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Tuesday, March 28

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Media Thu Nov 12 2009

Chicago Matters Series Comes to an End

The Chicago Community Trust announced today that it is ending its funding of the award-winning Chicago Matters public information series, which it sponsored in partnership with WTTW-TV, Chicago Public Radio, Chicago Reporter and the Chicago Public Library. The Trust will conclude its funding at the end of the year as it redirects $2.7 million toward basic human needs.

"Chicago Matters has provided the most rare form of new reporting - in-depth coverage of events from multiple points of view," said Elizabeth Richter, vice president of marketing and communications for the Trust, in a press release. "Chicago Matters has served the community well. The Trust is now looking at how to leverage our limited resources to work with those fulfilling core needs of our community in a time of crisis."

Reached by email, WBEZ Managing Editor Sally Eisele said, "Our commitment to public affairs reporting remains the same but obviously, I'm disappointed by this development. Chicago Matters is the type of journalism many of people in this community right now are concerned about saving. The end of this highly acclaimed series means the end of one of the most important local journalism projects in the region. For 19 years, Chicago Matters has been a forum for the exploration of key community issues through in-depth, insightful reporting across multiple platforms. Work produced for the series has won dozens of awards, including a Peabody award -- one of the highest honors in broadcast journalism."

The Trust isn't pulling out of funding media entirely. It has provided grants for "Arts Beat" on WTTW, Chicago Public Radio's Campaign for a Sound Future and, and the Chicago Public Library's Chicago Vision Project in the past two years. It also just awarded $500,000 in grants to 12 organizations, including Gapers Block, to spur growth and innovation in the city's media landscape.

The Trust is also partnering with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to develop a set of regional indicators to track the health of Chicagoland across a wide spectrum of measurements.

It's interesting to me that the end of the Chicago Matters series occurs just as the public affairs journalism arena is heating up. The newly launched Chicago Current and soon-to-launch Chicago News Cooperative are newcomers to the field -- both might have been fine new additions to the Chicago Matters partnership, possibly breathing new energy into the series as it looks ahead to its twentieth year. Instead the participating media outlets will be left to go it alone, now with fewer funds to produce journalism that in some years was only being done as part of Chicago Matters.

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