Dignity & Respect champion Jonas Chaney gives voice to city’s unheard stories

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Jonas Chaney

Growing up in Chicago, Jonas Chaney found himself bit by the radio bug at the young age of 12. “I heard the announcer, and I thought, ‘I could do that. That’s what I want’,” remembers Chaney. It took him just five years to get there.

He started in radio at 17, while still in high school. Soon his passion for communications, bolstered by his Masters in Journalism, branched out to include television. It was there that Chaney hit his stride and it appears his calling as well. As the Public Affairs Director at WPXI he produces two shows, Impact and Talking Pittsburgh, both of which discuss issues of importance in the various diverse communities of Greater Pittsburgh.

“I have a very rewarding job. A lot of the stations in the country do not have a public affairs director. I’m happy to have the Position,” Chaney says. He continues, “I can delve into areas that highlight non-profits and feature stories from people who aren’t always heard from. I can tell people’s stories that otherwise wouldn’t be out there. Sometimes the news department will pick up stories I have on the public affairs shows and do further reporting on them, exposing these people and nonprofits to an even wider audience.”  Impact has featured shows on such varied topics as Muslim faith in Pittsburgh and POISE, an African American foundation focused on building sustainable black communities. Talking Pittsburgh has given voice to Community Options, an employment service for people with disabilities.

Carole Cohen was a coworker of Chaney’s at INROADS/Pittsburgh, a former local affiliate of the organization that trains and develops African-American, Latino, Native Americans and other minorities for corporate careers. She nominated Chaney as a Dignity & Respect Champion. While working at INROADS, Chaney lent his talents as a producer and editor for many projects. Cohen says, “He lent his talents for these projects on his personal time. He also connected people to his vast network, helping them to further their causes. He still does that. As an advocate for many, he makes Pittsburgh a better, stronger place for all its residents. He achieves this by dispelling stereotypes, introducing people from diverse communities and showcasing the best the region has to offer.”

When asked how he feels about being recognized as a Dignity & Respect Champion, Chaney says he is “Very happy, I didn’t expect it. I recognize the importance of treating people well. It is the first step in opening people’s eyes to the need to be more inclusive, and that can only make life better for everyone. We should all see what we can do to give help and a voice to those who need it.”

The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. A Dignity & Respect Champion is someone―nominated by a co-worker, family member, or friend―who embraces diversity, embodies compassion, and demonstrates mutual respect. For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit dignityandrespect.org.

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