CHICAGO (January 31, 2022) – Chicago Public Media announced today that the Chicago Sun-Times is now a nonprofit, as a subsidiary of Chicago Public Media – marking the beginning of a landmark partnership between two storied news brands, the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ Chicago, to grow and strengthen local journalism in Chicago. This creates one of the largest nonprofit news organizations in the country and the organization will reach more than 2 million Chicagoans a week.
Chicago Public Media also announced that it has raised $61 million in philanthropic support for this transformational opportunity for Chicago from national and local foundations and individual donors who share a belief in journalism’s critical role in informing the public, strengthening local communities, and safeguarding democracy.
The funding is comprised of multi-year commitments mostly pledged over a five-year period. These dollars will be directed toward investments in the Chicago Sun-Times to deepen and broaden its journalism, maintain the print newspaper, invest in a digital transformation, and support collaborations. Chicago Public Media will continue to raise funding from individual members, major donors, and corporate sponsors to provide long-term, sustainable funding for the Sun-Times.
Founding donors for this effort who have previously been announced include Sun-Times’ investor Michael Sacks, who helped secure the acquisition agreement and who has also committed significant future financial support; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and the Pritzker Traubert Foundation. New donors announced as part of the closing include Builders Initiative; Chicago Community Trust; Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation; Joyce Foundation; John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Mansueto Foundation; Robin Steans and Leonard Gail, and an anonymous donor.
“The response from the philanthropic community has been tremendous, and we are deeply indebted to this community of donors leading the way to invest in and protect journalism in Chicago,” said Matt Moog, CEO of Chicago Public Media. “With their support, our talented team will tell the stories that matter and serve more people than ever before with human-centered, solutions-oriented journalism. We aim to connect Chicagoans more deeply to each other, to their communities, and to the issues and solutions that shape their lives.”
“I am proud to have played a part in securing the future of the Chicago Sun-Times and honoring its great legacy. I would like to thank Chicago Public Media, all those who got behind this vision with their support going forward, and the Sun-Times team including all current and prior investors for making this possible. Together we have created a model for sustaining local journalism which we know is vital,” said Sacks.
Community support, through both individual memberships and philanthropy, is essential for sustaining local journalism and has long been a cornerstone of public media. For example, WBEZ is more than 60 percent listener-supported, with nearly 90,000 members making mostly modest, affordable individual donations to support WBEZ’s programming and journalism. WBEZ will continue to rely on funding from the community to sustain its day-to-day news operations, just as the Chicago Sun-Times will shift to a community-funded model.
“People are willing to support news they value and trust,” said Moog. “We hope to grow our community of members and donors who will invest in journalism from both WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times so we can expand our service and deepen our impact for the public good in Chicago.”
“We are excited about what lies ahead for this unique model of nonprofit news and raising the bar for supporting, preserving, and strengthening local journalism,” said Nykia Wright, the CEO of the Chicago Sun-Times. “This day would not have been possible without the perseverance and commitment of the Chicago Sun-Times’ staff and our Board, and tomorrow would not be possible without the support of our funders whose generosity will secure a very bright future for this team. For that, I am forever grateful.”
Now under the banner of Chicago Public Media, WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times will reach more than 2 million people a week in the Chicago area across broadcast, print, and digital channels.
Together Chicago Public Media and the Chicago Sun-Times will connect with new and diverse audiences throughout the region. They will invest in digital capabilities to deliver a compelling experience across platforms and reach audiences where they are. Also, as leading news brands in Chicago with dedicated and loyal audiences, WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times will share content from both newsrooms across more platforms – broadcast, print, websites, podcasts, newsletters, mobile apps, social media, and community engagement and live events.
Both WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times will continue to serve their respective audiences, and the newsrooms will operate separately with their own editors and maintain their editorial independence. In collaboration with Koya Partners, an executive search firm focused exclusively on mission-driven leadership, WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times each will launch a nationwide search for an Executive Editor to lead their respective newsrooms.
Today’s news follows a fall 2021 announcement that the organizations had signed a non-binding letter of intent for the Chicago Sun-Times to become a subsidiary of Chicago Public Media. Earlier in January 2022, Chicago Public Media’s Board of Directors voted to move forward with the acquisition and to establish a new nonprofit board for the governance of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Thank you to our supporters
We are grateful to our founding donors who have made this partnership possible. Here are reflections from some of our supporters on this new chapter in Chicago journalism:
“MacArthur is proud to support ‘the hardest working paper in America’ as it joins forces with one of the premiere public media organizations in the country. We are confident this deal will result in two stronger news organizations that will do a better job covering all of Chicago’s communities, and that this collaboration can serve as a national model for addressing the financial crisis in the news industry at a time when our democracy needs it most.” – John Palfrey, President, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
“The coming together of Chicago Public Media and the Chicago Sun-Times marks a historic milestone for our city and region. Journalism is an essential bulwark against misinformation and division and can be a force for good, empowering individuals and communities toward meaningful change. The Pritzker Traubert Foundation is proud to stand with Chicago Public Media and its generous supporters in this vital cause.” – Bryan Traubert, Chairman of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation and past Chair of the Chicago Public Media Board of Directors
“The Builders Initiative team is so proud to live and work in this amazing city, and it is our honor to support Chicago Public Media and its partners in their dedication to protecting this vital news organization. Ensuring that the Chicago Sun-Times can continue to deliver important local and global news falls right in line with our dedication to supporting our local communities and the Builders Vision mission to shift markets and minds for good. In order for progress and community connection to be possible, there must continue to be diverse, independent and robust dialogue on the pressing challenges we are facing right here in Chicago and across the globe. By protecting journalism in Chicago, we are helping make that possible.” – Bruce McNamer, President, Builders Initiative, the strategic philanthropy of Builders Vision, founded by Lukas Walton
“The important role that independent, local journalism plays in Chicago cannot be understated. We are pleased to support this unique media partnership, which brings together the complementary skills and reach of WBEZ and the Sun-Times to lift the diverse voices of our residents and shine a brighter light on the challenges and opportunities our region faces.” – Helene Gayle, President and CEO, The Chicago Community Trust
“Robust local journalism has never been more vital to a healthy democracy and to tackling the challenges facing our city and state. This innovative and exciting new partnership can increase the availability of credible information that Chicagoans need to make informed decisions about our future. We are proud to be supporting it.” – Ellen Alberding, President, Joyce Foundation
“As a nation, we’re experiencing a dangerous lack of trust in our institutions, our leaders and even each other. Solid local journalism can help rebuild that trust by reporting information that readers, listeners and online users can verify themselves. To function well, communities in a democracy must be informed and engaged. The partnership of the Sun-Times and WBEZ will help Chicago move in that direction.” – Alberto Ibargüen, President and CEO, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
About Chicago Public Media
About the Chicago Sun-Times
Winner of eight Pulitzer Prizes, the Chicago Sun-Times is the “hardest-working paper in America” and Chicago’s oldest continuously published daily newspaper in the city. It features hard-hitting investigative reporting, in-depth political coverage, timely behind-the-scenes sports analysis, and insightful entertainment and cultural coverage.