The Public Conscience of Chicago: The Chicago Reporter and Four Decades of Investigating Race and Poverty
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Title of Thesis: THE PUBLIC CONSCIENCE OF CHICAGO: THE CHICAGO REPORTER AND
FOUR DECADES OF INVESTIGATING RACE AND POVERTY
Thomas Brune, Master of Arts,
Thesis Directed By: Richard Eaton Professor of Broadcast Journalism
Mark Feldstein, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland
The Chicago Reporter is a small nonprofit news organization founded in 1972 to use investigative and data-driven journalism to uncover and highlight racial and economic disparities in Chicago. It is written for local elites who can implement reforms. Its stories have prompted changes, and it has trained a diverse group of journalists in the process. But it never has built a broad readership or developed a business plan that doesn’t rely on charity. The question of this thesis is: How has the Chicago Reporter survived for four decades? A review of its history and interviews with its publishers found the Reporter still exists because it has a base at a stable nonprofit, and its reporting on race and poverty draws support from a core group of funders, leaders, and academics. Yet its singular focus has limited expansion, and its recent move to an all-digital operation poses challenges for its future.