Robert K. Elder on why the Chicago Headline Club Matters

Robert K. Elder in Albany Park by E. Jason Wambsgans⁠

The #WeAreTheHeadlineClub campaign⁠—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, anchored to pages like these.

Our spotlight this month is on: Robert K. Elder, the Chief Digital Officer at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, as well as a former editor at the Chicago Tribune, Crain’s and the Chicago Sun-Times. He was also the 2019-2020 president of the Chicago Headline Club.

Q: Why is journalism important?
Elder: Journalism is the greatest job in the world because you’re paid to be curious—and follow that curiosity. But more than that: The best journalism gives voice to the voiceless, and shines a light on injustice. Well-reported stories hold those in power accountable. Journalism is more than objectively information gathering—it’s the culture understanding its diverse citizenry.

Good news outlets, as Arthur Miller puts it, represent “the nation talking to itself.”

Q: Why join the Headline Club?
Elder: There are too many reasons to count. But I’ll offer a few recent highlights.

The Headline Club, in addition to producing FOIAFest and the Lisagor Awards, also provides training and support for Chicagoland’s journalism community. Just last year, we gave out $50,500 in grants to help working journalists through the COVID pandemic.

We also conducted diversity, inclusion and equity programs, such as Leadership Conference: Managing Across Generations and Cultures and Covering Race and Ethnicity: A Guideline for Finding The Deeper Stories, co-sponsored with NABJ and Public Narrative.

We advocate for journalists and our hard-working, news-gathering community. During this year’s civil unrest, we supported journalists covering those events, and we joined with the AAJA to speak out about anti-Asian racism during the COVID pandemic.

The Headline Club also provides Resources for Newly Graduating Journalists, plus our long-running Ethics AdviceLine.

Not convinced yet? Check out our other programs, just from last year:

How to build your brand in 2020, from books to podcasts
Facebook Training For Journalists
How I Convinced My Editor: A Discussion About Getting Newsroom Buy-In
Coffee and critiques: Portfolio and pitch ‘speed dating’ with media pros
Take your Excel skills to the next level at our pivot tables training
How to more safely report on the coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic
Career Transition Advice, Working with a Recruiter and Understanding Unemployment Benefits


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—$115,000 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.

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

Support. Protect. Connect.

Read other columns in this series
Brandis Griffith Friedman, from WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight”
Christine Wolf, author, columnist and freelance journalist
Maria Zamudio, from Chicago Public Media / WBEZ