NewsMatch fundraising drive caps exciting year of growth and impact for Capitol News Illinois

NewsMatch fundraising drive caps exciting year of growth and impact for Capitol News Illinois

By JEFF ROGERS
Executive Director, Capitol News Illinois and Illinois Press Foundation

We were humbly born on Jan. 23, 2019, with this headline: “Pritzker signs on to U.S. Climate Alliance.”

More than 100,000 times since then, Illinois newspapers and broadcast stations have used our reporting to inform their audiences. Capitol News Illinois has quickly become a trusted and dependable source of reporting on state government. Our reach is unparalleled. Our impact is being felt in the Statehouse and beyond.

We’re excited to say this is only the beginning. There’s so much more ahead for Capitol News Illinois.

It’s no secret that our beginning came at others’ end: As newspapers cut reporting coverage at the Capitol over the past two decades, a void was visible. Our polarized politics and government needed more oversight and transparency, not less. The Illinois Press Foundation took action by creating Capitol News Illinois in 2019, partnering with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation to provide the initial funding.

Today, our footprint is large and growing. More than 460 newspapers and more than 100 broadcasters receive our content and use it daily. Our reporting staff started at three and now is eight (the largest newsroom at the Capitol). We’ve also added two employees with a focus on audience growth and development and CNI’s digital presence. Our team has home bases at the Capitol, in Chicago, in southern Illinois, and in the Metro East.

Our publishing partnerships with the Illinois Press Association, Illinois Broadcasters Association, Southern Illinois Editorial Association, Illinois Public Radio and the Illinois College Press Association ensure we reach more Illinoisans than anyone, every day. Our team’s talent, experience and relentless commitment help us maximize our reach with meaningful coverage.

As Capitol News Illinois has grown, so has our impact. Our reporting along with ProPublica and Lee Enterprises Midwest about the abuse and neglect of patients at Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna have prompted the state to announce the relocation of more than 100 residents from the facility. That reporting has twice been recognized nationally, in May when CNI reporters Beth Hundsdorfer and Molly Parker received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and last week when they were named winners of the 2023 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award by the National Center on Disability and Journalism in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism as Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Each news conference, committee hearing, court argument, agency or administration announcement we cover matters. Each difficult issue the General Assembly takes up is an opportunity for us to pick the ideas apart, present each side fairly and accurately, and know that our reporting is making a difference.

Our commitment from Day One has been and will be to provide CNI content for free to anyone who wants to use it. Our operations are not free, and we greatly appreciate the Illinois Press Foundation and Robert R. McCormick Foundation for stepping up to get us this far and help us grow significantly in the coming years. A $2 million grant from McCormick is helping our growth snowball. As our coverage reaches more people, we are adding broadcast and video options, and becoming more valuable to donors and sponsors.

Here is where it gets really exciting.

With a generous grant from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation, we are adding reporting and technical resources for broadcast operations. We are adding audio and video reports to our editorial offerings, with ready-to-air reports and packages available for radio and television outlets. We expect our broadcast partners will embrace our fair, unbiased and authoritative stream of coverage just as newspapers have.

We also have other expansion plans in mind that will make it easier for state government content to reach people. As these expansions are rolled out, we are working with a development team to ensure we develop new relationships to support our operations: through grants, events, donors, sponsorships and much more.

And beginning today and continuing through Dec. 31, you can help us continue to expand our coverage and grow our audience by giving to our year-end NewsMatch fundraising campaign. NewsMatch will match your individual one-time gift of up to $1,000. If you prefer to give monthly, you can do that, too, and it will be matched!

If you can go above and beyond with a gift today, you will get our NewsMatch campaign off to a strong start and help keep Capitol News Illinois going strong in 2024 and beyond.

When we started Capitol News Illinois with a team of three just about 5 years ago, we knew the possibilities. Now that we are here, we cannot wait to see how the growth ahead presents new opportunities and partnerships. We will do it, one impactful day of coverage at a time.

Jeff Rogers is executive director of the Illinois Press Foundation and its nonprofit news organization, Capitol News Illinois. He joined the Illinois Press Foundation in October 2018 and Capitol News Illinois was started in January 2019.

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