LMA announces launch of Chicago news collaborative, funded by Google News Initiative


Chicago Independent Media Alliance, representing 60 news organizations, to serve as strategic partner

(April 30, 2020) —Local Media Association today announced plans to form a news collaborative in Chicago, an initiative that will bring together a diverse mix of local media organizations designed to increase investigative reporting and solutions-based journalism in and around the city. The project is being initially funded by the Google News Initiative with the goal of attracting other funders over time.

The collaborative will focus first on developing and sharing local and regional news content related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on Chicago. Over time, collaborative news reporting and curation will evolve to include other topics of strong significance to residents of the city and surrounding areas.

Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA), which represents more than 60 diverse news organizations in the city, will serve as a strategic partner.

Participants will include local media organizations such as La Raza, the Chicago Reader, Injustice Watch, the Windy City Times, Shaw Media and dozens of others.

The collaborative is launching at a critical time when sharing resources and content is more important than ever. “Local community and ethnic media outlets are of vital importance for Chicago, especially for underserved communities that are facing severe inequalities and news deserts,” said Jesús Del Toro, director general of La Raza Newspaper. “COVID-19 has severely affected the sources of revenue that sustain most of our local media ecosystem, and the survival of many community media outlets and the jobs they provide are now in high risk.”

LMA will manage the project, including setting up the collaborative as a 501(c)(3) organization, developing a website and accompanying content distribution and promotion strategies, producing monthly case studies to share with the industry, and more. A playbook will also be developed to help news organizations set up collaborative initiatives in cities all across North America.

“We are excited to work with news organizations in Chicago to build this collaborative,” said Nancy Lane, CEO, Local Media Association. “As we work to reinvent business models for news, collaborative journalism is essential. We are extremely grateful to Google for funding this project.”

Lane announced that Sam Cholke, formerly of DNA Info and the Illinois Humanities, will serve as the onsite director working with Jim Brady, LMA consultant and longtime news media entrepreneur, and Jed Williams, LMA chief strategy officer.

“Information needs have never been higher across the diverse neighborhoods of Chicago, and I’m thrilled to be part of the effort to link and strengthen the newsrooms working to serve and inform those communities during difficult times,” said Cholke.

Lane and members of the LMA team have been working with members of the Google News Initiative for many months to develop a strategy that emphasizes business sustainability upfront when launching journalism collaborative initiatives. To enable enduring investigative and solutions-based reporting, the collaborative must be self-sustaining through a diversified business model that includes community funding and sponsorship. Key performance indicators will be established for the media participants that help drive revenue through digital subscriptions, memberships and contributions, sponsorship, and more.

“A core principle of the GNI is supporting evolving, sustainable business models. We’re excited to give our backing to this initiative — especially in times where local news is needed more than ever,” said David Brooks, head of local news and media, global partnerships, Google.  “We hope to gain insights into sustainable models for this type of journalism and share what we learn with the wider community.”

LMA and CIMA have initiated conversations with many other Chicago news media organizations to gauge their interest in participating and expect to add more soon, Lane said. Organizations interested in the collaborative may contact Jim Brady at jim.brady@nulllocalmedia.org for more information.

About Local Media Association/Local Media Foundation

Local Media Association (https://www.localmedia.org/) is a thriving and innovative organization serving more than 3,000 newspapers, TV stations, digital news sites, radio stations and research & development partners. LMA is the only industry trade organization that brings all local media together for the purpose of sharing, networking, collaborating and learning. The association’s focus is on reinventing business models for news. LMA’s innovation engine, Accelerate Local, launched six projects in 2019 with 50 different media partners and three projects so far in 2020, including the COVID-19 local news fund, the Oklahoma Media Center and the news collaborative in Chicago. The Local Media Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable trust that supports the mission of LMA and the essential role of local news and information in a healthy democracy.