National Public Radio's Chicago Public Media is acquiring the gritty Chicago Sun-Times newspaper, bringing two of Chicago's most prominent news organizations together.
The deal is expected to close Jan. 31.
"This is an important step to grow and strengthen local journalism in Chicago," said Matt Moog, CEO of Chicago Public Media, in a statement.
"A vibrant local news ecosystem is fundamental to a healthy democracy, informed citizens, and engaged communities. Together WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times aim to tell the stories that matter, serve more Chicagoans with our unbiased, fact-based journalism, and connect Chicagoans more deeply to each other and to their communities," Moog said.
According to the two organizations, the Sun-Times would join WBEZ as a not-for-profit subsidiary of Chicago Public Media, which owns three public radio stations. WBEZ is Chicago's top-rated morning news radio station.
Both WBEZ, an NPR station, and the Sun-Times would maintain their own newsrooms, own staff, and own editorial independence, according to the organizations.
The Sun-Times covers Chicago politics, entertainment, sports, and crime.
Newspapers have been struggling financially in recent years as readers and advertisers switch to digital and social media. Under the deal, the Sun-Times would get a new, long-term financial lease on life, and WBEZ would capitalize on the newspaper’s larger digital and print presence.
While both organizations would be operated independently, Moog said they expected to share content across the radio airwaves, online, and even still on tens of thousands of doorsteps. Together, WBEZ and the Sun-Times figure to reach a news audience estimated to reach 2 million per week, making it one of the most formidable media platforms in the city.
"It certainly will be one of the largest," Moog said.
Their respective newsrooms will be represented by different labor unions, with the Sun-Times affiliated with the Chicago News Guild and WBEZ with SAG-AFTRA.
The Sun-Times has a left-center political bias, according to MediaBiasFactCheck.com. As a nonprofit, as a result of the merger, the newspaper will not be making political endorsements in the future.
WBEZ is known for its investigative stories on such things as city vehicle impoundments, disparities in bank lending in Black and white city neighborhoods, and sexual harassment claims from female lifeguards.
The organization's balance sheets have been getting stronger thanks to robust support from donors and listeners, according to WBEZ.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Pritzker Traubert Foundation are investing in the deal.
Chicago-based MacArthur says on its website, it "supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world."
"We’ve had major foundation step-up in a very, very significant way that gives us a very high degree of comfort that both through good management and through stewardship of these grants from foundations we’ll be able to create a sustainable source of revenue for local journalism in Chicago for the foreseeable future," Moog said.
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