The Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation has signed on as the Chicago Reader’s fiscal sponsor as the biweekly newspaper transitions to 501(c)3 non-profit status. The partnership allows the Reader to receive foundation grants so that its staff and freelancers can continue reporting on arts, culture and politics in Chicago.
“Independent journalism is a vital service to our local communities, and support of the Reader is a good fit with the foundation’s vision of a vibrant, sustainable and caring community,” said Tony Martinez Jr., foundation CEO in a letter to Wednesday Journal.
Multiple news organizations throughout the country, including Growing Community Media, owner of Wednesday Journal, have converted or are in the process of converting to non-profit models.
“I certainly believe that journalism is different than a lot of other for-profit businesses,” Tracy Baim, Chicago Reader publisher, told Wednesday Journal.
Baim said using the traditional corporate media model has continuously proven to be a “bad idea.”
“For decades but especially the last decade, arrays of corporations come in and analyze media companies like they analyze anything else, which is they look at assets they can sell off and make a profit from,” said Baim.
The corporations gut the organizations with little to no regard for the product – journalism.
“It is something that should not just be considered an asset on a line,” said Baim. “The reporter is critical.”
Journalism’s role in keeping the public informed and educated make it an altogether different type of product that should be treated as such.
“It’s not that conflict of interest and problems and funding issues don’t happen in the nonprofit journalism space, but they are less at the mercy of being raided [by corporations],” said Baim.
Baim said she and the Reader are very grateful to the foundation for providing their fiscal sponsorship.
“They’ve been great to work with,” Baim said. “It was a perfect opportunity.”
The community foundation also worked with Growing Community Media as its fiscal sponsor on a grant earlier this year. Growing Community Media has since been designated a 501(c)3 by the IRS.