Over the coming year, the Solving for Chicago news collaborative will turn its attention to how Chicago’s COVID-19 recovery can help solve long standing equity issues in the city.
Through “The Path Forward,” the collaboration’s growing roster of more than 20 newsrooms will build on its coverage of essential workers to tackle how COVID-19 has prompted communities to rethink solutions to problems of housing, education and public safety, as well as employment and public health.
“Collaboration and editorial partnerships are critical to Chicago at this moment,” said Tracy Brown, chief content officer at WBEZ. “We’re getting more stories to more people whose lives are impacted by the work we do. And that’s great news for WBEZ and Chicago Public Media, particularly as we work to reach younger or more diverse audiences.”
WBEZ, WTTW, Block Club Chicago, the Chicago Reader and other partners are building on the solutions-focused reporting on essential workers, which led to more than $1.4 million in community impacts and $10 million in policy change in Chicago.
“Throughout the pandemic, publications and institutions in Chicago realized, if they hadn’t before, that sectors of our city and county were underserved, lacked safety nets, and were highly prone to the direct and indirect consequences of the virus — from fatalities to homelessness to abusive workplaces,” said Jackie Serrato, editor in chief of the South Side Weekly. “As journalists who have increased access to data and to people’s stories, it is on us to expose the conditions that existed before COVID and that are set to remain even if COVID-19 was eradicated. Working together as newsrooms to seek accountability, transparency, and solutions to the system’s shortcomings seems like the only logical and responsible next step.”
As Solving for Chicago takes on this new challenge, it is proud to announce Solutions Journalism Network has renewed its commitment to the collaborative.
“Solutions Journalism Network believes that the intersection of solutions journalism and collaboration provides a unique opportunity to invigorate local media ecosystems and produce more equitable and inclusive coverage that debunks entrenched stereotypical narratives,” said Liza Gross, vice president of practice change for the Solutions Journalism Network. “As a member of the Local Media Project portfolio, Solving for Chicago has made and continues to make an invaluable contribution to advance this work by sharing its experience and knowledge with other collaboratives as it shines a spotlight on Chicago’s pressing challenges.”
Solutions Journalism Network’s commitment to ongoing training and support for partners, as well as an additional $25,000, brings the total to $250,000 raised to support Solving for Chicago’s collaborative journalism work in Chicago.
The renewed support comes as the opportunities grow for reporting to have a meaningful impact on communities across Chicago. Local government is now considering how influxes of COVID-related funding from the federal government can be used to uproot entrenched inequities.
“COVID laid bare a lot of disparities,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in June, announcing the city’s own intentions to address equity issues in its COVID-19 recovery plans. “When we started looking at the disproportionate impact of COVID on communities of color in particular, there’s a straight line to the lack of access to safe, affordable, high-quality healthcare,” she said.
Previous coverage by the collaborative injected the voices of hundreds of essential workers into the city’s civic dialogue and influenced how $10 million in funding from the Centers for Disease Control was used in communities where essential workers and their families were most impacted by inequities in public health infrastructure.
The collaborative aims to include more community voices in the civic conversations yet to come and to explore solutions already being tried in communities most impacted by systemic inequities.
The collaborative’s coverage will launch in early 2022. To stay on top of Solving for Chicago’s reporting and other work, sign up for the Solving for Chicago newsletter.