Chicago Public Media, parent company of news/talk WBEZ (91.5), and the Chicago Sun-Times have entered into a non-binding letter of intent that, once finalized, would have the Sun-Times become a subsidiary of Chicago Public Media. The combination would create one of the largest nonprofit news organizations in the nation.
“This opportunity arrives at an urgent time for local journalism, as newsrooms across the country and in our own region are being diminished or disappearing altogether amid significant disruption in traditional news business models,” Matt Moog, CEO of Chicago Public Media said in a release. “Local journalism has never been more important, nor has it ever been at greater peril, and this has the potential to be both a light and a hope for Chicago news. Community-centered, independent, inclusive and representative, fact-based journalism is a public good that contributes to a healthy democracy and stronger communities.”
The proposed merger, first reported by Chicago media reporter Robert Feder, is being spearheaded by Chicago businessman Michael Sacks, who is a principal investor in the Sun-Times. Feder says Sacks has been looking for a partner to take over the newspaper.
“Chicago is an innovator in and across many industries. Nothing precludes it from being an innovator in journalism, too, and I am excited about the chance to establish a new model of local journalism in Chicago for many years to come,” Nykia Wright, CEO of the Chicago Sun-Times added. “This would allow us to invest in our people, improve the news products we create, and strengthen our digital future.”
Under the proposed partnership, WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times would broaden their impact by sharing content from both newsrooms across more platforms – broadcast, print, websites, podcasts, newsletters, mobile apps, social media and community engagement and live events.
Along with appealing directly to the audience for support through donations, Chicago Public Media would partner with philanthropic organizations and individuals to seek their support.
“This will be a new model of local nonprofit journalism, and we anticipate support for this initiative through the generosity of philanthropy, individuals and organizations who share the same belief in journalism’s role in having an informed citizenry, connected community and healthy democracy,” Moog explained.
The letter of intent was approved by Chicago Public Media’s Board of Directors at a Wednesday night meeting. At the same meeting, Moog was officially named CEO after serving on an interim basis since 2019. Wright will remain CEO of the Sun-Times.
“The Chicago Public Media Board of Directors is overwhelmingly supportive and deeply enthusiastic about this partnership,” Board Chair Piyush Chaudhari remarked. “It is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create an essential new asset for Chicago – bringing together two of the city’s most respected news organizations to establish a new model of local nonprofit journalism that is entirely focused on serving the public good here in Chicago and our region.”