertising dollars, shrinking staffs, shorter stories and less substantive reporting. Mark intended for The Reporters Inc. to be an oasis of sorts, a new and much-needed voice in an increasingly fractured and shallow media universe. The goal from the very beginning has been to provide and produce in-depth, compelling, meaningful and memorable documentaries and long-form online journalism.
Between 1987 and 2013, Mark reported and produced for ABC, FOX and CBS affiliates in Madison (Wisconsin), Hartford (Connecticut), Sacramento (California), Minneapolis (Minnesota) and, for 17 years, Chicago (Illinois). Yet aside from his television news career, Mark’s resume is extremely diverse: He’s mentored more than 100 college journalism interns, he’s the author of a chapter in two editions of the University of Illinois textbook Race/Gender/Class/Media, he’s produced home improvement programs for the DIY cable television network, he’s served as a Big Brother with both the Chicago and Sacramento chapters of Big Brothers of America, he’s coached a high school speech team in the Minneapolis suburbs, he’s a graduate of the FBI’s Citizens’ Academy in Chicago, and he’s studied and lived abroad in both Spain and Paraguay.
Mark is the recipient of the Leadership in Journalism Education award from Loyola University Chicago, he was presented with the Young Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievement And Distinguished Service from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (his alma mater), and he was an inaugural inductee into his high school’s (Thomas Jefferson in Bloomington, Minnesota) Hall of Fame.
Mark’s broadcast journalism, community service, documentary, and factual entertainment projects have been honored with numerous national awards, including an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and an Edward R. Murrow from the Radio Television Digital News Association. He’s also won national prizes from the Scripps Howard Foundation, the National Association of Black Journalists, the American Women in Radio and Television, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, among others. (Additionally, his work has garnered 32 regional Emmy awards, 17 regional Associated Press awards, and 17 regional Society of Professional Journalists awards.)
Mark and his partner currently reside in the Minneapolis area with their handsome, brilliant and talented Havanese pup, Desi.
AWARDS AND VIDEO/RECOMMENDATIONS
Throughout the course of Mark Saxenmeyer's television reporting career, he's been consistently honored with some of broadcasting's most prestigious honors. Below is a complete list, along with streaming video of eight of the winning reports, as well as several different clips of the multiple-award-winning projects The Experiment in Black and White and Experiment: Gay and Straight.
NATIONAL EMMY AWARDS (From the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences)
2008-2009 Hard News Single Feature “Stop the Presses?” (An examination of the decline in readership and circulation of Chicago’s daily newspapers)
2007-2008 Soft News Single Feature “Kaziah and Geoff: Art and War” (An artist paints portraits of slain military officers and presents them to their families)
2007-2008 Specialty Report/Series: Family/Children’s Issues “Through the Lens of Loss” (A look into the emotional world of bereavement photographers who capture images of dying children and their families) Available for Viewing Further Below
2005-2006 Specialty Report: Health/Medical “Dying to be Thin” (An investigation into botched gastric bypass surgeries at an Illinois center)
2005-2006 Specialty Report: Arts/Culture/Entertainment “Bookcrossing” (A look at an unconventional book club that encourages participants to read by hiding books in public places--and then disseminating clues as to how to find them)
2005-2006 Soft News Single Feature “The Perfect Date?” (A look into allegedly “legitimate” escort services that provide dates for those needing one for a special occasion)
2004-2005 Hard News Single Feature “The Secret World of Comas” (A report exploring what happens when people awake from comas after decades)
2004-2005 Specialty Report: Arts Culture Entertainment (A composite of work)
1997-1998 Single Feature Soft News “Detecting the Truth” (A look at new-fangled equipment that supposedly worked as a do-it-yourself polygraph test)
1996-1997 Best Writer (A composite of work)
1995-1996 Best Program Host (A composite of work)
(From the California/Nevada/Hawaii chapter of the National Academy of Television artists)
1993-1994 Single Story Serious “The Road to Death Row: The Eric Houston Story” (An exhaustive look at the trial of a young man sentenced to death for killing three students and a teacher inside his former high school, injuring a dozen others, and holding the school hostage)
1992-1993 Light News Feature “A Speeder’s Guide” (A look at how state patrol officers decide who to give a ticket to, who to give a pass, and how to avoid getting caught in the first place)
OTHER NATIONAL AWARDS
Press Club of Atlantic City/National Headliner Awards
Radio Television News Directors Association/Edward R. Murrow Award/Region 7 (All 1st Place)
2009 Feature Reporting “Through the Lens of Loss” (A look into the emotional world of bereavement photographers who capture images of terminally ill children and their families) Available for Viewing Above
2008 Feature Reporting “Kaziah and Geoff: Art and War” (An artist paints portraits of slain military officers and presents them to their families)
2010 Feature Reporting “All the World’s a Stage” (Struggling actors take to the rooftop of a building to perform their skits to afternoon commuters on passing trains)
2010 Science, Health, Technology Reporting “Bomb Beach” (An examination of potential dangers off the shores of Lake Michigan due to the presence of unexploded military munitions from decades earlier)
2010 Business Reporting “The Emergency Room Emergency” (An examination of the lack of hospital emergency rooms equipped to deal with serious trauma injuries in certain parts of Chicago)
2009 Public Affairs Programming “Portrait of a Drunken Driver: Why it Might Not Ever Stop” (An examination of the Illinois residents with the most number of drunken driving convictions)
2009 Feature Reporting “Foreclosure Disclosure” (A look at what’s left behind inside homes that have fallen into foreclosure, and the workers who must clean them up)
2008 Business or Consumer Reporting “Stolen Houses” (An investigation into mortgage fraud) Available for Viewing Above
2008 Feature Reporting “Through the Lens of Loss” (A look into the emotional world of bereavement photographers who capture images of terminally ill children and their families) Available for Viewing Above
2008 Investigative Reporting “Where Did All the CHA Residents Go?” (An investigation into the whereabouts of thousands of former Chicago public housing residents and how their relocation is affecting their new neighbors)
2004 Lifestyle Reporting “Asian Plastic Surgery” (An examination of young Asian women’s preoccupation with eyelid surgery)
2003 Arts and Entertainment Reporting “The Simpsons Symphony” (An acappella singing group turns the popular animated TV show into a musical)
2002 Arts and Entertainment Reporting “Porn in the Heartland” (An examination of the spread of the pornography industry into the Midwest)
1999 Feature “Starting Over at DuSable High” (An in-depth look at an attempt to turn around one of Chicago’s most problematic public schools)
1998 Feature “A Class from the Past” (An inside look at the joy—and stress of a 20th high school reunion)
1997 Best Reporter (A composite of work)
1995 Spot News “The Jeffrey Dahmer Murder Investigation”
Associated Press Television Television-Radio Association of California-Nevada (All 1st Place)
1993 News Story “The Road to Death Row: The Eric Houston Story” (An exhaustive look at the trial of a young man sentenced to death for killing three students and a teacher inside his former high school, injuring a dozen others, and holding the school hostage)
1992 Light Feature “The Twins of Stanley Drive” (As single street in a central California town was, strangely, home for eight different sets of twins)
Chicago Press Veterans Association/Sarah Brown Boyden Awards (All 1st Place)
Bringing this journalistic enterprise to life has been a dream of mine for quite some time. If you'd indulge me for just a moment, let me try to explain why. The story begins with a shuffle back in time.
Being a rebel
When I was 17, I was named editor-in-chief of The Rebel, the student newspaper at Thomas Jefferson Senior High School in Bloomington, Minnesota. I'd been on the staff of the paper since I was a freshman, and being named "chief" my senior year was an honor, a thrill, and a major accomplishment. It was my "time," if you will, and things were going to change big time (or so I planned).
In the fall of 1983, I set my staff of 20 working on an entire issue devoted to the subject of teenage sex. Articles about eyebrow-raising subjects such as intercourse, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and abortion were assigned and written. This edition of The Rebel was going to be a blockbuster, a revelation, a sensation. I just knew it was my destiny to break new ground and explore uncharted high school journalistic waters!
Yet then, an evil force known as The Vice Principal stepped in and tried to quash my unprecedented endeavor. He, if I recall correctly, felt the subject of sex was completely uncalled-for in a student newspaper. I protested. He was unmoved. I took my fight to the school board.
And I won.
That 20-page issue of The Rebel was indeed published. To this day I'm proud of it. I actually looked through it a couple years ago and found myself smiling victoriously all over again.
It's hard to believe that nearly three decades have passed since my Rebel rebellion. But after all these years, I'm still fighting the status quo, still determined to make the ordinary extraordinary.
My life as a journalist
Ever since I graduated with a broadcast journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1989, I've worked as a professional television reporter. First at the ABC affiliate in Sacramento, California for four years, then at the FOX affiliate in Chicago, Illinois for 17 (1994-2011), and currently at the ABC affiliate back in my hometown of Minneapolis/St. Paul. (It's great to be back home!)
I switched from print to television primarily because I've always felt the visual medium can better convey emotion. Pictures and sound, along with carefully chosen words, are immeasurably powerful. And the best stories are like mini-movies. They have "plots"--a beginning, middle and end--and the viewer actually remembers them. On the other hand, television news at its most banal consists of short and crappy "headline" coverage. They're bad oral reports dressed up by pretty faces and shimmering teeth.
I've covered earthquakes, forest fires, plane crashes, bombings and terrorism. I've investigated Jeffrey Dahmer's murder and covered O.J. Simpson's acquittal. I've interviewed Oscar winners and princesses, Roseanne Barr and Rosa Parks. U.S. senators and NBA champs. I've been on countless stakeouts and undercover investigations and met some of the most bizarre and fascinating people on earth. I've won 30-plus Emmy awards, the national RTNDA, NABJ, Gracie Allen, and Scripps Howard awards--and dozens of other local and regional honors. And for the most part, it's all been an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Yet I've also always felt exceedingly limited by the constraints of commercial television news. There are many, many, MANY stories and subjects that go unchecked, are overlooked, or simply disregarded. There is sometimes a lack of substantive, meaningful dialogue. Time restrictions are often to blame. There just isn't enough time to examine subjects thoroughly. I'm talking about time on the air, as well as time to research and prepare.
Case in point: in 2003 my employer at the time rejected my proposal that we expand an Emmy-winning multi-part news series on gay/straight relations into a full-length program because our advertising managers felt they could not "sell" it.
On my own time, with my own money, I produced it anyway--creating a 90-minute production called Experiment: Gay and Straight. My bosses allowed me to air it on a local cable station. I then attempted to broaden its viewership by entering it into non-profit film festivals around the world. It was accepted into, and shown at, more than two dozen festivals in seven countries on four continents, winning several audience and jury prizes.
Through adversity comes enlightenment. And that initial setback opened up innumerable doors.
One of them was the opportunity to travel to South Africa in 2004 for the premiere of our documentary in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Before leaving, my colleague Darlene Hill (with whom I co-produced this documentary, as well as its race relations predecessor The Experiment in Black and White) and I presented an elaborate proposal to our bosses.
We wanted to explore the new democracy of South Africa in a post-apartheid world, from the viewpoints of two Chicago reporters (I am white; Darlene is black). Sadly, once again, they politely passed. It was not a "broad-based" subject, they said, with enough local appeal for our audience (which, they claimed, was not particularly interested in world events that supposedly don't affect them).
Undeterred, we hired video crews in South Africa (funding everything ourselves) and spent three weeks interviewing the country's students and professors, blue-collar workers, the unemployed, children, teenagers, parents, the elderly and the ill. We talked to black and white, gay and straight, rich and poor. In bars, on beaches, in schools, on the streets. In some of the most beautiful locales and most gut-wrenchingly hideous slums. It was an emotional, exhausting and almost overwhelming experience.
The goal was to meld it all into a documentary. But life interrupted. I fell in love, bought a condo, settled down; and my workload at the TV station increased even as my salary decreased. Pay cuts and/or layoffs began mounting for almost everyone in TV news. The rise of internet-based news, the decline of TV advertising, and the increase in DVR use began to further erode the importance, necessity and viability of getting one's news and information from local TV newscasts. And with every cutback there sometimes seemed to be less and less worth watching on TV newscasts anyway.
In an attempt to remain relevant myself, I started spending 16 hours or more at work some days, determined to maintain the quality of my features and investigations even as the number of my assignments continued to grow. One of my bosses suggested there was no need to work harder to produce more content. He said to me, "The viewer won't notice the difference between you giving 80 percent to a story versus 100 percent." My response was something like, "Maybe, but I'll notice."
With precious little free time left over after spending so many of my waking hours at work, the notion of logging the 40-plus hours of tape we shot in South Africa, and then crafting a significant documentary out of it all became enormously daunting. The tapes began gathering dust on my shelves.
The Reporters Inc. launches
The platform that my visibility as a reporter for a major broadcast television station provides me is invaluable. And I have always struggled with the notion of giving it up completely. But I realize that its limitations often choke me creatively and, dare I say it, emotionally. With each passing day, it gets harder and harder to jam my square peg into the round holes of the TV news business--a business that has, in some ways, become the vice principal of my adult life. "The rebel" within me continues to fight for the kind of long-form, in-depth newsmagazine-style work that I feel TV newscasts should contain more of, not less.
It was time to take a risk and jolt myself into the unknown, with the hope that I could actually live up to the potential I saw in myself (and still see in myself) when I was rocking the boat at Thomas Jefferson Senior High School in Bloomington, Minnesota--in a long-gone era ruled by Ronald Reagan, Dynasty and Wham.
I created The Reporters Inc. to be a non-profit 501(c)(3) journalistic production house. You can read the entire mission, but let me elaborate a bit here. We want to develop and produce educational, historical, current event, and cultural productions for the purpose of raising social awareness. One of our goals is to emphasize the world's ever-increasing global interconnectedness--regardless of geographical distance and societal differences--by using distinctive, creative and innovative approaches.
The Reporters Inc. will explore subject matter, issues, stories and people who have been overlooked, ignored, or inadequately examined by the mainstream media. The organization is designed to create documentary and other in-depth video-related productions that go beyond the traditional, or the commercial. The Reporters Inc. intends to travel the globe to produce its programs, in an effort to derail ignorance and foster hope.
Our South African documentary will be released as one of the projects under this banner. We're calling it Reaching for the Rainbow--a title that refers to Nelson Mandela's vision of attaining a so-called "rainbow nation," in which all people of all colors in his land could co-exist peacefully. But first, we now need to return to the country to shoot additional, updated footage. We want to revisit some of the same folks we met in 2004, to see how their lives and their views have changed or evolved.
More Than A Career
Journalism is, and always will be, the centerpiece of my life. The time has simply come to take control of my many experiences and years of practical application and begin utilizing them in far more lasting, meaningful and fulfilling ways.
The Reporters Inc. wants to tell engaging stories that involve real people; we want to take you into their worlds to reveal the truths about their lives--their joys, struggles, fears and tears. The best reporting involves heart and humor and hope. It uncovers the truth, brings perspective and context to it, and then the results are conveyed to audiences in an informative, entertaining and memorable fashion.
It's how I've designed The Reporters Inc. to be, and---with your help and support--I'm determined to live up to our mission.
Bottom line: here I am, once again, defying the vice principal. The Rebel within me remains.
Mark Saxenmeyer The Reporters Inc. President, CEO, and Executive Director
"When I was the Vice President of News at FOX Chicago (WFLD-TV), I was looking for a dynamic reporter who understood how to write and deliver a compelling story, and Mark delivered. His indepth, creative reporting and production skills quickly propelled him from general assignment reporting to lead reporter for special projects. Mark's hard hitting investigations and entertaining features gave us an edge in the all-important Nielsen ratings. I consider Mark one of the best reporters in the country when it comes to long form, broadcast journalism."
WMAQ-TV (NBC) News Director
"Mark has expert skills in the following:
He's an award-winning storyteller.
His unique audio/video editing skills dazzle.
He can take an unusual idea, turn it into a great vision, and from there produce some outstanding television." --Scott Stachowiak
ABC TV Producer
"Mark Saxenmeyer is the hardest working person I've ever encountered. His pursuit of perfection raises the bar for everybody who works with him or near him. He has excellent news judgment, is an excellent writer, and will settle for nothing less than an excellent story. Anybody who has the chance to collaborate with Mark will be more than pleased with the results. In his career, he has won countless number of Emmy awards--all of them well-deserved. I have seen Mark disect each shot he intends to use to make sure his stories live up his expectations (which are generally higher than everybody else's). Mark's success is a reflection of his passion. You can be sure once he decides to work on a project, he won't settle for satisfactory or mediocrity. Mark only has one goal--perfection."
Campus Insiders Executive Producer
"I have never worked with a reporter or writer who brought a better-equipped tool box to the party. Mark has the ability to take a complex issue and make it interesting, understable and compelling. He does this through incisive interviewing, painstaking editing and brilliant writing. And he's just plain funny--always smart and funny. Mark has a roomful of awards and statues and plaques and they don't begin to hint at his talent. As a former journalist I am awed and impressed and grateful that someone like Mark is still plying his craft."
City of Chicago Treasurer's Office Director of Public Relations
"Mark is, and always has been a breath of fresh air. He is smart, insightful, optimistic and full of good ideas. What makes him so refreshing is the way he approaches his work. The ideas that he brings out in his stories. No matter where he is, what he's doing, or who he's talking to, Mark will always find the slice of humanity that will make you care. His knack for finding the emotional connection has always made his work stand out. He has won a ton of awards and not by accident or luck. His writing is funny and witty, his style is easy going, and his on air work is charming and engaging. Few have the skill set that comes so easy to Mark. I feel fortunate to have worked with Mark, and always enjoyed the healthy competition that existed between us."
WBZ-TV (CBS) Anchor/Reporter
"Professional, talented, ethical, and just plain cool. Those are among the qualities I associate with Mark Saxenmeyer. We were colleagues for 13 years at WFLD and in some respects grew up together.
I consider Mark a smart, gifted story teller with an eye for presentation. His stories aren't just informative, but from a production standpoint, exemplary. When his stories aired, people in the newsroom would stop what they were doing because they knew they would be that good. As a person, I have nothing but good things to say about Mark. He not only has my admiration, but my friendship. He would be an asset to any organization."
"Besides being a joy to work with, Mark is a take-charge person who is able to present creative ideas and communicate the benefits. He has a genuine desire to help people and help change the world, one story at a time. He has impacted many lives, including my own, through his amazing storytelling abilities."
Weigel Broadcasting Producer
"The Saxenmeyer Factor: Brilliant, driven, provocative, and always entertaining. Mark was our NBA first round draft choice when I was news director at KOVR-TV (ABC) in Sacramento, California. He was the only reporter I ever hired right out of school, and he lived up to high expectations. It's no surprise that he went on to star in Chicago and after tracking his work all these years, I'm delighted to see that he's still the brilliant, driven, provocative, and always entertaining character we knew as a TV rookie."
Vice President of UpSell Training
"I have had the pleasure of working with Mark Saxenmeyer in a variety of capacities over the last 12-years; as an educator and mentor, friend and counselor and finally supervisor in the Special Projects Unit at WFLD-TV in Chicago. Through all this, I have come to know Mark as a passionate reporter who regularly demonstrates investigative know-how, compassion, fairness and humor to produce award-winning stories which are unique and thought provoking. His dedication to finding, researching, composing, editing and presenting stories which touch viewers' souls and inspire them to action is unmatched in television news, both locally and nationally. No matter what type of project you seek to create in collaboration with Mark and The Reporters, Inc., trust that his leadership will result in the production of a fantastic story that will exceed your expections."
Sales Account Executive, Six Flags Great America
"Mark is a very talented and creative writer and producer. He is an "idea guy" who is willing to push the boundaries, but not at the expense of his subjects or team. He has developed some very honest, and at times, controversial work that has opened the eyes and minds of those who experience his work."
General Mills Brand Design Director
"During my tenure with FOX Chicago News as Director of Human Resources, Mark displayed excellent communication skills and he was extremely organized and reliable. He works independently and is able to follow through to ensure that the job gets done. Mark was extremely enthusiastic about his work which is infectious. Mark took on the additional responsibility of recruiting and managing the interns in his department and always received positive feedback from them in their evaluations. Mark is a tireless worker and I considered him to be a valuable member of the FOX team, who consistently achieved good results and delivered on all expectations."
Human Resources Specialist
"Mark is an extremely creative, tenacious reporter who is passionate about telling good stories. Whether it's a hard hitting investigation or an entertaining feature, Mark's reports are always informative, compelling and visual. To complement his strong, descriptive writing skills, Mark has a natural producer's talent for knowing how to integrate powerful pictures with music to create a more impactful story. Mark's love of journalism is evident to anyone who works with him and his highly awarded tenure with FOX merely scratches the surface of his accomplishments as a journalist."
Senior Project Manager, Carolyn Grisko & Associates
Adam Gower has been working in the field of human resources for more than 20 years. Since 2012 he has been the Human Resources Director with Twin Cities Co-op Partners, a mission-based organization devoted to building the community by developing a strong local food system. Adam works with 400 co-op staff to provide healthy, sustainable foods at several Minneapolis-area natural foods stores, including Wedge Community Co-op, Linden Hills Co-op, and Wedge Table, as we all as a wholesale distribution business that delivers fresh organic produce all over the midwest. While living in Chicago between 2008 and 2012, Adam was an HR manager with the renowned restaurant group, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. Prior to that, Adam was an employee relations representative at Walgreen’s corporate headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois, and from 1998 to 2005 he was the fiscal officer and employee relations generalist for Lee County Government in Fort Myers, Florida. Adam majored in HR at the University of Central Florida, and currently holds the SHRM-SCP — the highest level of certification with the Society for Human Resources Management. Adam served as treasurer of The Reporters Inc. from 2011 until 2018, when he was elected president. He and his partner live in Minneapolis.
Vice President/Graphic Artist
Jackie Weinberg is a professional graphic artist based in Chicago who’s been producing commercial and fine art for three decades. The company she created in 1995, Supergurl Images, formulates innovative and memorable branding imagery for a vast array of diverse clients — from Stoli Vodka to Keebler to local chambers of commerce. Jackie is an active fundraiser for organizations that are near and dear to her heart, including Equality Illinois, the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, the Healing Tyler/Nephrotic Syndrome Foundation (an organization that helps children with kidney disorders) and, of course, The Reporters Inc. Jackie also serves as co-producer of the Chicago Cubs’ annual OUT at Wrigley event, the nation’s original and largest “gay day” at a major league baseball venue. Jackie is a self-proclaimed newsaholic and became a charter member of The Reporters Inc.’s founding Board of Directors in 2011; she was thrilled and honored to be elected vice president in 2018. Originally from Detroit, Jackie is a graduate of Western Michigan University with degrees in business, marketing, advertising and art. She is a proud aunt to two nieces and a nephew, as well as the doting mama to Ralph, her miniature bull terrier.
Secretary/Writer/Social Media Lead/Associate Producer
Kari Iverson-Sechi is an associate producer for Intuitive Content, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based production company that creates entertainment programming focused on food, culture and travel. She previously worked for KMSP-TV (Twin Cities) as a web content producer in the news department and before that she wrote for WSVN-TV’s newscasts in Miami, Florida. Kari graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2013 with degrees in Journalism, Global Studies and Spanish Studies. She then immersed herself for a year in the culture and language of France, earning her keep through the Workaway program, and writing an insightful blog in the process. She spent another two years exploring places like Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Turkey, Morocco, and Madagascar. In addition to her role as secretary, Kari also guides The Reporters Inc.’s social media and serves as a documentary associate producer.
Benée Smith is the executive assistant to the Chief Operating Officer for BMO Wealth Management US. She’s also the project manager/coordinator for special projects within the business. Benèe joined BMO n 2014, bringing more than 18 years of experience within a variety of banking and consulting industries. Benèe also serves as events co-officer of the African American League of Professionals (AALPs), as well as the officer of professional engagement for the Chicago chapter of Women in Sports & Events (WISE). Benèe received her Bachelor of Arts from Aurora University in Illinois, and an additional BA degree from the International Academy of Design and Technology. Benee is a charter member of The Reporters Inc.’s original Board of Directors. She served as secretary of the organization until 2018, when she was elected treasurer. Benee resides in the western suburbs of Chicago and is the proud and doting mother to three outstanding young adults.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEMBERS
Craig Bader believes the world is a better place when we all have more exposure to reporting that’s not being done by traditional media — human interest stories that aren’t “click bait” or created simply to link viewers toward advertising content. That’s why he’s proud to be part of The Reporters Inc. and support its mission. Craig is a realtor and lives with his wife and four children in Chanhassen, Minnesota. He previously held leadership roles with Starbucks (big coffee) and Dairy Queen (big ice cream).
Board Member/Reporter & Writer
A life-long resident of the south side of Chicago, Rashanah Baldwin broadcasts her own talk radio show, “What’s Good in Englewood” on WKKC 89.3FM and reports for www.goodinenglewood.com. She’s also worked for media outlets WBEZ 91.5FM, WVON 1690AM, and CBS Radio WBBM 780AM. Rashanah holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications from the University of Illinois-Chicago and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from DePaul University. Rashanah was the 2017 Ms. American Elegance Woman, promoting and raising awareness for civic engagement and volunteerism, and she currently lends her time leading a Girl Scouts troop.
Carol Bauss works with attorneys around the nation, preparing them to present their cases to juries. Carol draws on her expertise in juror attitudes to help legal teams find the human story and universal themes within complex legal disputes. Carol has been with NJP Litigation Consulting since 1993, in their Minneapolis, New York and San Francisco offices. Her work has ranged from mock trials and witness communication to trial strategy and jury selection in employment discrimination and product liability cases; she’s also consulted on complex, commercial disputes and intellectual property cases involving patents and trademarks. Carol is a graduate of William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, she currently resides in San Francisco, and she’s the proud mom of a grade-schooler named Neil.
After a winding and demanding career as a television news videographer, editor and producer — one that took him from small broadcasting markets like Champaign, Illinois to national networks like CNN — Chris now works with corporate clients, helping them with messaging, branding, training and education. He’s proud to be a charter member of The Reporters Inc. Board of Directors and was one of the two principal cinematographers for the organization’s new documentary, The Queens. A recent newlywed, Chris and his wife have seven kids and three cats between them, and reside in the Chicago area.
Board Member/Reporter & Writer
Sophie Keane serves as an Americorps VISTA member for a refugee resettlement agency called The International Institute of Minnesota. After graduation from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and African studies, Sophie spent 16 months in France teaching English and working in legal document translation among other jobs. As a former Reporters Inc. intern, Sophie is excited to join the board and continue her work as a contributing writer for the organization.
Board Member/Reporter & Writer
Jim McCleary has never settled for the status quo. As a student at Arizona State University in the 1980s, where he majored in journalism and political science, he helped create an alternative newspaper with other student journalists, all of them disgruntled with the school’s traditional daily publication. He went on to serve as the upstart paper’s city editor. After graduation, he became a newspaper beat reporter in Phoenix, working for four different weekly and daily publications. He’s most proud of a series of stories about animal abuse that led to laws that criminalized cockfighting in Arizona. After a 16-year career in real estate, Jim is back in the writing game as a freelancer, blogger, and frequent contributor to The Reporters Inc. Jim resides in Los Angeles.
Board Member/Reporter & Writer
Lynn Moller is a native of Green Bay, Wisconsin and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stout where she earned her Bachelor of Science degrees in child development and early childhood education. Lynn worked as a teacher in day care, preschool, and kindergarten settings for 25 years. She became involved with The Reporters Inc. when she learned of the organization’s upcoming documentary, The Innocent Convicts. A victim of a wrongful conviction herself, Lynn is now devoted to helping others who find themselves in similar predicaments. Lynn currently works as a paralegal and resides in Madison, WI with her husband and two sons.
Lisa Ross is president of Ross Consulting, a company that provides information technology consulting services in the healthcare arena. Ross Consulting specializes in customer relationship management, risk adjustment, data warehousing, patient management and vendor management. Lisa is a graduate of UW-Madison and has a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Marquette University. Lisa founded Marquette’s College of Business Mentor Program in 1997; the program matches hundreds of students with professionals every year in an effort to further their careers. Lisa is also a past president of Marquette’s National Alumni Board and was named “Partner in Philanthropy” in 2009 for her volunteer efforts. Lisa lives with her husband Dave in Cedarburg, Wisconsin and they make frequent trips to visit their two daughters who are studying at the University of Iowa.
Jen Santoro Rotty
Jen Santoro Rotty is an actress, singer, make up and hair artist, and entrepreneur. She runs JSR Creative, which combines all the different hats she wears. As a performer, Jen has toured nationally and internationally in revue shows, full scale-musicals, and with cruise ships. She’s an accomplished commercial actress and has served as an on-camera spokesperson for companies such as United Health Group, Bank of America, Best Buy, and Target. Jen’s hair and make up stylings have been featured in magazines like People, Hallmark, Mpls/St. Paul, Spaces Design, Metro, The Knot, and she was recently awarded a Judge’s Diamond Award from Mpls/St. Paul Bridal magazine for Outstanding Wedding Hair and Makeup. Jen has a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and lives in Burnsville, Minnesota with her husband and two teenaged daughters.
Aaron Stillwell was inspired to join the board of The Reporters Inc. after learning of its upcoming documentary about wrongful convictions, The Innocent Convicts; Aaron brings to The Reporters Inc. a vast knowledge of nonprofit organizational structure, legal requirements, and fundraising. After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Intercultural Communications at California State University, Sacramento, Aaron moved to Zimbabwe with the International Institute for Cooperation and Development as part of a team to start a school for street children. He later founded Under One Sun, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that successfully assisted Afro-Peruvian communities along Peru’s desert coast access potable water. In the U.S., Aaron has served as grants specialist for the Rural Community Assistance Corporation and he currently works for the California Telephone Access Program, providing specialized telecommunications equipment to people who are deaf or disabled.
Board Member/Marketing Specialist
Mark Sullivan is an integrated marketing executive with more than 25 years of experience advancing brand strategies and applying consistent messaging across traditional, non-traditional and digital marketing channels, using a variety of promotional methods. Currently, Mark serves as Senior Director of Marketing Communications for Cardiovascular Systems, Inc., a medical device company in St. Paul, Minnesota. Previously, Mark worked as an Integrated Marketing Director at General Mills creating and designing effective marketing campaigns for some of the world’s most well-known, respected and well-loved brands (such as Yoplait, Nature Valley, Green Giant, Pillsbury, and Betty Crocker). Earlier in his career, Mark worked as an agency executive at Martin|Williams in Minneapolis and Foote, Cone & Belding and Frankel in Chicago. Mark volunteers his time with Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church and Our Lady of Grace School in Edina, Minnesota where he and his wife Julie, daughter Maggie, and sons Toby and Joshua reside.
Board Member/Reporter & Writer
Kim Whiting is the co-author of Life Sentence, Life Purpose and the upcoming Thug: The Devastation and Resurrection of a Soul.Kim collaborates with incarcerated men on articles, talks, videos and books that inspire positive change. As a former mental health counselor specializing in the treatment of survivors of abuse and trauma, Kim was the founder/publisher/editor of Empowered, an award-winning print and online magazine by and for girls, and Love Your Life, an online life enhancement magazine featuring articles by luminaries in the self-help/life coaching world. Kim resides in Tulsa with her husband and two children.
Gary Willihnganz recently marked a quarter century with Intel Corporation, working in sales, marketing and operations. Gary currently leads Intel’s Consumer Sales Group as Senior Director of worldwide strategy involving online and in-store retail channels. In his previous role, Gary was a Senior Director in Intel’s Investor Relations Group, responsible for the company’s largest shareholders. Gary was also based in Singapore for four years as the Director of Marketing for Intel’s Asia Pacific Region, responsible for the branding and promotions of Intel Architecture products across desktop, mobile, server and handheld platforms. Gary received an engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MBA from Anderson School at UCLA. Gary and his wife Cathy have three children and reside in Portland, Oregon.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Advisory Committee Member/Writer
Lori Aoki has spent her entire professional life building relationships–first in the field of broadcast journalism, then in healthcare public relations, and now as a physician recruiter for a multi-specialty medical group in Vancouver, Washington. Lori believes that individuals can make a difference in their community through volunteer work. She’s served on the nonprofit boards of the American Lung Association, the National Alliance for Mental Illness, Planned Parenthood Votes!, the Gresham Chamber of Commerce, and the Junior League. Lori earned a master’s degree in strategic communications from Washington State University (Go Cougs!). She now lives in Troutdale, Oregon with her husband and son. Together, they enjoy the recreational bounty the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
Advisory Committee Member
Working as a pharmacist for nearly two decades in Madison, Wisconsin, Duane Acker has been intimately involved with health care. His focus has been on improving the wellness of his patients through education and he is especially passionate about helping those who need nutrition and drug and alcohol counseling. He hopes his years of first hand experience with social and health issues will give valuable insight to the stories and subjects presented by The Reporters Inc. He strongly believes that the U.S. can and should develop a better national health care system that provides high quality care at an affordable cost to the population. Duane is currently looking to pursue a Master of Public Health degree. Duane resides with his partner in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.
Advisory Committee Member
Jack Conaty is a Peabody Award-winning broadcast journalist with 35 years of on-air television news experience. He’s reported in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Central America. His expertise in politics on both the national and local level is extensive, with coverage of thirteen national political conventions, seven presidential campaigns and numerous senate, house and mayoral campaigns in Chicago and Washington D.C. He’s also been a media trainer and a consultant for an international public relations firm. In his formative years, Jack was a high school teacher of English and Mass Communications, and a teaching assistant at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
RICHARD S. HOPKINS
Advisory Committee Member/Writer
Dr. Richard S. Hopkins is an Associate Professor at Widener University specializing in modern European social, cultural, urban, and environmental history with a particular emphasis on France. He has presented papers at national conferences such as the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association, the Society of French Historical Studies, and the Western Society for French History. He is the author of Planning the Greenspaces of Nineteenth-Century Paris (Louisiana State University Press, 2015), which explores the creation of Parisian public greenspaces in the nineteenth century and the wide-ranging implications for residents, the city, and park development more broadly. Most recently, he co-edited a volume of essays with Nimisha Barton entitled Practiced Citizenship: Women, Gender, and the State in Modern France (University of Nebraska Press, 2019) which brings together recent scholarship demonstrating how gender normativity and the resulting constraints placed on women nevertheless created opportunities for a renegotiation of the social and sexual contract.
Advisory Committee Member
Dartise Johnson is a 12-time Emmy award-winning photojournalist who strives to utilize his expertise in visual production to evoke social change. Dartise is currently a videographer for a national cable news channel in Washington D.C. He previously worked for news outlets in Illinois, Georgia and North Carolina. Dartise was the cinematographer for Think Before You Shoot, a film series that aimed to stop violence. It won the Silver Award for short films in the Prestige Film Festival. He’s also the founder of Dartise Media Design, a company that helps growing businesses with graphic design, web development, corporate photography, and corporate video production. Dartise is a graduate of Savannah State University and resides in the D.C. area with his wife.
Advisory Committee Member/Associate Producer
Marin Kolev currently resides in his native Bulgaria, where he works with the production company Paprika Latino. He produces several nationally broadcast factual entertainment television series, specializing in programming dealing with social experiments, such as the integration of certain minorities in Bulgaria. Marin lived in the U.S. for several years—first in Chicago to obtain a Masters Degree in journalism from DePaul University. Between 2009 and 2011, he helped produce news, investigative, and special projects segments as an intern with the local CBS-TV and FOX-TV affiliates. He also helped develop national programming for Towers Productions. Then he moved to New York City where he was a production assistant for the TLC and Lifetime networks. Marin currently travels between the United States and Europe with the goal of promoting The Reporters Inc.’s mission internationally. He believes the American values of free speech and freedom of the press helped pave the way for him and other Eastern European broadcasters to take control of their own media and derail its use for government propaganda.
Advisory Committee Member
Dr. Garrard McClendon is currently host of Counterpoint on LakeShore Public Television in northwest Indiana. From Garrard McClendon Live on CLTV, The McClendon Report on Comcast and WVON-AM 1690, and Off 63rd with Garrard McClendon on WYCC-TV (PBS), he’s been a constant presence on Chicago’s radio and TV airwaves. He owns McClendon Report Media, McClendonReport.com, and has written extensively about African American culture and society, including Ax or Ask?: The African American Guide to Better English. Garrard earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership from Loyola University, he’s a research fellow at Calumet College of St. Joseph, and he’s a former high school teacher. Garrard also proudly continues to fulfill the legacy of his late parents as the executive director of the Milton & Ruby McClendon Educational Foundation, which provides teachers and students with classroom supplies. Garrard is a cancer survivor, remote control hobbyist, and resides with his wife and two children in northwest Indiana.
TIMOTHY P. MUNKEBY
Advisory Committee Member/Writer
Tim Munkeby spent 13 years teaching junior and senior high school English, creative writing, and theater before switching gears into financial management in the mid-1980s. Tim was the chairman and founder of Munkeby Financial Inc., a financial services firm in the Minneapolis area. He’s combined his two career paths by writing several books and multi-media articles about financial health and money management, and speaking on the subject at colleges and universities. Tim has also written two novels: Back to the Island and Will. He also writes a weekly blog on his website (www.timmunkeby.com). Tim and his wife of 53 years, Mary, are parents to six children, and grandparents to an ever-growing brood–currently at a dozen. They spend most of their time at their home on Lake Vermilion near the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota.
Advisory Committee Member
Alice O’Connor’s personal motto is “Everything unattempted is impossible.” She also tells people, “If you think you’re too small to be effective, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.” Alice currently leads Constituency Services, Inc., a government relations, issue advocacy, media training and association management firm in Madison, Wisconsin. Alice also created Badger Speaker School and she conducts presentation skills workshops that help professionals in medicine, sales and leadership positions become more effective communicators. Alice serves on the Board of Directors of the Monona Terrace (a world-renowned Frank Lloyd Wright legacy building in Madison), and on the Domestic Abuse Intervention Services Board of Trustees. In addition, she founded Wisconsin Women in Government to help financially needy women change their destiny through further education. Alice is the proud mother of two grown daughters.
Advisory Committee Member/Writer
Nancy Pender has parlayed nearly a quarter century of her Emmy and Peabody award-winning journalism experience into her role as a public relations strategist with Pender Communications. The Chicago-based media consulting company offers executive media/presentation coaching, media relations and video production services. Nancy helps clients develop content that resonates with key audiences, understand the rules of engagement when working with journalists, navigate a crisis, and control their message/image with strategically produced videos. Nancy was previously a television anchor and reporter for stations in Chicago and California, a vice president with the strategic communications firm Culloton Strategies, and Deputy Press Secretary to Willie Brown, former Speaker of the California State Assembly. Nancy resides in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood with her husband and two sons.
Advisory Committee Member
Robert Ritzenthaler is a writer, filmmaker and international development specialist based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He has lived and worked in sub-Saharan Africa for two decades, including 10 years based in Nairobi, Kenya documenting the AIDS epidemic. He specializes in examining the impact of poverty, conflict and climate change on community life. He grew up in Milwaukee and trained as a journalist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1980s.
Advisory Committee Member/Graphic Designer
John Squatritto is the Design Director and Manager of Audience Engagement at KABC-TV in Los Angeles, California. John is responsible for all graphic aspects of the station’s broadcast and digital properties, including ABC7 Eyewitness News, Slam Dunk Saturday, Sunday Night Sports and On the Red Carpet at the Oscars. John also serves as curator of the station’s Instagram account and leads its brand loyalty and rewards campaigns. John previously worked in graphics and production at ABC, NBC and FOX affiliates in Chicago, Indianapolis and his hometown of Sacramento, where he graduated from California State University-Sacramento with a degree in communications. John worked on the campaign against California’s Proposition 8, and participates yearly in AIDS Walk Los Angeles, consistently ranking among the top fundraisers. John lives in West Hollywood with his partners.
Advisory Committee Member
Cela Sutton is the executive coordinator at ARRAY, a social impact film distribution collaborative that amplifies female filmmakers and filmmakers of color. Cela has supported campaigns for the company’s independent films, such as, Namour and The House on Coco Road. Cela works closely with company founder, filmmaker Ava DuVernay. Cela previously worked at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in its foundation and scripted television departments. Sutton began her career at Harpo Studios in Chicago, working on the 25th and final season of The Oprah Winfrey Show and eventually as an associate producer for OWN’s reality series Iyanla: Fix My Life. Sutton holds a Bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Chicago.
Advisory Committee Member/Writer
Pirkko Tavaila’s professional mission is to empower stressed-out adults to enjoy life to the fullest. She has three decades of experience serving corporate clients, teams and individuals in their search for sustainable success. Pirkko is a board-certified holistic health coach with the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, and the author of the 2013 self-help book, Eight Steps to Me. Pirkko is Finnish, but with the utilization of modern technology her clients come to her from all over the world. She started her career in banking but soon gravitated to brand-building, marketing, business communications and adult education. One of Pirkko’s proudest career achievements is her role is helping design and create the official labeling for organic food products in Finland. Pirkko has a Master of Science degree in economics and business administration and she’s also a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. She is the proud mother of two exceptional adult children and resides in Helsinki.
Advisory Committee Member
Jennifer Whitney is a veteran broadcast journalist and a mental health advocate. While she continues with free-lance television and video work, Jennifer now focuses primarily on her private practice as a licensed marriage and family therapist. One of Jennifer’s proudest moments during her 16 years as an anchor and reporter for Sacramento’s KOVR-TV (ABC/CBS) came when she traveled to Romania to report on the AIDS crisis with orphaned children, a dire situation that continues to challenge the infrastructure there. Jennifer has appeared in social cause documentaries for PBS; she won an Emmy award for her work on Collision Course: Pathway to Prevention, a program that examined prescription drug use by young people. Jennifer is also a co-founder of Tucker Media Group, a company the provides international businesses with all of their marketing, video, live-streaming and corporate event needs. Jennifer is married and lives in El Dorado Hills, California.
Advisory Committee Member
Sue Wilkes has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than a quarter century as an executive director and consultant. Based in Seattle, she’s led both small, grassroots organizations and large governmental agencies. As a consultant, Sue has focused her energies assisting organizations with refugee and immigrant issues, K-12 education, family planning, youth development, and community health. Sue is currently the executive director of Project Ethiopia, a nonprofit that empowers villagers in rural Ethiopia to implement and sustain improvements in health, education, and economic activity. Sue has a Master’s Degree in Not-For-Profit Leadership, is certified in English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction, and has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Relations and Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
JOHN M. ZOOK
Advisory Committee Member
John Zook is an Emmy award-winning television director with more than 30 years of TV production experience in syndicated, network and cable television markets on numerous talk shows, specials, game shows, pilots and series, including The Price Is Right. For 10 years he was the associate director of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, produced at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. John began his career at ABC Television as a network page and is currently freelancing on a variety of projects.