In the United States, 25% of newspapers have ceased operation and 2,000 community newspapers have closed in the past 15 years.
The Chicago area has been no stranger to the devastation – we have watched as our two major daily newspapers undergo dramatic contraction. The vacuum created when local journalism declines poses a serious threat to democracy, which relies on a free press to provide the reporting that enables citizens to make informed decisions. A free press also provides critical oversight of our governing institutions.
But at the same time that “legacy media” struggle to survive, innovative news organizations are springing up. In the Chicago area alone, dozens of hyperlocal news sources have been established, many of them as non-profit organizations, like the Evanston RoundTable, which became a nonprofit news outlet in 2020. And the Chicago metropolitan area may be the site for one of the largest experiments yet in nonprofit news with the proposed merger of Chicago Public Media and the Chicago Sun-Times.
Join us on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. as the Evanston RoundTable convenes an online webinar panel of experts on the local and national news ecosystem to discuss the challenges facing local news. The event will be a fundraiser in support of the RoundTable’s fall NewsMatch campaign. We hope you will decide to support our work.
Charles Whitaker is dean and professor at Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communication, and a member of the RoundTable board of directors. Before joining the Medill faculty, Whitaker was a senior editor at Ebony magazine, where he covered a wide range of cultural, social and political issues and events on four continents, including two U.S. presidential campaigns and the installation of the first black members of the British Parliament. He has received commendations for his work from a number of journalism societies, including the National Association of Black Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists and National Education Writers Association.
Tracy Baim is president and co-publisher of the Chicago Reader and founder of the Chicago Independent Media Alliance. She is co-founder and former publisher of Windy City Times. Baim received the 2013 Chicago Headline Club Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2014, she was inducted into the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the Association for Women Journalists-Chicago Chapter Hall of Fame in 2018. She is also in the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. She has won numerous LGBTQ community and journalism honors, including the Community Media Workshop’s Studs Terkel Award in 2005. Baim has written and/or edited 13 books.
Laura Washington is a Chicago Sun-Times columnist and political analyst for ABC-7 Chicago. Laura has more than two decades of award-winning experience as a non-profit professional and multi-media journalist. She specializes in African-American affairs, local and national politics, race and racism and social justice, and served as a 2015 Visiting Fellow at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.
Previously, Laura was editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, a nationally recognized investigative monthly specializing in racial issues and urban affairs. She also served as deputy press secretary to Mayor Harold Washington and worked as a producer for the investigative unit at CBS-2/Chicago.
Tim Franklin is senior associate dean at Medill and John M. Mutz Chair in Local News. He is helping to lead the Medill Local News Initiative, a research-and-development project designed to bolster the sustainability of local news in America.
Tim is the former president of the Poynter Institute, a leading international school for journalists and a media think tank. He has been the top editor of three metropolitan newspapers – the Indianapolis Star, Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun.