Former Chicago FOX reporter Saxenmeyer launches new project

Former FOX 32 Reporter Mark Saxenmeyer is focusing his efforts on the issue of “wrongful convictions” in an upcoming documentary “The Innocent Convicts” that is being produced by a multi-media production company, The Reporters. The effort needs your support

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Mark Saxenmeyer has a new project that I hope you agree is worth supporting. Saxenmeyer, the popular former FOX 32 TV news reporter, is now managing a new organization called “The Reporters” which produces news documentaries and investigations into issues that face us in our everyday society and lives.

The Reporters website is www.TheReporters.org and it offers a summary of some of the impressive projects now underway including “The Innocent Convicts,” which Saxenmeyer is directing, and others including a look at female impersonators at The Baton Club, called “The Baton,” and the survival of racism despite Civil Rights and the demise of Apartheid in South Africa, called “Reaching for the Rainbow.”

The Reporters Inc. is independent media in the truest sense. Not only are the project documentaries driven by the spirit of professional journalism that Saxenmeyer and his colleagues represent at The Reporters Inc., but also by moral public awareness.

Some of the topics are not those that many of us think about everyday, but involve injustice, racism and unfairness. These are topics that always motivated me, but often really conflict with the mission of the mainstream media which sometimes is driven more by profits than the morality of the news products they create.

The Innocent Convicts, documentary

The Innocent Convicts, documentary

Naturally, because of this, The Reporters Inc. is not funded by a big corporation like the ones that drive today’s mainstream news media. The projects and documentaries The Reporters Inc. pursue are driven by the support of individuals like you and me.

Let’s face it folks, this is a new world when it comes to journalism. Everyone is a “journalist.” In the old days, only those who pursued journalism as a career engaged in informing the public about issues, events and even  opinions. Today, technology has pushed everyone into expressing themselves and the line between solid journalism and everyday people dedicated to other careers is now gone. There are probably more “Citizen journalists” who are read online than mainstream journalists. The word viral usually reflects popularity driving the efforts of everyday individuals with a mission, opinion or a crusade.

The Reporters Inc. seems to have bridged these differences combining professional journalism with a new sense of how to report and reach audiences. Technology has changed our world and put easy create expressions in everyone’s hands. Texting. Videos. Photographs. Cell phones. Twitter. Youtube. Blogs. It can be a cacophony of confusion which sometimes forces the public to back away, or narrow their focus.

We shouldn’t lose sight of great journalism though and journalism driven by the old ideals that once motivated people to pursue journalism as a career. I remember being motivated by the Watergate hearings on television while waiting to be deployed by the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. That wait was long (and they didn’t send my unit overseas). But the reports on the hearings moved me to want to make our society better.

I think that’s what Saxenmeyer and The Reporters Inc are trying to do.

Saxenmeyer wrote me recently saying, “If you’ve been on Facebook lately, you might have noticed I’ve been posting a lot about a new project The Reporters Inc. is working on. We’re in the midst of a 30-day crowdfunding campaign for ‘The Innocent Convicts‘ and perhaps you could help us spread the word about the project.”

Here’s the scoop: The Innocent Convicts focuses on the lives of people who are imprisoned due to false accusations, misidentifications, law enforcement misconduct, racial biases, and miscarriages of the criminal justice system.

Some legal experts estimate as many as one out of every ten inmates currently in prison is actually innocent.

The Reporters Inc. is profiling the lives of people still in prison, fighting for their freedom, as well as people who’ve finally been exonerated after years of legal battles. The National Registry of Exonerations (a project of the University of Michigan) lists nearly 1700 men and women who’ve been cleared of wrongful convictions in the last 25 years.

One of the stories The Reporters Inc. is telling is that of Tim Cole, a Texas Tech University student who was falsely accused of raping a fellow student in 1985. He was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Tim Cole died behind bars before his name could be cleared through DNA evidence. Another man eventually came forward and admitted to the crime; Cole became the first person in Texas to be posthumously exonerated.

The first two trailers of The Innocent Convicts showcase the Tim Cole story:

Click here for TRAILER 1 

Click here for TRAILER 2

The Reporters Inc. also plans to include stories of the wrongfully convicted from Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California and New York.

The Reporters Inc. plan to air the documentary nationally on PBS. So far, PBS stations in 11 states (including Illinois, California, Minnesota and Texas) have provided them with Letters of Support, expressing their intention and desire to air the completed film.

This support virtually guarantees us nationwide distribution.

Throughout the IndieGoGo campaign Saxenmeyer is also writing weekly columns on The Reporters Inc. website about the documentary and the group’s fundraising progress. You should check out those reports and columns when you get a chance.

The Reporters Inc. was created to explore the subjects that other media was either ignoring, avoiding, overlooking, misrepresenting or underrepresenting in their coverage. The Reporters Inc. tells stories in a substantive, meaningful, compelling and in-depth fashion — stories that that hopefully make a difference and evoke needed change in the world.

The Reporters Inc. knows that there are thousands of causes and worthy organizations that need, and ask for, help.

If you believe our law enforcement and criminal justice systems must be held accountable for false arrests and wrongful convictions, as I do, if they stand for racial equality, and if they want to better ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans, this documentary is a cause you should consider supporting.

They need your help.

Click here to support Saxenmeyer and The Reporters Inc through their IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign.

I think it will be worth your while to support it and help The Reporters Inc. explore some of the important issues facing our society today.

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). And, Hanania is a stubborn and loud critic of the biased mainstream American news media.

Hanania covered Chicago political beats including Chicago City Hall while at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and later for the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate. He has written for the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star of Lebanon, the News of the World in London, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, The Saudi Gazette, the Arab News in Jeddah, and Aramco Magazine.

Hanania's Chicagoland columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald, the Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News and the Palos Reporter newspapers.

He is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is www.TheMediaOasis.com. Email him at: [email protected]