Susan Smith Richardson

On Aug. 7, the Community Renewal Society announced that Susan Smith Richardson has been named editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter.

Richardson is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of media experience, focusing on race, poverty and social inequality, with an emphasis on blending narrative and data-driven journalism. She joins the staff on Sept. 18.

“Susan Smith Richardson brings an extraordinary range of talents and journalistic experience, and a deep commitment to social justice,” said Alexander Sharp, acting executive director of CRS, which publishes the Reporter. “Under her leadership, the Reporter will break new investigative ground for years to come.”

Laura S. Washington, the Reporter’s interim publisher, said that Richardson brings “a unique mix of skills, connections and savvy,” to the Reporter. “She’s ready to lead the Reporter as it expands its digital footprint and take us to new heights.”

Race and class, Richardson says, are “hot-button issues in Chicago and the nation.” She adds that “through its formidable investigative reporting, the Reporter has exposed the many ways in which these issues play out in the city, state and nation. Moving forward, we need to maintain our commitment to reporting about social and economic inequality while developing new storytelling techniques and editorial features, and a digital presence to engage a broader audience in an informed conversation about race and class.”

As managing editor of The Texas Observer, a nonprofit, investigative news journal, Richardson developed an award-winning culture section that explored the intersection of popular culture, politics and social change. As public education editor at the Chicago Tribune, she directed a series that galvanized community action around the rising homicide rate among Chicago’s youth.

At the Austin American-Statesman, she wrote a series of columns on the gentrification of African-American and Latino communities.

Richardson has also worked in higher education, recently serving as a research fellow at the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas School of Law. From 2007 to 2011, she was a senior writer at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

In 2002, she received a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University and continued her studies at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, earning a master’s degree in public administration in 2004.

A distinguished, search committee recommended Richardson from a “stellar” pool of candidates from around the nation, Washington said. “The committee agreed that Susan’s credentials and intellect are first-rate. We are extremely grateful to the committee for contributing their wisdom and expertise to this singular task.”

Richardson succeeds former Editor and Publisher Kimbriell Kelly, who departed last fall to become an investigative reporter at The Washington Post. Washington stepped in to serve as interim publisher and lead the search for the Reporter’s new leader.

Richardson will leverage the Reporter’s digital plan, its talented staff, media partnerships, and other assets to grow and enhance the operation.

In other news:

On Aug. 3, the Reporter received a National Association of Black Journalists’ “Salute to Excellence” award during the association’s annual convention. It was honored for “Abusing the Badge,” an investigation by Reporter Angela Caputo, Interim Editor Rui Kaneya, and Intern Yisrael Shapiro. Published in May 2012, the story took the top prize in the investigative reporting category for magazines under 1 million circulation.

The Reporter’s recent cover story has made waves. In “Cashed Out,” Caputo looked into the Chicago Housing Authority’s Housing Choice Voucher program and found that many families who participate end up living in substandard buildings in Chicago’s most challenged communities. The report got a swift response from Chicago Alderman Leslie Hairston, whose 5th Ward is home to hundreds of chronically failing buildings. She will explore ways to ban bad landlords, Hairston said in early July. She will also look at developing tighter inspection guidelines and response times in emergency situations. And Hairston pledged to reach out to housing advocacy groups to develop guidelines that could be “codified” in a city ordinance.

The Reporter has selected two outstanding photojournalism fellows for 2013-14.

Michelle Kanaar, a Miami native, recently completed a photography internship at the Miami Herald. She received a master’s degree with a concentration in photojournalism from the University of Missouri in 2012 and a bachelor’s in international studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The native Spanish speaker also speaks intermediate Dutch and Arabic.

Sophia Allison is a senior at Columbia College Chicago, studying photography with a concentration in photojournalism. The Los Angeles native moved to Chicago’s south suburbs in 2003. Since 2011, Allison has taught photography and video to middle school and high school students from the city’s South and West sides. She is working on an independent multimedia project, “Graduation,” which examines youth violence in Chicago.

In September, they will begin a nine-month fellowship, producing print and online photography for the Reporter, as well as videos and multimedia presentations.

The fine photography of the Reporter’s June exhibit, “Issues Visualized,” is now on sale. The original work of former photojournalism fellows Jonathan Gibby and Lucio Villa can be viewed and purchased online at affordable prices. Go to: www.chicagoreporter.comissues-visualized.