CHICAGO (September 29, 2021) – Today Chicago Public Media, Chicago’s largest public media organization and home to NPR news source WBEZ Chicago, and the Chicago Sun-Times, the “hardest-working paper in America” and Chicago’s oldest continuously published daily newspaper in the city, announced they have signed a non-binding letter of intent while they explore joining together as one organization to grow and strengthen local journalism in Chicago.
Upon reaching a final agreement, Chicago Sun-Times would become a subsidiary of Chicago Public Media, to create one of the largest local nonprofit news organizations in the nation and be a national model for the future of local journalism. The two news brands, WBEZ and Sun-Times, would continue to serve their respective audiences.
“This opportunity arrives at an urgent time for local journalism, as newsrooms across the country and in our own region are being diminished or disappearing altogether amid significant disruption in traditional news business models,” said Matt Moog, interim CEO of Chicago Public Media. “Local journalism has never been more important, nor has it ever been at greater peril, and this has the potential to be both a light and a hope for Chicago news. Community-centered, independent, inclusive and representative, fact-based journalism is a public good that contributes to a healthy democracy and stronger communities.”
Chicago Public Media and the Chicago Sun-Times are exploring this opportunity with a shared vision of making a deeper impact on millions of Chicagoans by investing in local journalism. This combination would create and secure growth opportunities for journalists and staff.
“Chicago is an innovator in and across many industries. Nothing precludes it from being an innovator in journalism, too, and I am excited about the chance to establish a new model of local journalism in Chicago for many years to come,” said Nykia Wright, CEO of the Chicago Sun-Times. “This would allow us to invest in our people, improve the news products we create, and strengthen our digital future.”
As one organization, Chicago Public Media and the Chicago Sun-Times would invest in journalism through expanded capacity to better serve Chicago; expand and engage with diverse audiences throughout the region; and expand digital capabilities to deliver a compelling digital experience across platforms and reach audiences where they are. Once together, the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ would reach millions of Chicago area residents, connecting them to each other and to the news that impacts their communities.
“Chicago Public Media’s mission is ‘to serve and inform the public and connect diverse audiences by telling stories that matter, that provoke thought, entertain, capture emotion and inspire action,’” said Tracy Brown, chief content officer for Chicago Public Media. “Together we will better serve our mission with journalism that is human-centered, solutions-oriented and transformational, but reach more people whose lives our work greatly impacts. We talk a lot about building a more empathetic Chicago. This is an opportunity to do just that.”
As leading news brands in Chicago with dedicated and loyal audiences, WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times would broaden their impact by sharing content from both newsrooms across more platforms – broadcast, print, websites, podcasts, newsletters, mobile apps, social media, and community engagement and live events.
Along with appealing directly to the audience to support local nonprofit journalism through donations, Chicago Public Media will partner with philanthropic organizations and individuals to seek their support, Moog noted.
In addition to Sun-Times investor Michael Sacks, other organizations who have stepped forward with early and enthusiastic support are the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Pritzker Traubert Foundation.
“This will be a new model of local nonprofit journalism, and we anticipate support for this initiative through the generosity of philanthropy, individuals and organizations who share the same belief in journalism’s role in having an informed citizenry, connected community and healthy democracy,” said Moog.
“The primary goal of every Sun-Times investor has been to strengthen and secure the future of the paper. The right transaction with Chicago Public Media can do that by creating a strong and sustainable Sun-Times for the journalists and for Chicago,” said Jorge Ramirez, Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Sun-Times. “The current ownership remains committed to the Sun-Times and is proud of the progress that the Sun-Times has made. A successful partnership with Chicago Public Media would further secure the future and the Board would be pleased to see that happen.”
The letter of intent was approved by Chicago Public Media’s Board of Directors and follows rigorous exploration by its Board of Directors and leadership, as well as the Chicago Sun-Times’ owners and management team, that will continue through the diligence process prior to any transaction taking place. The Lenfest Institute for Journalism has served as a probono advisor to Chicago Public Media.
As part of this news, the Chicago Public Media Board of Directors is naming Moog as CEO of Chicago Public Media, effective immediately, and Wright will remain CEO of the Chicago Sun-Times.
“The Chicago Public Media Board of Directors is overwhelmingly supportive and deeply enthusiastic about this partnership,” said Board Chair Piyush Chaudhari. “It is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create an essential new asset for Chicago – bringing together two of the city’s most respected news organizations to establish a new model of local nonprofit journalism that is entirely focused on serving the public good here in Chicago and our region.”
About Chicago Public Media and WBEZ Chicago
Chicago Public Media is home to WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR news source and one of the largest and most respected public media stations in the country, as well as urban alternative music station, Vocalo. The organization serves the community with fact-based, objective news and information. WBEZ’s award-winning journalists ask tough questions, dig deep for answers and expose truths that spark change and foster understanding. In addition to its local and national news programming, WBEZ Chicago is home to a growing portfolio of popular podcasts, including the “Making” series of Making Beyoncé, Making Obama and Making Oprah; an investigative podcast series, Motive; 16 Shots: A podcast about the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald; Nerdette; and Curious City. WBEZ Chicago has a legacy of innovation as the birthplace of nationally acclaimed programs such as This American Life, and Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and the ground-breaking podcast, Serial.
About the Chicago Sun-Times
Winner of eight Pulitzer Prizes, the Chicago Sun-Times features hard-hitting investigative reporting, in-depth political coverage, timely behind-the-scenes sports analysis, and insightful entertainment and cultural coverage. The Sun-Times is owned by a coalition of businesspeople, philanthropists and labor organizations that is committed to keeping Chicago one of the world’s most vibrant cities for quality journalism.