The Moment

The connection between the decline of local news and the growing threats to democracy, from increasing polarization to the spread of disinformation, is well documented. To protect American democracy and make progress on other critical issues, from climate change to identity-based discrimination to wealth inequity, we need an informed public that understands the facts.

Chicago is fortunate to have a robust and diverse news ecosystem serving Chicagoans across the region. But many of these outlets are underfunded. Newsroom leaders are working hard to diversify their income sources, and additional resources are needed to acquire and implement the latest strategies and tools for sustainability.

We want to be part of the solution, and we invite you to join us.

Press Release: Press Forward Chicago Launches with $10 Million in Commitments to Revitalize Local News

Crain’s Chicago Business: New Local News Initiative Gets $10M, Partly from Some of Chicago’s Biggest Foundations

Nieman Lab: To Turn $500 Million into $1 Billion, Press Forward Looks to the Local Level

What is Press Forward Chicago?

A local affiliate of Press Forward—a national initiative led by the MacArthur Foundation to raise unprecedented resources to revitalize local news, supercharge proven solutions to the local news crises, and close longstanding inequities in journalism coverage and practice.

The national initiative launched in September 2023 and has raised over $500 million.

The Context

Around the country, community news funds are being established to provide ongoing support for local news outlets and to coordinate additional funding and newsroom collaboration.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust are raising funds to launch Press Forward Chicago, to offer philanthropic leaders, civic-minded individuals, and regional foundations the opportunity to pool their dollars to support a robust network of independent news outlets that are serving the information needs of Chicago’s diverse communities. 

In addition to MacArthur and the Trust, Press Forward Chicago donors include the Amy Falls and Hartley Rogers Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, and the Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation.

The Opportunity: Chicago’s News Oasis

Dozens of independent media outlets serve the varied information needs and interests of Chicago’s diverse communities and neighborhoods. They range from storied alt-weeklies like Chicago Reader, to digital start-ups like Block Club Chicago, to hyperlocal outlets like Evanston Roundtable and Cicero Independiente. Many of these outlets belong to the Chicago Independent Media Alliance and together reach a majority of Chicago’s residents. These outlets serve the unique and urgent information needs of their audiences, work to hold power to account, and strive to provide a more nuanced and complete story about the city and its people.

While Chicagoans have a special connection to their legacy news sources, they are also turning to hyperlocal media. Philanthropy has an important role to play to ensure that relied-upon news outlets make a successful conversion to the digital age and that newer outlets can grow their audiences.

Investment Priorities

The goal of Press Forward Chicago is to help sustain a thriving local news ecosystem that serves the information needs of Chicago’s diverse residents. Core investment priorities include:

  • Funding essential activities that focus on the business of news to lower the cost of doing business and create new sources of revenue.

  • Supporting leadership success to nurture and level up news entrepreneurs, executives, and senior managers to operate newsrooms in a rapidly evolving environment.

  • Incentivizing editorial and publishing collaborations to promote better and fuller news coverage that identifies interconnections across the city and ensures audiences have access to stories from a range of sources and perspectives.

Intended Outcomes

For newsrooms, we are fostering stronger, economically stable organizations that can maximize available strategies and tools to serve the information needs of their communities. For Chicago, we are aiming for:

  • Every resident, regardless of where they live, to have access to multiple sources of reliable news and information.

  • Residents who will feel more empowered to participate in civic life.

  • Coverage of the region that is holistic, nuanced, and solutions-oriented.

The Invitation

We envision several points of entry for donor and funder participation and offer commensurate stewardship opportunities:

Governance & Staffing Plan

Press Forward Chicago
Sponsors

  • Give Now

    Join us in raising unprecedented resources to revitalize local news, supercharge proven solutions to the local news crises, and close longstanding inequities in journalism coverage and practice.

  • Apply for Grants

    Stay tuned for funding opportunities. Press Forward Chicago is a grantmaking initiative administered by the Trust and designed in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation and local journalism donors and practitioners.