Charles Whitaker

His status as a former Wednesday Journal columnist is but a blip in the long journalism career of former Oak Park resident Charles Whitaker, who was recently named interim dean of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Whitaker joined Medill in 1993 and is the Helen Gurley Brown Magazine Chair at the school. He begins his tenure as interim dean on July 1.

We caught up with Whitaker, who wrote a weekly column for Wednesday Journal from 1999 to 2001.

Whitaker was asked to write the column, which he described as “musings about living in Oak Park” around the time he served on a local task force concerning re-segregation in south Oak Park.

Whitaker said the taskforce focused on a “kerfuffle” – good word; did we mention this guy’s a wordsmith’s wordsmith – about the demographic makeup of Irving and Longfellow elementary schools.

Whitaker said those schools at the time were about to reach a tipping point where there “too many black kids” at the school and locals worried that “no white people would want to live in that part of the village.”

Prior to joining Medill, he served as senior editor of Ebony magazine, where he covered two U.S. presidential elections and the first black members of British Parliament, according to a Medill press release. He also was a reporter for the Miami Herald and a deputy features editor for the Louisville Times.

Whitaker also is co-author of the textbook, “Magazine Writing,” and has been an adviser on diversity issues for the Magazine Publishers of America.

He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Medill.

“Medill is renowned as one of the leading schools of both journalism and integrated marketing communications,” Whitaker said in the press release. “It is unusual to be so strong in both of these areas, and it is one of the things that makes Medill special. I look forward to collaborating with my fellow faculty, Medill students and our dedicated staff as we continue to educate students who will become leaders in their professions.”

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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