October 16, 2021

Acqua NYC

Fit And Go Forward

What’s Happening to ‘The Chicago Reporter’?

You may never have heard of The Chicago Reporter.

But Chicago—and the nation—have long felt its impact.

In 1972, John A. McDermott, who worked and marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1966 campaign for fair housing in Chicago, founded The Chicago Reporter as a watchdog to measure progress toward racial equity.

McDermott’s feisty newsletter soon became known as “the conscience of Chicago,” shining a bright light on institutional and systemic racism.

The Reporter has produced dispassionate, hard-hitting investigative reporting on issues of race and poverty over the past five decades. It’s long been lauded for punching above its weight. The Chicago Tribune once described it as the “Sugar Ray Robinson of investigative journalism,” landing “more punches on the local establishment than any other news shop in town.”

The Reporter speaks truth to the powers that be. Its independent investigative reporting has sparked changes in laws, policies, and practices in government, business, and civic institutions, benefiting communities of color in one of America’s most segregated cities. The Reporter has been recognized with more than 200 local and national awards for journalistic excellence and public service, which speak to the caliber of its work.

Yet now, as we engage in a national reckoning on race, spurred by police shootings of Black men and women and community protests, the Reporter faces an existential threat from the Community Renewal Society (CRS), the United Church of Christ–affiliated agency that publishes it. If the city’s civic leaders don’t start asking tough questions about recent managerial decisions, the Reporter could face extinction—just when its unique voice is most needed.

In September, the CRS executive director, the Rev. Waltrina N. Middleton, put the Reporter “on indefinite hiatus,” removed its editor and publisher, and announced that it would “restructure” the iconic publication.

At the time, the Reporter was stable and financially healthy. In 2019 and 2020, it received $1.7 million in grants from local and national foundations. For alumni and supporters, Middleton’s decision was mystifying.

More than 130 Reporter alumni signed on to a campaign to “Save the Chicago Reporter.” At stake are the Reporter’s editorial independence and its historic, and still badly needed, in-depth reporting and data analysis.

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