How does nonprofit news work?

As a 501(c)(3) organization, the RoundTable provides all of its coverage and content to readers for free online, with no paywall for anyone who visits our website. Instead, as a reader-funded news organization, we depend on donations from our readers to cover our expenses, almost all of which are to pay our hard-working reporters and editors. Reader contributions account for 85% of our annual budget. We also sell ads on our website and in our newsletter to boost our revenue. As a nonprofit organization, we legally cannot make any political endorsements for candidates or engage in advocacy for particular issues.

Do your donors get special access to information or to reporters? 

Nope! We depend on contributions from people who want to support a free local news source, but we remain an independent, nonpartisan organization. No one outside of our editorial staff influences what we cover or how we cover Evanston news. Our donors do sometimes get non-editorial perks, like being entered into a lottery for prizes during our annual fall fundraising campaign, and they also receive a special recap newsletter of our best stories from each month.

How do you avoid conflicts of interest?

We maintain a “firewall” between our editorial operations and our fundraising and ad sales. This means reporters and editors are typically not aware when individuals they cover or use as sources have also donated to the RoundTable.

How do your reporters decide what topics, events or trends to cover and what angle to approach those stories from? Who makes the ultimate decision on what the RoundTable covers? 

We are a local nonprofit community newsroom with limited resources and a very small full-time staff, which means we have to constantly weigh where our reporters’ time and attention should be spent. Unfortunately, there are always more stories out there than we have time to cover, but our editorial staff holds a collaborative meeting each week, where we discuss important news in the community, upcoming events, city meetings and long-term investigations, and we collectively decide what we have the bandwidth to cover every week. More than anything else, our coverage is motivated by what developments and news have the greatest impact on the greatest number of Evanstonians. We want to keep residents informed about things that have a daily impact on their lives and the lives of their family members, like schools, taxes, housing, new businesses, proposed developments and more. 

How do you connect to people in the community?

We’re here to make ourselves accessible to the Evanston community on an even playing field, where you can feel comfortable telling us about your experiences and sharing your story. We recognize that when you speak to one of our reporters, you are putting your trust and faith in them, and we take that responsibility very seriously. 

Our reporters are out and about in the community, meeting with everyday residents, city staffers, parents, families and elected officials. We cover city and school board meetings almost every day. If you see someone from the RoundTable, introduce yourself! We’d love to get to know you, chat about story ideas and hear feedback. 

What are your goals for your coverage?

We want to help foster an informed and engaged Evanston, and we believe that access to fair, accurate and up-to-date information is vital to the health, wellbeing and success of our community. We are here to ask our elected officials the important questions to hold them accountable, and to listen to the concerns of the public. Discourse and disagreement are key aspects of a healthy and functioning democracy, which we are here to preserve. 

How do you ensure fair and equitable coverage of Evanston’s most marginalized communities?

The RoundTable acknowledges and understands how Black, Brown, Indigenous and other communities of color have faced historic and systematic oppression at the hands of Evanston and its institutions. Our coverage aims to uplift and center the voices and experiences of those populations whenever possible, and to reflect on how our history as a city continues to impact where we are today. Evanston is fortunate to have long-standing, impactful and tight-knit communities of color and immigrant communities, and it’s our responsibility as a local news source to build connections with all of Evanston’s communities and share what is impacting them, both positively and negative.

You can read our diversity, equity and inclusion policy here. We have an ongoing commitment to diversify our Board of Directors, Advisory Committee and staff in order to better serve the Evanston community. People of color make up 33% of our Board, 26% of our Advisory Committee and 20% of our full time staff, and we plan to increase those numbers each year through strategic partnerships, fellowships, grant opportunities and other new hiring sources. 

What’s your policy on letters to the editor and guest essays?

The RoundTable welcomes comments on all sides of any issue impacting our city and its people. We love hearing from readers, and encourage a diversity of views and subjects in our letters to the editor. Here’s how to submit a letter. We will not post any letter that violates our community standards: We will not publish anything that discriminates against someone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age or ability, and we will not post letters that contain personal attacks or threats. We also generally do not publish multiple letters from the same person within the same month, so as to encourage a diversity of contributions and viewpoints.