WBEZ Investigative Reporter Maria Zamudio on Why the Chicago Headline Club Matters

WBEZ Investigative reporter Maria Zamudio, photo by E. Jason Wambsgans

WBEZ’s Maria Zamudio is next in our new feature, a membership drive we’re calling #WeAreTheHeadlineClub. The campaigned⁠—designed by photographer E. Jason Wambsgans⁠—is an effort to give our brand and our members more exposure. You’ll see these photos and questions across social media over the next few months, and please take your own photos and share them on social media with the hashtag #WeAreTheHeadlineClub.

Here’s more with Zamudio, an investigative reporter with WBEZ:

Q: Why is journalism important?
A: A few months ago, I was reminded of the power and the responsibility we have as journalists. In 2019, we published an investigation into the rising cost of water in cities in the Great Lakes, including Chicago. We documented how those cost hit poor communities of color in Chicago hard.  And many of those Chicagoans were forced to live without water or illegally re-install services. After we published, newly elected Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a moratorium on water shutoffs. Then last October, Lightfoot announced during her budget address the new “utility billing relief program” to help Chicagoans who can’t afford to pay their water bills.

This is why I became a journalist.

Q: Why join the Chicago Headline Club?
A: I’ve attended and volunteered every year our annual FOIAfest. I learn so much from attending every year. It is one of our signature events of the year. I’m so grateful to all the Chicago journalists who share tips and resources to obtain documents on behalf of our communities.  I am organizing this year’s FOIAfest and I’m excited to provide training to journalist and citizens who want to learn more about the state’s freedom of information law.

Support. Protect. Connect.
The Chicago Headline Club is the largest chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in the nation. We provide training, scholarships, awards and community for our members.

Our year-round programs include FOIAfest, the Lisagor Awards and tech workshops. Our professional members also provide mentorship, feedback and networking opportunities for student journalists and freelancers.

Since 1921, we’ve administered grants and scholarships to investigative and student journalists—$60,000 in the last five years alone.

Journalism is the only profession named in the Bill of Rights. We continue to protect the First Amendment through our lobbying and outreach efforts, holding those in power accountable.

Each year, we celebrate the achievements of more than 300 Chicago journalists at our annual Lisagor Awards.

Join today. https://www.spj.org/joinapp.asp

Cost: $95 ($75 SPJ, $20 Headline Club)

Support. Protect. Connect.

Read other columns for this feature

Brandis Griffith Friedman, from WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight”
Robert K. Elder, from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Christine Wolf, author, columnist and freelance journalist