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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Media Thu Nov 05 2009

Gapers Block Among Recipients of Chicago News Matters Grants

Gapers Block is one of 12 recipients of Community News Matters grants from the Chicago Community Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, as part of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Knight Community Information Challenge. The Chicago News Matters grant initiative awarded $500,000 in grants to non-profit and for-profit organizations to spur innovation and growth of new sources of quality local news in Chicago. Gapers Block is receiving $35,000 to expand our original local reporting, with a priority on stories about underserved communities and issues that affect them.

We're extremely honored to have been chosen to receive this award, which will allow us to begin paying staff members to write feature articles and pay the editorial staff a bit more than we do right now. While we're still far from paying everyone for everything they contribute to the site -- with around 100 contributors producing thousands of posts a year, we'd need a lot more than $35,000 to do that -- it's a great first step toward that eventual goal.

We'll be sharing details of our plans for the grant with our staff and the public soon. In the meantime, we'd like to thank the Chicago Community Trust, the MacArthur Foundation and the Knight Foundation -- and congratulate the other award recipients. This is a very positive day for the future of Chicago journalism.

Read the full news release after the jump.

The Chicago Community Trust Announces Community News Matters Award Recipients Innovative program to spur the growth of new sources of high quality local news and information about the Chicago region selects 12 award winners 

November 5, 2009, Chicago — The Chicago Community Trust, our region's community foundation, today announced 12 recipients of $500,000 in awards under an innovative new program, Community News Matters, to spur the growth of new sources of quality local news and information about the Chicago region.

The award winners were selected from among 86 requests, totaling $5.7 million.

"The response to this program demonstrates without a doubt that the Chicago region is loaded with talented people and smart organizations determined to find new ways to serve the public's information needs in these times of enormous change in the media landscape," said Terry Mazany, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Trust.  "The Chicago area has become a real laboratory for development of the future for community news and information."

Mazany noted that given changes in traditional media, there is a growing need for the philanthropic sector to help develop new and different ways to provide communities the information they need.  As a result, the Trust has begun expanding its support of news and information projects. 

"These award recipients are outstanding examples of the rich mix of imaginative solutions and different types of innovators at work in our region," he said.

The Community News Matters program was spurred by a lead grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Knight Community Information Challenge and is jointly funded by The Chicago Community Trust, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It seeks to increase the flow of truthful, accurate and insightful news and information in the region and spur development of new business models for news.

The Knight Community Information Challenge is a five-year, $24 million effort to help community and place-based foundations find creative ways to use new media and technology to keep residents informed and engaged. The Trust received one of the Challenge's first matching grants. 

"Projects like these have the power to engage communities around pressing issues and spark the conversations and actions that move communities forward," said Trabian Shorters, Knight Foundation's vice president for communities.

The following are the 2009 Community News Matters award recipients:

Projects designed to improve the flow of information in high-need communities 

Columbia College Chicago
Nonprofit/For Profit
For a Columbia College/Chicago Tribune collaboration using student and professional journalists to cover government meetings, businesses, churches and other institutions in Austin, with content distributed via a new Web site (, Tribune's ChicagoNow blog site (, a mobile edition, a newsletter and text messaging 

Gapers Block Media, LLC
For Profit Business
To increase the amount of neighborhood-based, original local coverage on Gapers Block (, with priority given to stories about underserved communities and issues that affect them 

Loyola University Chicago (School of Communication)
For a partnership between Loyola and Benito Juarez Community Academy to train high school and college journalists to cover Pilsen, with content distributed via a new Web site, "Adentro de Pilsen" (Inside Pilsen), a Spanish language news magazine and (potentially) hand-held mobile devices 

South Suburban Publishing LLC
For Profit Business
To train and equip citizen journalists to cover news in Markham for a new Web site (, using smartphone video reporting and traditional online newsgathering techniques 

Projects designed to strengthen information sharing, learning and unique perspectives by and for specific groups  
Chicago Association of Hispanic Journalists
For a new Web site to promote the work of Chicago-area Latino journalists, to assign freelance reporters to fill gaps in coverage about issues of interest to the area's Latino community and to train and mentor student and citizen journalists 

Chicago Youth Voices Network
To engage several hundred youth journalists in twelve local youth media programs to explore and report on how Chicago teens are faring in the economic recovery, using online polls and social media reporting 

Community Media Workshop
$45,000 total
1. $15,000 to help build and develop a strong, healthy online news ecosystem in the Chicago area through continued tracking, convening, reporting, collaboration with and education of the sector
2. $30,000 to launch (in collaboration with Northwestern University Medill School professor Jack Doppelt) a reporting, story sharing and translation service for ethnic media and their audiences, building on CMW's ethnic media work and Medill's "Immigrant Connect Chicago" program
Projects designed to create and build new business models 

Chicago News Cooperative
Nonprofit (to become L3C)
To support development of a new L3C cooperative business model providing enterprising journalistic coverage of the Chicago area using various Web, print and broadcast platforms, including a new Web site called "The Chicago Scoop" 

Northwestern University (Medill School)
For graduate students to help two local community news ventures develop sustainable business models, with in-depth analysis, prototype development and recommendations for business strategy, audience, content design, delivery, marketing and revenue 

Project designed to support investigative journalism and civic engagement 

Better Government Association
To train volunteer "reporter monitors" to report on government meetings downtown and in Chicago's neighborhoods for a new "Good Government Virtual Town Hall" Web site 

Projects designed to improve technology platforms and aggregation of news and information 

Beachwood Media Company
For Profit Business
To help the Beachwood Reporter ( create a sustainable business model through strategic enhancements in technology and content 

Brad Flora
To upgrade software used by The Windy Citizen ( to enable the site to expand and better integrate with other social media platforms

The proposals were screened by a diverse group of Trust program staff and consultants with extensive community and media experience. Then an expert advisory board reviewed the proposals and made recommendations to the Trust's Executive Committee, which made the final selection. Advisory board members from institutions seeking funding were not allowed to vote on their organization's proposal.

The Trust received requests for more than ten times the funds available from a broad group of applicants — from community organizations and individual entrepreneurs to traditional, ethnic, nonprofit and new media ventures; youth programs; universities and colleges; and public broadcasting outlets.

"This shows just how much need and opportunity there is to support all the very promising innovation going on in Chicago right now," said Ngoan Le, vice president of programs, who commissioned The New News: Journalism We Want and Need [PDF], a study assessing the state of Internet-based news in Chicago.  

To support this growing community of innovators, the Trust will offer educational, information-sharing and networking sessions throughout the coming year for all interested Chicago-area media innovators, including all Community News Matters applicants.

The New News report found that while the Chicago area is full of media experiments, the many online news sites, blogs or e-newsletters serving the Chicago area have not yet filled the gap created by a decrease in the amount of local news coverage by traditional media.  It found that nonprofit leaders are concerned about the lack of quality news coverage on local issues. Not only have the leaders interviewed seen a decrease in reporting on issues they care about, they worry that less of the information they see is vetted, edited and fact checked; that it's getting harder to get a balanced diet of news and a sense of shared community; and that it has gotten harder to determine what's important amidst a deluge of information.  

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of the U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects with the potential to create transformational change. For more information, visit

About The Chicago Community Trust
For 94 years, The Chicago Community Trust, the region's community foundation, has connected the generosity of donors with community needs by making grants to organizations working to improve metropolitan Chicago. In 2008, the Trust, together with its donors, granted more than $100 million to nonprofit organizations.  From strengthening schools to assisting local art programs, from building health centers to helping lives affected by violence, the Trust continues to enhance our region. To learn more, please visit the Trust online at
The Trust has a longstanding commitment to community information with its support, for 19 years, of Chicago Matters, a multimedia public affairs series featuring the work of WTTW 11, Chicago Public Radio, the Chicago Public Library and The Chicago Reporter, a publication of the Community Renewal Society.  

About the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.  In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.  More information is at


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green tea / November 15, 2009 3:04 AM

A gapers block (also known as a gawkers block or gapers delay) is a traffic jam caused when rubbernecking drivers slow to look at an accident or other incident on, or next to the road. This term is commonly used in the Chicago area traffic reports given in radio and television broadcasts and was coined by the famous flying traffic officer Leonard Baldy, "Officer Len" who often traveled with his comedic flight assistant Jillian Kachel, would fly over Chicago in a police helicopter during the 1950s.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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