What 100K Can Do for Civic Journalism in Chicago

Ensuring that growth is sustainable and accountable to the people

First, the news: We’re thrilled to announce that City Bureau has received a $100,000 grant from the Voqal Foundation to continue its work creating equitable, community-centered coverage on Chicago’s South and West Sides. This comes on the heels of a generous $75,000 grant from the McCormick Foundation, an early supporter of City Bureau.

With these grants, Voqal and McCormick renew their commitment to supporting media that is from and for the public. We feel lucky to spend our days building an innovative model for participatory journalism by supporting the work of emerging, diverse and civically engaged journalists in Chicago—and we’re grateful for the financial support needed to continue that work.

Growing Our Team

We believe in paying people for their time and efforts, whether that’s making journalism, hosting community-centered events or serving as on-the-ground watchdogs in their community. Since City Bureau has started, we’ve devoted the vast majority of our funds to our programming, while relying on a small group of dedicated volunteers to manage administrative work. But with the success of our programs, we believe it’s time to grow—to take our proven strategies to a larger and larger audience.

Most immediately, operational funding from Voqal will allow our organization to hire two of City Bureau’s four co-founders, Andrea Hart (community engagement director) and Darryl Holliday (editorial director), to strategically expand our programming. As our organization expands, we hope to add more full- and part-time staff to help us grow and manage the burgeoning City Bureau network. Full-time employees like Darryl and Andrea ensure that growth will happen quickly and efficiently—while also pursuing more avenues of funding that will support even further expansion of our programs.

Speaking of expanding our programs: Journalists in our 10-week Reporting Fellowship are paid $15 to $20 an hour to produce local, community-centered reporting while mentoring young Chicago media-makers. Likewise, our Chicago-based Documenters program pays hourly for local community members to attend, record and disseminate information from public meetings, and our Public Newsroom pays a $50 stipend to our guest speakers and workshop hosts.

These numbers add up, but so do the public benefits. Since our launch in October 2015, our reporters have produced over 70 articles and mentored more than 70 youth mediamakers; City Bureau Documenters have completed 50 assignments; and our Public Newsroom has drawn hundreds of attendees to our South Side newsroom for inclusive dialogue, collective joy and skill-sharing events.

Sharing Our Knowledge

Additional staff and funds will also help us create a project we’ve long envisioned—creating a City Bureau Handbook that will document our programs, successes, stumbles, and everything in between. We firmly believe that the people at City Bureau are producing some of the most innovative work in local journalism; not just the content, but the different outreach strategies, including ways to talk to our audience while keeping our community involved in our work every step of the way.

That’s great if you’re hanging out at our newsroom (6100 South Blackstone Avenue) a few times a week (and hey, if you can, you should!) but we don’t want it to stop there. So we’re embarking on the Handbook project to create a wiki-style guide to building a civic journalism lab, based on the lessons learned at City Bureau, in your own city or town. Have specific questions you want answered or sections of the wiki that you want to make sure get written? Just let us know.

We believe that foundations have a critical role to play in maintaining the integrity and promise of a free press—but we believe sustainable business models and individual support are in the public’s best interest when it comes to funding a media landscape that is equitable, diverse, inclusive and robust.

We need your support most of all. If this is the kind of media you want, let’s build it together.


For more on Voqal and the amazing group of organizations that were awarded grants along with City Bureau, please visit their website (below):

The Voqal Fund is pleased to announce six new grants to organizations working in the Chicago area to enhance the community and strengthen social equity. The grants to Chicago Filmmakers (Chicago Digital Media Production Fund), BYP100, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, City Bureau, State Innovation Exchange (SiX) and Illinois Humanities reflect Voqal Fund’s commitment to support progressive movements for social change.
Learn more about the work of the Voqal Fund by visiting the Voqal Fund webpage.