Laura S. Washington

Laura S. Washington is a Chicago Tribune contributing columnist and political analyst for ABC 7, Chicago’s ABC-owned station.  Before moving to the Tribune, she served as a contributing columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times

In 2015 and 2019 she served as a Fellow at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.  Washington brings more than two decades of experience as a multi-media journalist and non-profit professional specializing in African-American affairs, local and national politics, race, and social justice. From 2003 to 2009 she served as the Ida B. Wells-Barnett University Professor at DePaul University.   

She is the former editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, served as deputy press secretary to Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Northwestern University.  Her work has been honored with dozens of local and national awards, including two Emmy Awards, the Peter Lisagor Award, the Studs Terkel Award for Community Journalism and the Racial Justice Award from the YWCA. 

Her journalism and commentary has been widely featured in the national media, including the Associated Press, New York Times, NBC Nightly News, CNN, MNSBC, the PBS News Hour and the BBC.

Brant Houston

Brant is the Knight Foundation Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and heads the online newsroom, a lab for digital innovation and data journalism at Illinois.

Houston previously served as Executive Director of the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) and co-founded the Global Investigative Journalism Network and the Institute of Nonprofit News (INN).

Before joining IRE, he was an award-winning investigative reporter at daily newspapers for 17 years.

Houston wrote “Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide,” and co-authored “The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook.” He has taught and spoken about investigative and computer-assisted reporting at newsrooms and universities in 25 countries.

Dan Israelite

Lending Block Club Chicago his financial knowledge, Dan Israelite is Executive Director of Investments of Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., an investment firm in Chicago.

Israelite served as President of the Board of Directors of the McGaw YMCA in Evanston, Ill. and Treasurer of the Board of Directors of Evanston Scholars.

Charles Whitaker

Charles Whitaker is dean and professor at Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Whitaker, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Medill, is the first alumnus of the school to serve as dean. He previously served as the Helen Gurley Brown Professor and associate dean of journalism for the school. Since joining the Medill faculty in 1992, he has taught courses in news writing, magazine writing, magazine editing, and blogging. Whitaker has also taught in Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies and the Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute (aka, the Cherub program).

Before joining the Medill faculty, Whitaker was a senior editor at Ebony magazine, where he covered a wide range of cultural, social, and political issues and events on four continents, including two U.S. presidential campaigns, and the installation of the first black members of the British Parliament. Whitaker began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter at the Miami Herald, where he covered education in Dade County and municipal government in Palm Beach County. From the Herald, he went to the Louisville (Ky.) Times, where he worked as a deputy feature editor and enterprise feature and arts writer. Whitaker has also contributed articles to the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Magazine, Jet Magazine, Essence Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Saturday Evening Post, Chicago Parent magazine, and Folio, the magazine of the magazine industry.