Illinois Latino News partners with Medill’s Metro Media Lab



“Solutions journalism resets the mindset for journalists from focusing on problems to what’s being done about problems,” said Hugo Balta, Publisher of Illinois Latino News (ILLN), at the Collaborative Journalism Summit 2022 (CJS 2022), hosted at Columbia College, Chicago this month.

Balta was one of the guest speakers at Medill’s social justice and local news partnerships: collaboration, investigation, and education session. Kari Lydersen, lecturer at Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University, led the discussion on Medill’s Metro Media Lab and the social justice specialization in its master’s degree program. Medill students work with many Chicago media outlets and professional reporters on in-depth investigative and immersive stories on topics ranging from police reform to environmental injustice to the effects of COVID on communities and much more.

ILLN is one of the newsrooms partnering with Medill. “Part of our mission is to provide student journalists with real work experiences in order to help them on the path to success,” said Balta.

Change Agents session at Collaborative Journalism Summit 2022, Columbia College, Chicago

Apoorvaa Mandar Bichu, who goes by “Apps,” a graduate student at Northwestern University, was also a guest speaker at CJS 2022 and has been assigned to work with ILLN and the Chicago Reporter. “I like that I was challenged to think about telling the story differently than the common “what, where, and when,” and consider applying solutions journalism in telling a story differently,” she said.

Solutions Journalism is the rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems, which includes these key elements: responses, insight, evidence, and limitations. Connecticut Latino News (CTLN) and Illinois Latino News newsrooms were introduced to solutions journalism by grants provided by the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN).

CTLN was one of ten news outlets chosen to be a part of the Advancing Democracy six-month project. ILLN is part of the Democracy SOS Fellowship.

Balta is participating in the Solutions Journalism Train-the-Trainer program provided by the SJN in order to develop expertise in teaching solutions journalism. “Solutions journalism builds trust with the public by promoting transparency in every step of the storytelling process,” said Balta. “Due to a lack of equitable representation in newsrooms, there is an urgent need to train journalists to be transparent in news gathering and reporting on the complexity of racial identity, social constructs, and cultural competence. Training journalists on how to produce solutions journalism stories allows me to help them develop ways to engage audiences disillusioned by the onslaught of negative narratives in news coverage.”

Apps is working on a story on how educators are responding to the large number of Hispanic-Latino students who, due to the coronavirus pandemic, were forced to drop out or not apply to schools of higher education. Her piece will be submitted to Solving for Chicago, a collaborative of 20 print, digital, and broadcast newsrooms, including ILLN, working cooperatively to cover pressing issues facing the public.

Another story that will be afforded to Solving for Chicago is by Raphael Hipos, another graduate student at Northwestern University who is working with Illinois Latino News as part of the Metro Media Lab partnership. Hipos is writing a story about how the pandemic is driving the nationwide surge in union organizing.

The Metro Media Lab is designed to help local news organizations better engage with citizens; provide quality, solutions-oriented journalism; and strengthen the sustainability of local news organizations through research, training and student-produced storytelling in partnerships with Chicago outlets.

“By pairing our research, our faculty, and our students with journalists and future journalists, we can make a difference in helping people understand the importance of local news and establishing successful news organizations to provide this essential service,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker.

Cover Photo: Guest speakers at Medill’s Metro Media Lab and the social justice specialization in its master’s degree program, Collaborative Journalism Summit 2022, Columbia College, Chicago.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Rymut;

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