To reimagine and repair local news, democratize the journalistic process.

The speech and presentation below were delivered as the closing keynote of the 2019 Collaborative Journalism Summit in Philadelphia. Scroll to the bottom to see the group design activity based on City Bureau’s “Inform, Engage, Equip” framework. Notes from all of the Summit presentations can be found via the #collaborativej hashtag on Twitter.

This isn’t about City Bureau. This is about power.

Yours. Ours. And how we use it.

We say, “Information is power.” This is a truism — it’s obviously true but lacks definition. What we mean is, “Power is the ability to produce intended effects.”

Or, power…


Looking back at Chicago’s 1919 race riot, we’re asking Chicagoans to produce a new call to action for shaping equitable, ethical local news today.

City Bureau’s 102nd #PublicNewsroom: “Reporting on Race and Riots — 1919 to Today” (Photo: Brad Hunt)

One hundred years after Illinois’ deadliest race riot exposed how news media can exacerbate racial conflict, City Bureau is drafting a campaign to learn from past wrongs and ensure more equitable media for the future.

On April 4, 2019, we partnered with Chicago’s Newberry Library for our 102nd Public Newsroom about news coverage of the 1919 riots and what, if anything, has changed in today’s media. An intergenerational group of nearly 100 people from across the city gathered at our South Side newsroom to hear from myself (City Bureau co-founder and News Lab Director); Ethan Michaeli, author of The Defender…


Learn how City Bureau’s City Scrapers project collects public meeting information into one, searchable, easy-to-use website, in a free webinar on Feb. 7 at 1p CT—RSVP today.

Local government bodies hold thousands of public meetings every day across the country—but the vast majority receive no media coverage and produce minimal records, and they’re often spread across dozens of websites, rarely in useful data formats.

That’s why, in January, City Bureau’s News Lab unveiled Documenters.org, a new accountability web app built on a series of web scrapers that standardize and share information on public meetings, including locations, dates, times and official records. Our City Scrapers toolkit was built in and for Chicago—and has since spread to Detroit and Pittsburgh—but the problem we’re addressing exists in innumerable cities and…


Part 2: Documenters don’t identify as do-gooders, they identify as citizens.

(Photo: Sebastián Hidalgo)

On March 10, City Bureau brought together 35 enrolled Documenters to refine and build upon our groundbreaking program that is changing the nature of civic engagement. It was an overwhelming success, and if you haven’t read the “how-to” of our first-ever Documenters Summit please take a look at Part 1 of this series then come back here to see what we learned.

Who are the Documenters?

City Bureau’s 330 enrolled Documenters come from 55 of Chicago’s 77 Community Areas (i.e. neighborhoods), range from age 16 to 73, 61 percent identify as female, 33 percent identify as Black/African-American and a majority cite “I want to…


Part 1: City Bureau‘s March 10 event allowed #ChiDocumenters to collaborate with each other and give input on our groundbreaking program. Here’s how we did it.

Photos: Sebastián Hidalgo

The original idea for the Documenters Summit, like many of our best laid plans, started with a simple question: How do we create a space where our 300+ Documenters (some of the most civically engaged people in the city) can connect, collaborate and have a hand in designing our collective work?

(For those who are new to this: 👋 Our Documenters program trains and pays people to document local public meetings and engage in the production of journalism through our media lab. …


Two years in—We’re just getting started.

(City Bureau)

Earlier this month, I was asked to explain City Bureau’s “practical” impact on the local media landscape—as in how, exactly, does City Bureau “move the needle” for a city in need of big ideas, solutions and action?

I could have talked about how our #PublicNewsroom model is spreading to more local newsrooms (we’re listening) or how our Documenters program is paying and training Chicagoans to document public governance meetings (we’re out here). And I could have talked about how one of our recent stories led Chicago’s City Council to call on the Department of Public Health to testify on a…


A look back at the origins of civic participation in the U.S. and how City Bureau’s Documenters program is testing a new mode for civic engagement

Facilitators wait for the arriving crowd at the Firehouse Community Arts Center in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, the site of City Bureau’s second Town Hall forum in November 2015.

I think about public meetings often these days. They’re not the shiniest object to dwell on but, in the context of civics and journalism, they’re the crown jewel. You could argue that civics and journalism both hit their stride at the public meeting—public meetings are the bedrock of civil society and the cornerstone of good journalism. They’re the most direct and accessible mode of leveraging power in any county, city or state. …


This soon-to-be-released report, created by the Center for Media Engagement with input from City Bureau, shows the major gaps — and opportunities — in the local media ecosystem.

Attendees at City Bureau’s May 11 Public Newsroom workshop, “Who tells the story of Englewood” with Englewood-based photographer and City Bureau photojournalism fellowship alum, Tonika Johnson.

What do we mean when talk about media’s role in “reshaping the narrative”? It’s a topic we’ve tackled at City Bureau, often by “stepping up and stepping back,” i.e. stepping up to provide a platform for a diverse range of historically marginalized communities and stepping back to let others take the lead.

But whose narrative is being reshaped and why?

At City Bureau, we believe that traditional media has neglected certain parts of the city, which is why we focus on creating equitable, representative coverage of the South and West Sides*, where we often find that people feel very differently…


It’s time to build it for ourselves. Some thoughts on DNAinfo Chicago, City Bureau and the need for publicly supported media

The sheer churn of under-reported, neighborhood-level stories from DNAinfo Chicago’s dedicated, street-level reporters made it easy to forget that the model was unsustainable from the start. But, if nothing else, let this be a reminder: Billionaires can’t and will not build the local news ecosystem we need and deserve.

Stick with me for a minute — I promise this isn’t a post about what can’t be done.

I was hovering above a crowd of 200 people at City Bureau’s Soap Box Ball when I read the news about DNAinfo Chicago.

I started working at DNAinfo Chicago in 2012. It was my first professional reporting job. I was among the first batch of reporters hired on to the nascent staff, well before the site…


Notes, tweets and worksheets on envisioning a thriving media landscape, from City Bureau’s Public Newsroom #33

First things first, if you missed our Thursday, August 31, Public Newsroom, you can now listen in each week via our audio livestream (Public Newsroom Radio, anyone?). Join us live on the digital airwaves or bookmark this page for later listening: http://www.spreaker.com/user/citybureau

Last night’s workshop was a long time in the making. Our invitation to the public went like this:

Chicago media is in a moment of transition. The Chicago Sun-Times is under new ownership, local nonprofit and community news outlets are working for change on the ground as national outlets move to the city, and foundations are seeking…

Darryl Holliday

@City_Bureau co-founder and labs director | @illustrated_press maker | ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ | Do you.

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