In the wake of cutbacks at legacy newsrooms and a rising need for accountability journalism, the Better Government Association has established a new initiative, the Fund for Illinois Investigative Reporting, to protect investigative journalism at a time of great need.
Seed support of the FIIR Fund is provided by the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund and Jim Mabie, a civic leader who previously has served as chairman of both Chicago Public Media and Window to the World Communications, Inc.
The BGA expects to use resources from the fund to employ veteran investigative journalists who might otherwise leave journalism or leave Chicago. The fund will also help recruit talented younger journalists who will help extend the tradition of investigative journalism in Illinois and provide the BGA newsroom with tools for the data-based reporting that is a key component of investigative reporting.
David Jackson, a longtime investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, is the first journalist hired with resources from the FIIR Fund.
The FIIR Fund arrives at a time when the BGA is benefitting from a surge of philanthropic support for journalism in Chicago and across Illinois. The Chicago Community Trust provided support that will enable the BGA to create a new position, Director of Partnerships and Local Content. This full-time staff member will help strengthen BGA ties to local news and civic organizations across the city. Earlier this year, as challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic were rising, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation made a multi-year commitment that doubled its support for the BGA.
“The FIIR Fund will help keep investigative journalists working in Chicago at a time when the need for probing, in-depth reporting that holds government accountable has never been greater,” said David Greising, president of the Better Government Association. “We are grateful to the foundations and individuals who see this need and are investing in the BGA’s effort to meet the challenges of modern-day journalism and provide accountability reporting for the benefit of all people in Illinois.”
In supporting the fund, Joel Friedman, President of the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, stated, “Ann and Alvin Baum believed that community is at the center of meaningful change. Previously, we supported BGA’s environmental investigations. Their reporters’ passion, drive and collaborative spirit produced shoe-leather beat news that elevated chronic environmental injustices into the public conscience. To ensure local stories, civic participation and government accountability, we are committed to supporting the Fund for Illinois Investigative Reporting.”
Throughout 2020, the BGA will be seeking new support for the FIIR Fund. Mark Valentino, the BGA’s director of development, is leading the BGA’s effort to secure support for the fund. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.