Alumnus helps produce web series about mayoral race

By Bridget Ekis, Staff Reporter

Sean Raju released his first episode Dec. 17 approximately two months before the mayoral election. | Courtesy of Hussien Salama

Fresh off working on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) campaign for the 2018 midterms, filmmaker and Chicago resident Sean Raju returned from Boston  to cover the mayoral election in partnership with Columbia alumnus Hussien Salama.

Salama, a 2018 journalism alumnus and former colleague of Raju’s, suggested a web series because he has a background in digital media strategies.

The two teamed up to work on the web series, “Chicago’s New Boss,” in December 2018. The first epsiode was released Dec. 17, and one to two episodes have been released weekly, covering a variety of topics around the mayoral election including attack ads, profiles on candidates and the runoff election.

“The goal of this isn’t just me talking in a one-directional way to an audience,” Raju said. “It’s very much audience-informed.”

Raju hosts the show, which is a first for him since he is not used to being in front of the camera. Salama works behind the scenes, organizing shoots and editing scripts and footage.

The team has had up to three volunteers who have helped with research, writing and shoots. 

The Facebook page for the series has collected over 3,000 followers and likes since its first post in December.

All the facts in the videos are sourced from local news organizations, such as the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Reader. Each video contains citations when Raju mentions information he has pulled from a print piece.

Because Raju’s goal is to be factual and transparent, citation links are provided for viewers. When clicked, viewers are directed to a Google document with the video’s sources.

“To be a host and to be talking about this stuff publicly, I need to keep in mind that I can’t be speculating, conjecturing or going off rumors,” Raju said. “It’s very important for me to have everything I say be grounded in facts.”

According to Salama, Facebook is the series’ main source of connection to their audience.

“People want their information synthesized in this format,” he said. “They want to be more knowledgeable and more aware.”

Lincoln Park resident Stephanie Sims regularly watches the series, having found it through mutual friends who were sharing it on Facebook.

“It’s extremely informative and also entertaining and digestible,” Sims said.

Sims is able to watch or listen to it while commuting or cooking dinner. The series is more efficient than traditional news because it does not require sitting down and reading, she said.

At times, Raju can be overwhelmed by the hopeless nature of the city’s politics. But his work  on the web series has shifted his view of the election cycle.

“The more time I’ve spent covering this race [and] the more time I’ve spent talking to regular people involved in politics, the more hope I get,” Raju said.