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Working at this newspaper represents my ‘American Dream’ – #SupportSunTimes

The Ihejirika family after settling in Chicago. | Family photo

The Ihejirika family after settling in Chicago. That's me seated second from right. | Family photo

The 174-year-old Chicago Sun-Times was my “American Dream.”

As simple as that.

I was hired straight out of graduate school at the oldest continuously published newspaper in Chicago, which became part of my life at age six.

That’s when I first read the tabloid tome that my immigrant father would read religiously, every Sunday at the kitchen table. This fed my developing appetite for all forms of literature.

OPINION

As Dad keyed in on my love of reading, he’d spread the newspaper out on the table for me to choose sections that interested me — in the early days, only the comics — then he’d pull me up onto his lap.

Together, we’d read his trusted Sun-Times.

Why I am writing this

Recently, we reached out to you, our longtime readers.

We asked you to please support our daily work by subscribing to our website for $7.49 a month, less than 25 cents a day.

Until now, we’ve offered our online content for free.

But we can no longer afford that business model.

Now known as the hardest-working paper in America, we have been part of Chicago for a very long time, offering a diverse and unflinchingly brave perspective very much aligned with middle America’s hard-working families.

It is a perspective that has informed my immigrant experience, as the child of Nigerian immigrants who came to America under the worst of circumstances — fleeing a nation ravaged by ethnic cleansing and famine.

My family story

My family arrived in Chicago on June 9, 1969, refugees of the 1966-1970 Nigerian-Biafran War. The first time starvation was used as a tool of mass destruction, 2 million of my Igbo tribe were massacred or starved to death.

We settled on the city’s Near South Side, and like most immigrant families chasing the American Dream, my parents eventually moved their seven children to the suburbs, seeking better schooling, opportunities.

I chronicled their amazing story in my recent book, “Escape From Nigeria: A Memoir of Faith, Love and War,” telling how my father had been attending Northwestern University after the war broke out, severing all communication with the outside world.

It recounts how one of his professors, with his wife and four other North Shore couples, joined to help my father locate our family in the midst of a raging war — through stealth communication with missionaries — and then raise funds and secure congressional help to obtain refugee visas.

We arrived with the clothes on our backs.

But with hard work and sacrifice — that non-wavering characteristic of middle America — my parents struggled to give their children every possible bootstrap.

I can still see us sitting at that kitchen table on a Sunday afternoon, sun streaming through the window, the Sun-Times spread out, the feel of newsprint between my fingers. I shared that tradition with my father until he passed in 1981, leaving my mother to struggle to finance our college education on her own.

In the end, their children would be successful — this one obtaining her Master’s in Journalism from Northwestern University in 1987 — a full-circle moment — and starting her job as a cub reporter at the Sun-Times months later.

Maudlyne Ihejirika

Maudlyne Ihejirika is a staff columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times | Provided photo

What the Sun-Times means today

Today, my “Chicago Chronicles” columns profile the people and places that make Chicago tick, with a spotlight on Chicago’s black and brown communities. My column is just one of many offerings representative of our Sun-Times commitment to diversity – not only in our writers, but in content reflecting the melting pot of communities we serve in our great city.

We’ve said it before. But did you know the percentage of legitimate Internet sites generating relevant, original content is only about 3 percent of the world’s 329 million websites? It’s because the economics are brutal.

And did you know Google and Facebook dominate digital advertising —  collecting 73 percent of all such revenue, while all other companies compete for the rest of that pie?

Add to that the decline of print advertising year after year, and you’ll know it’s been an impossible business model.

Our new digital-subscription model is critical to sustain the labor-intensive, quality local journalism you’ve come to expect from us.

Again, we’ve said it before. We tell stories that matter to the working men and women of our city — in print, video, podcasts, live online. And we do this because we have Chicago’s back.

We do this because you and I — we — have shared experiences. We are middle America. And the Sun-Times chronicles our American Dream.

How to subscribe

We’re asking you to support our work by subscribing to our website for $7.49 a month — less than 25 cents a day. That’s a small price to pay for journalism that is 100 percent honest and unflinchingly brave.

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