Solving for Chicago: News collaborative to cover essential workers


Twenty-six local media organizations in Chicago have worked with Local Media Association since May to form a journalism collaborative that also focuses on business transformation. The project is funded by the Google News Initiative.

Solving for Chicago, the new name of the collaborative, will focus on solutions-based journalism. The first topic the group will pursue is the impact of COVID-19 on essential workers.

“When the pandemic hit, more than 1.7 million workers in and around Chicago found themselves labeled ‘essential,’ many of them in low-wage and high-risk jobs,” said Sam Cholke, director of Solving for Chicago. “I’m thrilled that so many Chicago newsrooms are eager to collaborate around the needs and stories of the workers we now know are critical to keeping our society functioning in times of crisis.”

“The Essentials” will dive deep into how the pandemic has placed new hardships on the workers who are critical for society’s daily operations. Many already face deep instability in their lives and difficult questions about how to manage these new risks.

“It is a unique opportunity to explore segregation and racial divisions within the labor market, how they are maintained and the effects they have on people’s lives,” Cholke said. “The ultimate goal is to propose solutions that will make life better for the 1.7 million essential workers and their families.”

On the business transformation side, the media partners will choose monthly topics to pursue, such as growing reader revenue.

“We’ll bring in subject-matter experts and provide extensive training to all members of the collaborative,” said Jed Williams, chief strategy officer at LMA. “And we’ll work with each partner on business key performance indicators. This collaborative is not only focused on the fantastic journalism that will be produced, but also the financial well-being of each partner.”

Soon the members will be announced and the first stories will run. Solving for Chicago will be applying for 501(c)(3) status in July.

The Solving for Chicago team invites all local media companies in the Chicago region to join this effort. Contact sam.cholke@nulllocalmedia.org for more information.