We The People Media’s history goes back to 1996, when Ethan Michaeli, previously an investigative reporter with the Chicago Daily Defender newspaper, was hired as the founding Editor in Chief of Residents’ Journal. Conceived as a magazine that would be written for and by public housing tenants, Residents’ Journal was initially funded by the Chicago Housing Authority, with a written guarantee of the newspaper’s independence signed by CHA officials. But in June 1999, a new administration at the CHA terminated the agency’s agreement with Residents’ Journal. The Residents’ Journal staff opted to separate from CHA, forming the not-for-profit organization We The People Media with the support of prominent journalists, scholars, community and business leaders. We The People Media assumed responsibility for Residents’ Journal and the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in August 2000.
With the evolution into a not-for-profit organization, Ethan became Publisher of Residents’ Journal and Executive Director of We The People Media. Mary C. Piemonte who joined the Residents’ Journal staff shortly after its founding, became Editor in Chief of Residents’ Journal and Deputy Executive Director of We The People Media.
Since that time, We The People Media/Residents’ Journal has trained thousands of adults and youths in the skills of modern journalism. Reporters for We The People Media have won awards from the National Society of Professional Journalists, the Chicago Headline Club, the Chicago Association of Black Journalists and the Chicago Defender Charities, among others. Our work has been covered on the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune Magazine as well as on National Public Radio.
Today, We The People Media/Residents’ Journal is widely recognized as the authentic voice of Chicago’s inner city. Residents’ Journal, the Urban Youth International Journalism Program, “RJ TV” and this web site reach a diverse audience of hundreds of thousands of people on Chicago’s South and West sides, across the nation and beyond.
Board of Directors
- President: Eugene Scott
President, Chicago Defender Charities
- Secretary/Treasurer: Stelios Valavanis
President and Founder, On Shore Communications
- Maner Jean Wiley
Local Advisory Council President, Hillard Homes
- Sandra Young
CHA Board Commissioner and former president of the Ida B. Wells LAC
- Francine Washington
Local Advisory Council President, Stateway Gardens
- U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis
Congressman from the Seventh District of Illinois
- Jamie Kalven
- Sunil Garg
- Jonathan Rothstein
Attorney at Law
2005, New America Award, National Society of Professional Journalists: From the nation’s most respected journalism organization, Residents’ Journal’s Editor-in-Chief Mary C. Johns and Assistant Editor Beauty Turner won first place in the first-ever New America category for the publication of “Deadly Moves,” an investigation of a surge in the homicide rate in neighborhoods to where public housing families are relocating.
2005, Peter Lisagor Award for Exemplary Journalism, In-depth Reporting: to Mary C. Johns and Beauty Turner, for “Deadly Moves”
2003, Chicago Association of Black Journalists: to John Brooks, won an award for photography for a publication with circulation under 50,000
2002, Illinois Associated Press: to Beauty Turner, Residents’ Journal Assistant Editor and Sudhir Venkatesh, We The People Media Board member, For “Transformation,” a radio documentary which was originally broadcast on WBEZ radio.
2001, Chicago Association of Black Journalists: Cenabeth Cross won an award for Best Opinion Piece for her column in Residents’ Journal, “Stop the Violence.”
2000, Support A Child International: Award for Dedicated Service, Leadership and Commitment to Excellence
2000, Chicago Association of Black Journalists: Photographer/correspondent Beauty Turner won a Best Photography award for her cover shot on the October 1999 edition.
1999, Chicago Association of Black Journalists: Annie R. Smith won an award for Investigative Reporting her article, “A Decree But To What Degree” in a 1998 edition of Residents’ Journal.
1998, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Awards: The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), the largest and most important organization representing public housing authorities and residents, awarded the Urban Youth International Journalism Program as a new initiative that reflected the best in new programs for public housing residents.
1997, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Awards: In 1997, NAHRO awarded Residents’ Journal as a new initiative that reflected the best in new programs for public housing residents.