Erika Rosenberg shares journey from DI reporter to CEO

By Aidan Sadovi, Assistant News Editor

Memories of the ’80s always appear a bit hazy — often due to the cigarette smoke.    

Erika Rosenberg, although she claims her memory to be a bit fuzzy, remembers the first time she stepped foot in The Daily Illini newsroom in the ’80s. 

“It was a gritty place,” Rosenberg said.

Dirty ashtrays littered the room, and, through the haze, Rosenberg could see student journalists with the “coarse and hard-bitten” quality of grizzled newsroom veterans beyond their years. 

Needless to say, Rosenberg was “terrified,” but also fascinated. 

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Rosenberg, once a business major, would succumb to the newspaper itch and switch to journalism, working at The Daily Illini from 1987 to 1991. She would go on to become a campus crime reporter before rising through the ranks to become campus editor and, eventually, The Daily Illini’s editor-in-chief. 

“The paper was really a big part of my college experience,” Rosenberg said. “I obviously attended class and ended up graduating, although, to some extent by the skin of my teeth, because I really just devoted a lot of my time and energy to The Daily Illini.”

In her sophomore year, Rosenberg dove into one of the University’s more insular circles by going undercover at a sorority rush. 

“(Back in those days) The Daily Illini was definitely perceived as anti-Greek,” Rosenberg said. “And it probably was, and I was definitely leaning in that direction. It would be overstating it to call it an exposé, I suppose, but I went through the initial stages of the sorority process.” 

Rosenberg also covered the case of a rapist on campus in the late ’80s. She associated this undertaking with the same double-barreled feeling that plunged her into journalism in the first place: “terrifying and fascinating.” 

Through this story, Rosenberg reported on the first instance of DNA fingerprinting being used in an Illinois court.

“It was very heady stuff, that’s for sure,” Rosenberg said about the story. 

The path that started at The Daily Illini would wind through Arkansas, as Rosenberg would work at the Spectrum Weekly, an alternative paper in Little Rock.

After a year, the Spectrum was shuttered. 

“So right away in my career, as everybody was, (I was) faced with the decline of the industry,” Rosenberg said. 

After working at several papers in Little Rock, Rosenberg moved to Rochester, New York and worked for the Democrat and Chronicle, a newspaper owned by the Gannett Co. Inc. for a total of six years. 

She would move on to become a statehouse reporter in Albany for the Gannett news service. In this role, she would compete in a crowded pool with other papers like The New York Times, jockeying to get the news in one of the most influential states in America.

“It was definitely kind of next level stuff for me, and I really, really enjoyed it and learned a lot,” Rosenberg said.  

Her time in Albany sharpened her interest in policy and its analysis, which — coupled with skills in interviewing, writing and data analysis — would prepare her for an almost 20-year stint at the Rochester-based Center for Governmental Research. 

The CGR, an organization Rosenberg has been CEO of since 2019, specializes in data research and consultation that provides clients with information to make smart decisions and promote community collaboration. 

Rosenberg pointed to the role that the CGR played in Rochester’s racial equity effort as an area of pride. 

In the wake of George Floyd’s killing, as well as the killing of Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old black man killed by police in Rochester in 2020, the CGR worked with the Rochester-Monroe County Commission on Racial and Structural Equity and provided them with a lengthy set of recommendations to better serve the community. Some of these recommendations have made progress, while others have yet to be implemented, Rosenberg said.

The center also recommended a process for certifying minority- and women-owned businesses that local government has since implemented, because New York’s process has been “backlogged” and “choked,” Rosenberg said.  

“And so there were a few 100 businesses in our town that were able to get quick certification and, you know, hopefully that really helps kind of uplift at least a segment of people of color in our community economically,” Rosenberg said. 

Looking back, the skills Rosenberg developed and grew at The Daily Illini have been the foundation for her career, she said. 

The skepticism, for one — Rosenberg recalls a coworker remarking about her propensity to question in a workplace personality assessment. 

Rosenberg, with her years of experience, let her coworker in on a journalist’s favorite maxim: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” 


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