A project of Democracy Fund

Chicago


Why Supporting Local News in Chicago Matters

In Chicago, a pattern of interwoven investments and commitments in the local news community as a collaborative has yielded what Columbia Journalism Review called “America’s news lab”: “In a city with a long history of public corruption and systemic racism, the stakes are high. Residents of marginalized communities often don’t see themselves reflected in mainstream news coverage, and it can be hard for advertising-dependent ethnic or neighborhood-based outlets to survive. But new organizations are rising in response to this need, determined to counter longtime media blind spots and better cover the city as a whole.”

In 2017 and 2018, our research on the city’s media community showed that “Chicago’s local news and information ecosystem is at a pivotal point in its evolution and growth. New collaborations, experiments and a bevy of talented and innovative leaders have brought new energy and attention to Chicago, as well as new ideas about how to tackle the history of inequality and segregation in the city and its media ecosystem.” Our local consultants Sheila Solomon and Andrea Hart recommended: “The first step is to work together on a shared vision for the future.”

What the Ecosystem Supports

Democracy Fund has supported several of the efforts propelled by the local news ecosystem in Chicago, including:

  • City Bureau, a nonprofit civic journalism lab founded in 2015 and based on Chicago’s South Side that focuses on equipping residents to create change with the information that they have, through its public-meeting Documenters and Public Newsroom programs, among others.
  • The Chicago Independent Media Alliance via the Chicago Reader, and the preparations around developing this collaborative, now comprised of more than 40 for-profit and nonprofit newspapers, podcasts, magazines, and more across the city serving diverse communities.
  • A partnership among the Field and MacArthur Foundations, based in Chicago, to address local news and information needs locally with a focus on organizations led by people of color. 

Contact Democracy Fund at localnewslab@democracyfund.org and sign up for the Local Fix, a weekly newsletter about big ideas for local newsrooms.