Chicago Reporter Names Hugo Balta Executive Editor

PhotoHugo Balta with his daughter Isabella, a CTVA student at Columbia.
Adjunct faculty member and Columbia parent Hugo Balta hopes new role at "The Chicago Reporter" brings opportunities to Columbia students.

The Chicago Reporter (TCR) recently named Hugo Balta, an adjunct faculty member Columbia College Communication department, as its new executive editor. Balta – who just happens to be a Columbia parent as well – brings to his roles at The Chicago Reporter and Columbia 30-years of news experience. He has held leadership roles at NBC, CBS, ESPN, and ABC, and he is currently publisher of Illinois Latino News (ILLN), a multi-platform digital news outlet part of the Latino News Network.  

During his career and through his experiences with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists — which he led for two terms as president— Balta has mentored many young journalists. He joined Columbia last year as a natural extension of that work and has taught the Newsbeat class, in which students produce a TV news show. Balta hopes his leadership role at The Chicago Reporter will not only afford Columbia students internship opportunities with the publication but inform how and what he teaches in the Newsbeat classroom. 

“I'm integrating all of who I am and hyper-focusing on the importance of reporting that's fair and accurate by understanding the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” he says. “I am very happy to work with young journalists that are interested in not only learning the mechanics of telling a good story … but equally interested in how to integrate digital mediums in the storytelling.” 

As executive editor of The Chicago Reporter, Balta will build on his work as the publication’s associate editor. “My work has focused on drawing from the Chicago Reporter's rich journalism history and commitment to serving the community, being very mindful of the opportunities and challenges of the present as we look to author the next evolution of The Chicago Reporter, which recently celebrated 50 years,” he says.  

Since he began working with the publication in 2021, Balta has built and nurtured collaborations with potential partners in the journalism community, whether it be news outlets or colleges and universities, looking for organizations that have shared missions to focus on issues related to race, poverty, and social justice. In fact, Columbia students Aubriella Jackson and Citlalli Sotelo’s work have been published on TCR and ILLN.  

His initial priority in his new role is to help re-envision The Chicago Reporter’s newsroom, progressively bringing in resources — beginning with human capital. The goal, he says “To realize not only the investigative reporting that the Chicago reporter is historically known for, but also other initiatives in producing content that goes beyond the written word.” He hopes to create content via podcasts and videos and invest in native content for social media. 

“Increasingly audiences, especially the next generation of audiences, are gravitating to the digital platform for their news and information, and sometimes one-stop shopping in social media,” he says.  

Balta’s relationship with Columbia is part of that vision. He wants to bring talented journalism students into TCR's newsroom, where they can have a hands-on education identifying and covering impactful community stories and crafting content for multiple platforms.  

Having this veteran journalist at Columbia has already proved beneficial to Columbia journalism students who are learning about solutions journalism and the value of community-based reporting. It’s also been a win for one Cinema and Television student – his daughter Isabella.  

“Her perspective helps me better understand the students I work with in my class. In many ways, Isabella is helping me succeed as a new educator. I, in turn, offer support in her transition from high school to college. In addition, I directly help her with some of her assignments as an actor. Exploring our creative pursuits together is a gift.” 

And what does Isabella like best about having her veteran journalist father on campus. With a grin on her face, she says: “He carries my camera and tripod on the train.”