$61 million in donations help close Sun-Times sale to WBEZ parent company

Backed by $61 million from foundations and individuals, the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday became part of the parent company of public radio station WBEZ in a venture aimed at bolstering local journalism despite steep revenue stream losses. traditional.

With the closing of the cashless sale of the Sun-Times to Chicago Public Media, the newspaper becomes a nonprofit organization for the first time in its history. Executives said the philanthropy is pledged over five years and will help the Sun-Times expand its reporting, grow digitally and maintain its print product.

Chicago Public Media said it would continue to raise additional funds to ensure sustainable funding for the Sun-Times. He said WBEZ, which is 60% supported by listeners, will continue to rely on community funding for its news operations.

The main supporters of the deal are current Sun-Times investor Michael Sacks, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Pritzker Traubert Foundation. But in announcing the deal’s completion, the Sun-Times and Chicago Public Media revealed that more organizations and individuals were committing funds.

“The response from the philanthropic community has been tremendous, and we are deeply indebted to this donor community for leading the way to invest in and protect journalism in Chicago,” Chicago Public Media CEO Matt Moog said in a statement. hurry. “With their support, our talented team will tell the stories that matter and serve more people than ever before with human-centered, solutions-oriented journalism. Our goal is to connect Chicagoans more deeply to each other, to their communities, and to the issues and solutions that shape their lives.

Sacks thanked past and incoming Sun-Times investors for securing its future. “Together we have created a model to support local journalism which we know is vital,” he said.

The sale, plans for which were announced in September, creates one of the largest nonprofit news organizations in the country. Together, the Sun-Times and WBEZ will reach more than 2 million people per week and their content can be shared on various platforms, the executives said.

Other donors disclosed Monday were Builders Initiative, Chicago Community Trust, Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation, Joyce Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Mansueto Foundation, Robin Steans and Leonard Gail, and one anonymous donor.

Some supporters have issued statements attesting to their goal of supporting journalism as a vital source of local information and a bulwark for society. John Palfrey, president of the MacArthur Foundation, said “the collaboration can serve as a national model for addressing the financial crisis in the news industry at a time when our democracy needs it most.”

“We are excited about what lies ahead for this unique nonprofit news model and to raise the bar to support, preserve and strengthen local journalism,” said Nykia Wright, CEO of the Sun-Times. “Today would not have been possible without the perseverance and commitment of the Chicago Sun-Times staff and our Board of Directors, and tomorrow would not be possible without the support of our funders whose generosity will ensure a great future for this team. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Wright will report to Moog in the new corporate structure. A five-member board, including Moog — but separate from Chicago Public Media’s board of directors — will oversee the Sun-Times.

As a nonprofit, the paper will no longer be able to endorse political candidates, but executives said coverage and investigations of politicians would continue as usual. The Sun-Times and WBEZ are both looking for editors to lead their newsrooms.

Across the country, many newspapers have closed or are barely present in their communities as advertising and readership have shifted elsewhere. Some, like the Chicago Tribune, are now owned by hedge funds that have downsized.

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