Little Village is just across from where “The Barber Shop Show’s” airs its weekly broadcast in North Lawndale. It’s primarily an immigrant neighborhood that’s home to both the Cook County Jail and the street known as the other Magnificent Mile. Now, Little Village will be home to one of WBEZ’s neighborhood bureaus and staffed primarily by reporter Chip Mitchell. The public radio station inaugurated its Cermak Street storefront on July 26 with an open house welcoming 175 members of the community and the otherwise curious to stop by and see its audio recording station and the several desks that fit snugly into the space.
It’s no secret that WBEZ’s parent organization, Chicago Public Media, has undergone a number of changes lately. Chicago Public Media’s President and CEO Torey Malatia resigned on July 26, writing in his letter that “the next innovation project must come for me now by leading another institution.” The station has also let go a number of its bloggers, opting instead for more user-generated, and likely unpaid, contributions.
The opening of the new bureau also comes as the South Side bureau closed, leaving the station with the Little Village bureau its closest neighborhood shop on the South Side.
Sally Eisele, managing editor for public affairs at WBEZ, said that the closure of the South Side bureau was due to problems with the space, and is only temporary. “We are actively looking for a new location,” Eisele said.
The overall strategy is to eventually have six neighborhood bureaus, including two in the suburbs. The station currently operates a Rogers Park bureau and the Little Village space in addition to its main office at Navy Pier. As for the Little Village bureau, Eisele hopes it will help WBEZ provide a community service. It’s part of an overall mission the station has of coverings neighborhoods “not from news releases,” she said, but on the ground.
As a news outlet that also sees itself as reporting from the bottom up–from the churches and street corners around Chicago–we’re happy to welcome WBEZ to the neighborhood.