This REALLY Matters

October 1, 2021

Greetings, and welcome to a new edition of The NewStart Alliance!

The big news this week: the word of a potential merger between the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Public Media that brings about visions of "a new model of local nonprofit journalism" that will be supported "through the generosity of philanthropy, individuals and organizations who share the same belief in journalism’s role in having an informed citizenry, connected community and healthy democracy.”

This possible deal brings about a sense of hope that wasn't seen when Alden Global Capital purchased Tribune Publishing in May. It is clearly a very different business model, but there is no guarantee that it will work. Any major daily newspaper comes with a lot of financial baggage, and the Sun-Times is no exception.

And if you read the rival Chicago Tribune's story on the potential merger, they made sure their audience understood those financial difficulties, using the following wording:

  • "the financially struggling daily newspaper"
  • "the Sun-Times has been bleeding red ink for years"
  • "the money-losing Sun-Times"

It's not wrong, mind you. But now we will see if the nonprofit model can work for a major metropolitan daily in one of the largest markets in the country. Jim Friedlich of the Lenfest Institute believes it can, saying on Twitter that "the @Suntimes has a large, engaged & diverse digital audience that complements @WBEZ’s broadcast & audio reach beautifully. @WBEZ adds fundraising chops. Both organizations are deeply committed to public service journalism. Great marriage."

Temperature Check

When our NewStart program was being formed a few years back, deals like the Sun-Times/Chicago Public Media one above were just a pipe dream. But times have changed. Creative business models are going mainstream. But there is plenty more to be done for the sake of newspapers ... and democracy. 

For example, check out this assortment of stories that popped up in just the past two weeks:

So what does all of this mean? For all of the attention given to a one new ownership opportunity for a major market daily, there are 100 more crucial rural publications elsewhere in the country that need new owners and business models, because the work they do is extremely important on multiple levels.

And that's where programs like ours at NewStart can help.

Know someone who would be interested in what we do? Tell them about our program and what we do. Forward this newsletter to them and encourage them to subscribe. Or put them in contact with me, and I'd be happy to talk with them about ways they can help ensure that local news not only survives, but thrives.

Soon we will be announcing several new ways to take part in our program, so stay tuned...