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)
Whitaker was one of the rotating directors of Medill’s graduate Magazine Publishing Project, an enterprise in which teams of students developed a new magazine or worked in collaboration with an existing publishing company to reinvigorate the editorial and business approach of an existing magazine. For nine years, Whitaker directed the Academy for Alternative Journalism, a summer fellowship program that trained young writers for work at the member publications of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies in an effort to address the field’s lack of diversity.
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. In addition, he served as an editorial consultant to CATALYST magazine, a publication dedicated to coverage of the Chicago Public Schools, and as president of the editorial board of the Chicago Reporter, an acclaimed investigative publication that covers issues of race and class. He currently serves on the board of directors for numerous professional organizations, including the American Society of Magazine Editors and the Center for Public Integrity. He also serves on the advisory boards for the Prison Journalism Project, The Evanston RoundTable, and Block Club Chicago.
Whitaker is the co-author of “Magazine Writing,” a textbook that examines the magazine industry and deconstructs the art of feature writing for consumer and business-to-business publications, and co-editor of “Curating Culture,” a textbook that examines 20th century magazines as niche-factories. He also is the author of four statistical analyses of the hiring of women and minorities in the magazine industry and has served as an adviser on diversity issues for the Magazine Publishers of America. He was the co-director of Project Masthead, a program designed to encourage students of color to consider careers in magazines on both the editorial and business side of the industry, and he was one of the co-curators of the Ida B. Wells Award, presented by both Medill and the National Association of Black Journalists to individuals who are working to increase newsroom diversity and improve the coverage of communities of color.
Whitaker has received commendations for his work from a number of journalism societies, including the National Association of Black Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists, and the National Education Writers Association, and has served as a judge for the National Magazine Awards and the International Regional Magazine Awards Association.