Southwest Michigan Second Wave ushers in 2023 with new editorial management

Southwest Michigan's Second Wave, the region’s longest-running weekly online news magazine, announces a change in editorial leadership. Kathy Jennings, founding Managing Editor and former Kalamazoo Gazette section editor, will assume a new role as Executive Editor for parent organization Issue Media Group (IMG), and Theresa Coty O’Neil, former Second Wave Project Editor will become the publication’s Managing Editor, starting immediately.

Jennings will continue to serve as Project Editor for Second Wave’s successful local housing series, A Way Home, as well as be Second Wave’s liaison for the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative, a collaborative convened by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation that brings together 13 local news outlets who are currently focused on covering stories related to regional mental health. As an IMG Executive Editor, Jennings will mentor and provide training for managing editors of other Issue Media Group outlets around the state and provide editorial direction through the company's Editors Council.

Founding Managing Editor Kathy Jennings will be transitioning to a new role.Jennings has grown the publication from its early beginnings when she wrote nearly all the stories to magazine with a freelance staff of seven regular writing contributors and three photographers. Along the way, the On the Ground program was introduced in 2017, which focused on lifting the voices of those often left out of other media and training neighborhood reporters. There also was the expansion of coverage in Battle Creek in 2018 and the introduction of the Voices of Youth program. From its unique look inside the region's nonprofits to features on the entrepreneurs and neighborhood leaders and its ongoing focus on matters of equity, Second Wave takes a weekly lens toward those moving the region forward.


"I had a full career, 25 years, at the Kalamazoo Gazette before Issue Media group hired me to launch Second Wave. Starting up a new publication and helping it grow over the past 13 years took all that journalism experience and stretched me to use skills I did not know I had. I am so proud of the many things that Second Wave has become.

"I asked a lot from our staff, which is all freelance, during COVID. We went from a weekly to an almost daily publication during that time because there was such a demand for local news regarding the pandemic. Jane Parikh Simons and Al Jones especially delivered all they had during the height of COVID. 

Paul Schutt, co-CEO of Issue Media Group"I am also proud of the work we have recently on affordable housing and the solutions being found for the unhoused in Kalamazoo County. Mark Wedel's interviews with those coming out of the experience of being unhoused help fill out the human side of the spectrum of the housing crisis that is happening across the nation. 

"I can't wait to see where Theresa leads Second Wave in the future," Jennings says. "She was our first On the Ground reporter and is well versed in the priorities and mission of solutions journalism and lifting up untold stories from  that are at the heart of Second Wave."

Paul Schutt, IMG's co-Chief Executive Officer, has worked with Jennings since the start of Southwest Michigan Second Wave and says he is pleased she will continue to share her editorial expertise with the organization.

“Kathy has been a remarkable leader of our work in SWMSW for over a decade. She has helped launch new ideas and approaches to the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek media landscape by bringing On The Ground, Voices of Youth, and an important housing series to Kalamazoo, as well as played an vital role in supporting the launch of the solutions journalism collaborative in Kalamazoo,” says Schutt. 

“We have admired her work so much that we are now asking for more of her leadership at IMG as we continue expanding into new communities and launching more innovative programs. We are grateful for her thoughtfulness, care, and professionalism,” says Schutt. “We are also very excited that Theresa will be leading SWSW and many of the local programs in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek.”

Looking ahead

“As a longtime contributor to Second Wave, I’m thrilled to assume this role of stewarding the magazine through its next evolution,” says Coty O’Neil. “To elevate positive, newsworthy stories, Second Wave covers the people, organizations, and events that define our community. And we do it in long form, a rarity in today’s local journalism sphere, which allows writers to delve deeply and creatively into a story.

Theresa Coty O'Neil is Southwest Michigan Second Wave's new Managing Editor.“Plus, I’ve inherited a phenomenal team of writers and photographers, some of the best in the area. The team includes both fresh voices and those who offer a wealth of local institutional knowledge and have avid followers. I’m excited about 2023 and the new stories we’ll share with our readers.”

A Stellar Reporting, Photography, and Community Engagement Team

The Southwest Michigan editorial team includes award-winning, experienced journalists and photographers.  Al Jones, the former Business editor of the Kalamazoo Gazette, applies his longtime local business knowledge to his position as the On the Ground Project Editor and as a housing and business reporter. Jane (Simons) Parikh, former Kalamazoo Gazette and Battle Creek Enquirer reporter, is highly-regarded for her coverage as the Battle Creek On the Ground Project Editor; Mark Wedel, whose arts and people-focused coverage, and in-depth knowledge on all things bicycle-related, has garnered a loyal following; Rosemary Parker, a highly-respected writer and editor in Southwest Michigan for over 40 years and whose coverage ranges across the state;  Channon Mondoux, our in-house food expert, chef,  author and historian who brings a wealth of knowledge to all food-related stories; Casey Grooten, one of Second Wave’s newer writers who are passionate about the arts, transgender rights, social justice, and equity; and various freelance writers who provide pieces for publication throughout the year. We will also be welcoming new writers in 2023, like Natasha Robinson.

Our Kalamazoo photographers include Fran Dwight, a well-regarded local photographer whose iconic images uniquely capture the people and places of Southwest Michigan, Taylor Scamehorn, an interdisciplinary Kalamazoo-based artist, who has been taking photos for Second Wave since 2019, and in Battle Creek, John Grap, longtime and award-winning photojournalist, formerly with the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Southwest Michigan Second Wave also has two Community Engagement Specialists who serve as the movers and shakers behind all our outreach including Voices of Youth and Editorial Advisory Meetings, Vicky Kettner (Kalamazoo) and Jeff Cotton (Battle Creek).

Southwest Michigan Second Wave helps fill a gap in local news coverage

With the shrinking of local newspaper coverage 12 years ago when massive layoffs for local newspapers hit, Southwest Michigan Second Wave was a pioneer in local, solutions-oriented journalism, stepping in to fill the void with in-depth long-form stories that highlight the unique spirit and positivity of Southwest Michigan. The news magazine model, which has proven successful, now has 13 publications around Michigan, including Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Flint, all of which provide highly respected independent news coverage. 

In Michigan, there now exist 13 IMG publications, including a Rural Innovation eXchange (RIX), which launched in February 2022, RIX will focus on the innovation, talent, entrepreneurship, social innovation, and community development taking place in rural Michigan and feature the work of rural talent and content creators.

“We are not only strong believers in covering the stories of today but also are invested in planting seeds for the next generation of reporters,” says Coty O’Neil, “which is why we train community contributors and youth to tell the stories about their communities they think are important to tell.”

Issue Media Group

Incorporated in 2005 in Detroit, Issue Media Group (IMG) publishes weekly online magazines leveraging the power of solutions-based and narrative journalism. IMG’s publications aim to connect readers to their city’s most visionary and active people, businesses, and organizations – increasing the openness, aesthetics, and social offerings of communities. IMG works with like-minded stakeholders who have shared values and missions through an underwriting model of publishing. IMG journalists engage the community through regular editorial advisories, events, and conversations to build trusted relationships with leaders and residents that shape the community’s unique stories.

What is solutions-oriented journalism?

Traditional news reporting tends to focus on conflict and problems. A dozen years ago, two New York Times journalists, David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg started a column that featured solutions and examined whether those solutions worked once they were implemented. Little did they know that a new form of journalism would grow from their work and become known as solutions journalism. As a complement to the watchdog and investigative role of some news outlets, solutions journalism focuses on the responses to social issues, not just the problems themselves, and examines why these solutions may be working or not working. 

Southwest Michigan Second Wave, and IMG, publish stories that are solutions-oriented and narrative as a way to tell stories in our community that highlight both what is working and what more might be done.

Southwest Michigan Second Wave Funders

Southwest Michigan Second Wave would not be able to do our impactful work without our supportive partners, listed below by market:

Kalamazoo:

Kalamazoo Community Foundation
City of Kalamazoo
Stryker Johnston Foundation
ENNA Foundation
Fetzer Institute
LISC Kalamazoo
Harold and Grace Upjohn Foundation
Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo County Government
Kalamazoo County Land Bank
Foundation for Excellence in Kalamazoo
United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region

Battle Creek:

Battle Creek Community Foundation
BC Unlimited
BINDA Foundation
Calhoun County Government
Calhoun County Convention and Visitors Bureau
City of Battle Creek
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Miller Foundation
Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi
United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region
Summit Pointe Battle Creek


2023: Another great year  to come of in-depth news

Southwest Michigan Second Wave 2023 projects cover a wide range of issues important to our community, all with the intention of uplifting resident voices. These include A Way Home (housing), On the Ground (urban core neighborhoods), Mental Health (through Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative), Voices of Youth Kalamazoo and Battle Creek (training and publication of young journalists), and ongoing coverage of arts, culture, sustainability, equity, education, health, technology, business, disability, important events, and programs that capture the unique spirit of Southwest Michigan.

IMG’s work has been recognized and supported by leading journalism organizations nationally, including INC Magazine, Knight Foundation, Facebook, Lenfest Institute, Google, Solutions Journalism Network, Ground Source, and both Ohio and Michigan Society for Professional Journalists.

At a time across the nation when 2,100 local newspapers have closed, 1,800 communities are without a local news source, and 60% of journalism jobs no longer exist, Second Wave is proud to be an independent journalism source in Southwest Michigan. We appreciate your support of our ongoing coverage. Please connect if you or your organization are interested in partnering, subscribing or sharing local story ideas.