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News Site on Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Gets New Look

The Chicago Bureau provides information on youth issues, trains aspiring reporters

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October 31, 2013 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Chicago Bureau -- an independent, non-profit online news organization dedicated to issues of juvenile justice and child welfare -- unveiled its newly redesigned website this week.

Founded last year by Eric Ferkenhoff, a veteran reporter and assistant professor of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, The Chicago Bureau publishes stories focused on Chicago youth policy for a broad audience that includes policymakers, educators and others whose work impacts youth.

The website’s stories on juvenile justice and child welfare issues are about the generation “too old to cuddle but too young to vote,” Ferkenhoff says. Written primarily by Medill students, they’re aimed at “moving the conversation forward on important youth policy concerns” in a way that appeals to youth and to the stakeholders in that generation’s future.”

“The Chicago Bureau is not a teen site, per se,” he says. “Instead, it’s a news site that looks at macro issues that impact youth and views them through the dual lens of Chicago and youth.”

A recent story, for example, documented how transgender youth often skirt the medical establishment to make the personal changes they seek. Another explored Illinois’ failure to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court opinion on mandatory juvenile life sentences without parole. And another was about the rollout of a new law requiring that interrogations of youth in serious crimes be videotaped.

The Chicago Bureau was a precursor to a Northwestern class Ferkenhoff teaches to journalism and non-journalism students called “Reporting Juvenile Justice.” Focused on policy, the class first explores some of the get-tough laws of the 1980s and 1990s that spiked the juvenile prison population, and then asks students to develop in-depth multimedia projects focused on a piece of the juvenile justice puzzle.

“Youth policy issues are not well covered in Chicago,”Ferkenhoff says. “And that’s despite the fact that Chicago is the very city where, in 1899, the nation’s first juvenile court was established.”

To visit the newly redesigned website, go to The Chicago Bureau.