Follow @npcommunicator on | NPCommunicator HOME | About

Fourteen New Local Reporting Awards Approved for Community News Projects on South and West Sides

Fourteen New Local Reporting Awards Approved

for Community News Projects on South and West Sides

CHICAGO – The Chicago Community Trust’s Community News Matters program approved $70,000 in Local Reporting Awards for 14 community news projects focusing on issues affecting the south and west sides of Chicago. The community news projects will highlight various issues, from realities facing the LGBTQ community within the criminal system to the effects of domestic violence and mental health on residents in the Back of the Yards community.


“The Trust is pleased to support innovative approaches to share stories written by and about the south and west side of Chicago,” said Ngoan Le, Vice President of Program at The Chicago Community Trust.  “We can all benefit learning more about issues important to these communities.”

Each project will receive $5,000 to support original reporting or data analysis. This is the second round of Local Reporting Awards, which are funded by The Chicago Community Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.  Winners this year were chosen from among proposals requested from the 31 winners of 2011 awards.

The Community Media Workshop, is administering the Local Reporting Awards program for The Chicago Community Trust and is providing social media trainings for the awardees.

“This highly evaluated project which draws on the expertise of community leaders and organizations brought to public attention a variety of new voices and impactful journalism from often under-reported neighborhoods,” said Workshop president Thom Clark.

Among the recipients of 2012 Local Reporting Awards are Health and Disability Advocates, which will document health care difficulties facing local military veterans; Latinos Progresando, which will document monologues by youth regarding Latino and American cultural perspectives; and the Neighborhood Writing Alliance, which will examine the impact of incarceration among West and South side Chicago residents. View the full list of awardees on the next page or at



Here are the recipients of the 2012 Local Reporting Awards:

  1. Chicago Reporter, to investigate Chicago’s Section 8 housing program;
  2. Windy City Times, to investigate the realties facing the LGBTQ community in the criminal legal system;
  3. In These Times, to explore participatory budgeting on Chicago’s 5th ward;
  4. Health and Disability Advocates, to document health care difficulties facing local military veterans;
  5. Bill Healy, to enhance the content and distribution of projects by fellow award winners;
  6. Kari Lydersen, to explore community impact of Southside steel site redevelopment;
  7. The Gate, to explore domestic violence and mental health in the Back of the Yards community;
  8. Latinos Progresando, to document monologues by youth regarding Latino and American cultural perspectives;
  9. Austin Talks, to produce a video documentary about homicides of Chicago youth;
  10. Carlos Javier Ortiz, to produce a video documentary of youth violence at Stroger Hospital;
  11. Neighborhood Writing Alliance, to document the impact of incarceration among West and South side Chicago residents;
  12. Kalyn Belsha, to investigate leadership support for Latina women in Chicago;
  13. Amandillo Cuzan, to produce a video documentary on Bronzeville area schools;
  14. Westside Writing Alliance, to document the impact of school reform in the Humboldt/Garfield Park area.

The Local Reporting Initiative seeks to address the shifting media landscape including the continued growth of online news sites.  It also focuses on the continued development of new channels to ensure that high-quality, civic-minded information reaches and engages theses communities.

The Local Reporting Awards are a direct response to the findings of a 2010 Community News Matters research report that discovered Chicago area residents do not feel they fully understand the region’s challenges. Residents of low-income south and west side neighborhoods were especially concerned that traditional news outlets do not cover relevant issues in their communities. The Trust’s Community News Matters program seeks to increase the flow of truthful, accurate and insightful local news and information and help the region’s cutting edge innovators develop new models for providing news and information.


NEW NEWS 2012: Tribune, Catalyst, Uptown Update ranked as Chicago’s top online news sites

The Chicago Tribune, Catalyst Chicago, Uptown Update, Time Out Chicago and Chicagoist landed the coveted #1 spots as Chicago’s best online news sites in their respective categories, according to The NEW News 2012 report released by the Community Media Workshop last week. The report ranked 51 online news sites in five categories: Citywide News (#1-Chicago Tribune); Specialty News (Catalyst); Neighborhood News (Uptown Update); Arts, Culture and Entertainment (TimeOut); and Aggregators (Chicagoist).

Key findings among the top-ranked sites include:

  • The greatest diversity in news sites, business models and news presentation is occurring within hyper-local neighborhood news.
  • The increase of online news sites does not mean an increase in the diversity of citywide news coverage. Daily newspapers are still leading for depth of news coverage.
  • Even though social media is used by all top-ranking sites, audience engagement with online news sites is “infrequent, and where it exists, it is not of high quality.”

With the decline of traditional daily newspapers and the emergence of more online news sites and blogs, The NEW News 2012 finds that Chicago’s online news ecosystem continues to grow and change since the release of the first NEW News report in 2009. Since then, at least three prominent Chicago-only news sites have come and gone, but more neighborhood news sites have emerged rapidly attracting audiences.

View the complete list of ranked sites online at The online report also includes “What I Read” profiles and videos of some Chicago’s leading journalists and communications professionals, an article on the state of suburban news, and a sidebar on ethnic media in the city. Wondering how the top sites received their winning scores? You’ll also find the report’s methodology online.

If you’d like to find contact information for all of these online news sites and more, check out our Chicago media guide. The 2013 version, available in print or online, will be out soon!

Coming soon: NEW News 2012

Here at the Workshop we’re anticipating a busy but incredibly educational summer: we are starting work on NEW News 2012, thanks to the funding of The Chicago Community Trust. As you may recall, we published rankings of online news sites in 2009 and then a list of online news outlets in 2010. We intend to return to rankings in 2012, learning from our original criteria, the changes in the field, and from an advisory board we are assembling to help guide us as we think through our work.

Over the next few days, we will be sharing with you some of the key issues we’re wrestling with as we start this project. We will likely return with a follow-up blog post or two in June or July. Our hope is that you, our readers, will share any concerns or questions you have, and suggestions for how we might do this better.

Some key changes we’re already envisioning for 2012’s NEW News:

  • We’ll rank entire publications or news organizations, not breaking out the individual reporters or bloggers that are part of those organizations separately. In prior years, we’d list or rank several bloggers from a single organization (think Lynn Sweet or Roger Ebert of the Sun-Times). This year, we are switching our focus to organizations. We anticipate this may raise some additional challenges. If you are a small news startup or solo news blogger, this shouldn’t affect you too much.
  • We will not use self-reported data to measure site traffic. Truth is, getting accurate traffic numbers from external sources is challenging, but relying upon data we didn’t collect is even more problematic. In a future post, we’ll talk about our alternatives and get your input on how we measure traffic and how much importance we should place on it.
  • We will not rank sites or publishers whose audiences are primarily based outside of the City of Chicago. This reflects a time and resource issue on our part. While the Internet may be worldwide, most readers’ news interests are very local. The reduction of beat reporters and newspaper coverage of local issues was a primary motivation for The NEW News research. Seismic shifts are going on in online news in Chicago’s suburbs, and we hope to touch on those shifts in a sidebar to the main report.
  • Along with rating the quantity and quality of a site’s news production, we will assess the ways in which the site creates community that advances a better-informed and more engaged citizenry. Look for our ideas—and our eagerness to hear your thoughts on this front—in a blog post later this summer.

We anticipate releasing our research at the Block by Block Conference, taking place in September at Loyola University.

What are your thoughts and suggestions as we begin this project? Please comment below.

Know a site we should consider? Comment here.

Have thoughts about how we’ll measure online reach? Comment here.


What do you think about digital fees at The New York Times?

If you’re a regular consumer of news, you’ve heard that The New York Times has gone where so many news outlets have failed before and put up a paywall online. Except, it’s not really a wall so much as a very narrow doorway.

Basically, visitors can read 20 articles for free each month online. Once a reader exceeds that amount, they’ll be asked to subscribe. Logically, if you’re already a print subscriber, you can get unlimited access online and on your phone. There are more in-depth details about online subscriptions on the Times’ website, but that’s the basic gist. I usually read Top News on my iPhone in the morning, and it looks like that will still remain free. However, there was a New York Times blog I also read on my phone, and now I’ll have to pay weekly for the app if I want to access that blog and other content beyond Top News.

Everyone is watching to see if one of the nation’s leading newspapers can actually begin to turn online readers into digital subscribers. As newspapers continue to navigate this shifting media landscape, the Workshop team is curious to hear your thoughts.

What do you think about the online fees? Did you subscribe to one of the digital plans? Is the cost about right, too much, or not enough?

Local reporting on Chicago’s South and West Sides gets a boost

There are a lot of untold stories about Chicago neighborhoods, especially the city’s low-income communities. But 2011 could be the year where we actually get to hear stories about the impact of federal health care reform on West and South Side residents or the plight of black men in this recession. On Monday, The Chicago Community Trust, in partnership with the Community Media Workshop and The Chicago Reporter, announced $110,000 for local reporting on issues impacting South and West Side neighborhoods.

A deeper look at youth violence, the Pilsen community’s economy, cyber-bullying among low-income youth of color, local Latinas working in the arts–these are the types of stories that received funding, and they’re the types of issues I personally look forward to hearing more about. Award winners include individuals, nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies with expertise in either journalism or Chicago’s community issues. The 31 winners were chosen from among 108 proposals.

The Workshop and The Chicago Reporter are helping the Trust administer the Local Reporting Awards, part of the Trust’s Community News Matters program, which seeks to increase the flow of truthful, accurate and insightful local news and information and help the region’s cutting edge innovators develop new models for providing news and information. It is funded by The Chicago Community Trust, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the McCormick Foundation, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and the Woods Fund of Chicago.

Sun-Times lays off some of its most prolific writers

Photo by swanksalot on

Guest post by Slats G. Galloway

The recent layoffs of five Sun-Times reporters — media and marketing columnist Lewis Lazare, book editor Cheryl Jackson, preps sportswriter Steve Tucker, sportswriter John Jackson and features reporter Misha Davenport — are just the latest paring of the Sun-Times’ editorial staff. Previous layoffs and buyouts have claimed other talented writers, including Susan Hogan/Albach, Celeste Busk, Doug Elfman, Jim Ritter, Lloyd Sachs, Michelle Stevens, Michael Gillis and Howard Wolinsky.

The losses of Lazare, C. Jackson, J. Jackson, Davenport and Tucker are big ones. Lazare and Cheryl Jackson, for instance, each wrote nearly 250 bylined articles for the Sun-Times from mid-March 2010 until mid-March 2011, and Tucker added another 174. John Jackson had 337!–the fourth most bylines of any Sun-Times writer we looked at. Lazare, Cheryl Jackson and John Jackson, in fact, were among the paper’s 12 most prolific writers during that timeframe.

In addition, the five who were laid off represented over 7.5% of all Sun-Times staffers with regular bylines in the paper. And given the writers’ high article counts over the past year, they probably represented some percentage greater than that in terms of actual output. Obviously, the paper’s entire editorial department also includes plenty of staffers who do things other than write, like photographers, editors and graphic designers. Still, we find it to be a sobering figure for those drawn to the written word.

Of course, as the Sun-Times (and all newspapers) work to adapt their business models, there is (and probably will be) a greater reliance on freelance work, including from former staffers like Steve Huntley and Esther J. Cepeda. Even so, the layoffs point to the diminishing amount of staff-generated content at the Sun-Times.

Staff changes at the Sun-Times and other outlets have been noted in our online media guide. Learn more about the new tool at

Four reasons to be hopeful for news (Guest post by Mike Fourcher)

Photo by Matt Stratton

Guest post by Mike Fourcher, co-founder and manager of some of Chicago’s great online news sites including Early and Often, Center Square Journal and Roscoe View Journal

I believe there are four reasons to be optimistic about the future of news media.

  • Post-modernist cynicism,
  • The Long Tail,
  • WordPress, and

Post-modernist cynicism creates a consumer attitude that there is no real truth in any one source. Truth – if it can be known – is individual and personal, rather than delivered. Today even the least media savvy know that you can’t trust what you see on TV and that smart people look for multiple sources.

This is very bad news for large dailies like the Tribune and Sun-Times, which have striven to serve the every man. They are like the old Marshall Field’s and Wieboldt’s department stores, once Goliaths that were slain by a thousand Lilliputian Circuit Cities, Gaps and Linens ‘n’ Things.

It is good news for startups looking to create a niche. If they can find you, readers will read you and consider you a credible source. You can get a foothold if you serve an unserved niche.

The Long Tail is Chris Anderson’s theory referring to the edges of a Bell curve. That our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of mainstream products at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail.

Again, this is bad news for large dailies. They can no longer provide one-size-fits-all-news, like the kind you find on newsstands. To capture reader interest, they must find ways to cover as many different niches as possible.  This is what the Tribune is attempting with Chicago Now – but even then, the Long Tail stretches farther than Colonel Tribune can reach, providing the rest of us with a lot of room to run in.

WordPress is a magnificent free tool with which you can publish your reporting in a professional-looking manner from Day One. It is easy for beginners to start, and if you choose to learn more, there is a worldwide, welcoming community that will show you how to solve its programming problems. It is a complex, free, very flexible tool that is the underpinnings of many important news sites including the New York Times and Yahoo News.

And my news sites, and too!

WordPress is as important a revolution in publishing as the pairing of Pagemaker with a laser printer was twenty years ago.

Finally, is not a cause for optimism because they are hiring but because they are spending a lot of money on convincing people that hyperlocal news, with just one local editor, is a credible source. I am beginning to believe that will be known as the Starbucks of local news. They will encourage an entirely new category of news consumers who are discerning about their local news.

As Intelligensia and Metropolis Coffee could not have existed without Starbucks first paving the way, I think will do the same for hyperlocal news.

There’s a great deal of opportunity out there. But it isn’t like anything we’ve seen before.

Tracking online news traffic and other NEW News updates

newnewsfeatureopt3It’s been a month since we released the second annual NEW News report, and we’d like to thank everyone for the feedback and responses we’ve received.

It was our goal to send the initial survey to as many of Chicago’s online news providers as we could find, but unfortunately, we missed a few. Marina City Online is one of those sites. It’s a great hyper-local site that covers the 1,400-resident community of Marina City and the River North and North Loop neighborhoods of downtown Chicago. Let us know if we’ve left other sites off so we can be sure to include them in future surveys, updates and reports.

Another challenge that’s become clear after the release of this year’s NEW News is tracking online news traffic to Chicago-area sites. Last year, as the Workshop tried to rank online news sites, we asked online news providers to give us their site traffic numbers. We found out this is easier said than done. Some sites are forthcoming with traffic numbers, and others have reasons for keeping that information private.

Because we were aware of these concerns and because we weren’t ranking online news sites this year, we conducted our own research using to identify where Chicago readers were getting their online news. You can read more about those findings here. Although this information proved very useful, Newcity let us know that our numbers for their site were too low. In fact, according to their site traffic measures, they have over 40,000 readers a month to and As our researcher pointed out, often underestimates traffic numbers, especially for smaller sites. Newcity also uses a service called Quantcast to track site visits. Quantcast allows people to use code on their web site to get a more accurate measure, as well as insights about site visitor demographics. Some sites have it, but others don’t, which is why we used Compete despite its limitations.

We don’t know how to solve the site traffic problem yet, but it’s possible we’ll ask for traffic numbers next year if we attempt to rank sites again. Or, maybe a service will emerge that accurately tracks site traffic for smaller blogs and hyperlocal sites, as well as the big outlets like the Chicago Tribune online.

We appreciate everyone’s responses to the NEW News report. The online ecosystem continues to change rapidly, and your feedback helps us keep up!

NEW News 2010: Millions of eyes on Chicago’s online news each month

newnewsfeatureopt3More than eight million people visit Chicago-area online news sites each month, according to our new report released today. While the report highlights a proliferation of online news and information sites in the Chicago area, when it comes to traffic, the sites of mainstream media clearly dominate. Six of the eight million unique cumulative visitors reported by all media outlets participating in the survey were to Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times, RedEye and ChicagoNow (the Trib’s blog site).

The 2nd annual NEW News report, produced by Community Media Workshop and funded by the Community News Matters program of  The Chicago Community Trust, surveyed 121 online news outlets about issues ranging from salaried employees to the type of content being produced.

According to the report, most of the online sites surveyed rely heavily on unpaid bloggers and reporters and piggy bank financing. More than 60 percent of sites surveyed had no more than one person working full time on the site. A similar percentage reported that no one receives health insurance from their online news outlet.

Read more about the online news ecosystem in our eco-friendly, online-only report.


Add to Technorati Favorites

Alltop, all the top stories

RSS Chicago is the World

  • Telling people’s stories, an ethnic media success September 2, 2015
        By Stephen Franklin Community Media Workshop   A 3-year-old child died on a plane from Chicago to Poland. This, Magdalena Pantelis instantly knew, was a story her readers would care about. But she needed more detail to write about it for the Polish Daily News, the nation’s oldest daily newspaper in Polish, founded Jan. […]