The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian


This poll has ended.

When is the first acceptable day of the year to start playing Christmas music?


Sorry, there was an error loading this poll.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

ETHS student athletes prepare for the upcoming winter season.
Winter Wildkits: Winter sports forecast
November 17, 2023
Marcia Hartigan began her journey in the ice cream industry during her sophomore year of high school. Now, shes the owner of Hartigan’s Ice Cream Shoppe, a beloved Evanston ice cream parlor.
The inside scoop
Audrey Bodine, Staff Writer • November 17, 2023
The hidden Evanston board game community offers fun friends and connections.
Game on!
Izabella Paracuelles and Ashlyn Rogowski November 17, 2023
The Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette
A world united
Milo Slevin, Feature Editor • October 20, 2023

Opinion | The importance of privacy in journalism

Evanston’s Guaranteed Income Program, often overlooked because of macroscale projects in Chicago and Cook County, began as a pilot program around 10 months ago, with the first $500 payments sent out on prepaid debit cards in early December 2022. The program, created in tandem by Northwestern and the city, is a form of universal basic income–a welfare proposal where the government gives an unconditional installment to its population.

A team of graduate students at NU–Phoebe Lin, Claire Mackevicius and Sheridan Fuller–joined with a professor in the School of Education and Social Policy, Jonathan Guryan, to study the program’s impact and viability for the City of Evanston long-term. Their results are still incomplete as the year-long pilot hasn’t concluded, but there were massive observable advantages from the first few months alone.

“A lot of the discussions about this item include the word ‘universal,’ which does not describe the programs at all,” said program proponent and Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss at a community event in January. “But you’re starting to see it’s not just a tiny speck out there. We’ve been standing this up at the same time as Chicago and Cook County. We feel like we’re this ragtag team of people trying to do the same thing as these giant armies, and, frankly, we’re doing great.”

I wanted to assess the validity of Biss’ statement. Evanston residents needed to be at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty line and be between 18-24 years old, 62 and older or an undocumented community member just to apply for the program, and there were only 150 accepted. Evanston has a population of nearly 80,000, so universal isn’t a word in the same stratosphere as one that can accurately describe the pilot.

Sam Froum

Not to say Evanston shouldn’t spend money on the program but is what they’re doing enough? Universal basic income reduces the poverty rate and income inequalities, eliminates the need for many other government supplemental programs and doesn’t reduce the motivation to work; it increases it. A guaranteed income program can only bring upside to those who receive it, so I intended to find that effect on one of the 150 who had received Evanston’s program and tell their story.

I couldn’t.

Not because there wasn’t anyone who had benefited from the program but because I couldn’t find them. As it turns out, that’s a good thing.

Evanston meant to protect recipients’ identities – remember, some were undocumented. But the Freedom of Information Act, a law that requires disclosure of previously unreleased or uncirculated information and passed in part so citizens could better understand the uses of their tax dollars, meant that there was only so much they could do.

Fortunately, Northwestern’s involvement and contribution to the fund that provided the payments, along with work from Lin, Mackevicius and Fuller, ensured the secureness of recipients’ information.

I value good journalism; it’s what I want to do after I finish school. When I came up with the idea for this article, I was trying to do good journalism.

All of that without thinking about why some things are private, to begin with. That zeal, while well-intentioned, can have dangerous consequences.

Who knows how the lives of the undocumented recipients would have changed if I had successfully procured the list of names to have applied for the program and made that information public? Who knows how the attitudes of friends and family would have changed if they had seen the names of a friend or family member on that list?

That’s no longer something that I want to know the answer to.

Making public that list wouldn’t have been holding anyone accountable, and it wouldn’t have been doing good journalism either. Good journalism doesn’t hurt people who don’t deserve it, and holding the Evanston City Council accountable would have been reporting on the research once it came out.

Releasing those names could have done untold damage to those names. Unintended, yes. Initially unforeseen, yes. But still damage. That’s not something I want to be responsible for.

I wanted to tell the stories of whatever names happened to be on that list. Part of me still does. But if they’re willing to share that information, they deserve the opportunity to tell their own story, not have it forced upon them by someone who hasn’t ever needed universal basic income and likely won’t.

It’s part of my job on The Evanstonian to amplify voices that want to be heard. Not fabricate them. Not pressure anyone uncomfortable with their story into sharing it. Amplify those voices.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Evanstonian
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of the Evanstonian. We are planning a big trip to the Journalism Educators Association conference in Boston in November 2022, and any support will go towards making that trip a reality. Contributions will appear as a charge from SNOSite. Donations are NOT tax-deductible.

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Mack Jones, Opinion Editor, Digital Content Editor
Hi! My name is Mack Jones, and I’m the Opinion and Co-Digital Editor on The Evanstonian. This is my second year on staff; last year, I was a staff writer, primarily for News. Outside of the paper, I play tennis, guitar and piano and referee for AYSO.
Sam Froum, A&E Editor
Hi, I’m Sam Froum (he/him), and I’m the Editor of A&E and Photo & Art. This is my third year on staff; previously I was the assistant editor of A&E and a staff writer. I write for the Evanstonian because it allows me to become a better writer and provides opportunities for collaboration with other students. I also run cross country and track and participate in Wildkit Buddies. Outside of school, I like to draw, run and watch TV.
Donate to The Evanstonian
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Evanstonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *