By: Cailey Griffin
“Take a chance.” “Do things that make you uncomfortable.” “If you’re only living in your comfort zone, you’re not truly living.” These phrases and more are creeds that people hear all the time, but are they actually true? I’d say the answer is yes as the truth of these creeds can be seen in the stories of successful people all around the world. Daschell Phillips, editor of the Hyde Park Herald, is living proof that excellent things can happen when you accept the gifts the universe has offered, even when unsure.
Phillips is not new to Chicago. She grew up on the North Side in the Ravenswood neighborhood and is an alumna of Lincoln Park High School. After graduating from Lincoln Park high school, Phillips attended Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia. During her time at Norfolk she was able to spread her wings in the field of Journalism starting off as a news reporter for their school paper, the Spartan Echo, and then serving as editor-in-chief. Phillip’s talent in the field of Journalism did not go unnoticed and, she went on to receive four Echoes of Excellence Awards from the Hampton Roads Black Media Professionals organization while she was a student at Norfolk University.
After completing her undergraduate degree Phillips was able to work in the print journalism field professionally as a reporter for Pensions & Investments Magazine, a Crain Communications publication. While working professionally, Phillips noticed a shift in the newspaper industry towards Digital Media, which influenced her decision to attain an Master’s in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. When reflecting on the impact of her time at Medill Phillips says, “I actually went to Medill for, at the time, what they were calling New Media Journalism. It was a time when Newspapers and Publications were trying to figure out their space in the digital world. So we were at the very beginnings of that and I was excited to be apart of the program. I had a lot of great professors: Marcel Pacatte, Stephan Garnett, and the department head, as well as my advisor, Rich Gordan. All the professors I had were passionate and they were deeply involved in trying to figure this out and showing us how to prepare for what we’re doing now.” “In addition to getting a print product out, we’re also on the web and social media. We’re trying to get the news to our readers first through our news blast and our evening digest at the Herald, so all those things I was tinkering with way back when are now my newsroom reality. I felt very prepared for the role I’m in today because of what I studied, learned, and researched way back in 2001. Medill was a great help.” After completing her Masters degree, Phillips worked for several publications before landing with the Hyde Park herald.
Phillips was a reporter with the Hyde Park Herald for several years before being offered the position for editor. Phillips shares the story of her accepting the amazing opportunity to serve as editor despite her original reluctance when she says, “It was a total surprise. I’ve always aspired to be a Journalist, but I never had any aspirations to become an editor. I just thought I’d always be a writer. So when the editor offered me the position he was leaving, I was in shock.”
“We were just all in the middle of making our transitions when the editor came to me one evening and said he was leaving: ‘I suggested that they make you editor, would you be interested in a position like this?’ And I felt everything telling me no, but yes came out of my mouth. I was like yeah I think this is the next step. I feel like I’m up for this challenge and it’d be great to step into editing, running a news room, and seeing if I have what it takes. He saw that in me, he saw the leadership skills in me ,and of course writing skills in me, so I said yes. For me it was like a leap. It was just a new journey and exciting new thing for me.”
Despite her original apprehension for stepping into an aspect of Journalism that was unfamiliar to her, Phillips quickly came to realize the full extent of the amazing opportunity she’d been given. She is proving that giving her the authority to run one of the oldest neighborhood newspapers in the city, was anything but a mistake. Phillips is breaking down barriers by not only serving as the first African American editor or the Hyde Park Herald, but also bringing effective change to the newsroom. Phillip shares some of the changes she’s made to the Herald since becoming editor in 2015 and says, “I was a reporter there for 7 years before I became editor, so I definitely saw some things that I wanted to move along. Both myself and other reporters were frustrated because we would break news, we would get that news first, we knew about it first, and we’d write the greatest story, but it would have to wait a week because the Hyde Park Herald is a weekly print publication. So one of the first things I did was to create the evening digest. It’s a subscription newsletter that goes out to the neighborhood every night so that helps with our reporters. If they break a story, there’s a news alert, or something that we need to get out right away, there’s an avenue, there’s a way to do it. I’m happy to say that I brought that addition to the newspaper. Now I can breathe because ,as a reporter, I felt like we’re the neighborhood paper and we should be the ones that people go to if something’s happening in the neighborhood.”
The Hyde Park Herald is an extremely respected Chicago newspaper that has stood the test of the time because of the excellent work of great Journalists and editors. I believe all of Chicago can agree in saying we’re not only glad Phillips came back to Chicago as a Journalist, but also as a truly groundbreaking editor.