Did Schools Coverage Doom CNC?

There's an interesting conspiracy theory out there, courtesy of former Chi-Town Daily head Geoff Dougherty, who tells media watchdog Jim Romenesko that the reason the MacArthur Foundation declined to continue funding Chicago News Cooperative is that CNC was writing stories that were too critical of CPS and CHA.  There are several City Hall connected folks on the MacArthur board. You get the idea.  Both CNC and MacArthur have denied there's anything to the story, and thus far neither Dougherty nor anyone else has provided any real evidence that MacArthur had problems with CNC's coverage or defunded CNC over it.

There are at least three things worth noting, however, beyond the inherent delights of contemplating a new conspiracy.  First off, many readers here will be surprised to realize that anyone thinks CNC's coverage has been all that hard-hitting.  Indeed, the complaint is often made that there are too many connections between CNC and reformers for anyone's comfort.  But that indeed is the impression many have - that CNC held the Board's feet to the fire, dug up embarrassing information, and was anything but a soft touch for CPS.

Second, there's something extremely unsatisfying about the CNC explanation of the circumstances that led to its demise, which basically boil down to a decision by the New York Times not to pay more for the coverage it was receiving from CNC and a decision by MacArthur not to keep funding CNC because of questions about CNC's tax status.  Yes, it's tax status.  That seems like something that could have been worked out had there been a strong desire to do so.

Last but not least, for everyone who thinks that being white and middle aged and wearing a suit and tie means that you can snap your fingers and supporters will line up to fund your efforts, CNC's failure to find willing funders is a counterexample worth considering.  None of Chicago's fat cats stepped up to save CNC, despite all the Tribune connections CNC senior management has.

Did you think CNC's coverage of CPS was too soft, too hard, or just about right?  Do you think there's anything to Dougherty's tale?  Tribune story here. Reader story here.




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  • Curious: From the coming NYT's College Life Fair in March on Navy Pier. "Why Chicago? - The Times is a national news organization. The Times also has a business relationship with The Chicago News Cooperative, a non-profit news organization created in 2009, which provides local coverage of Chicago and the surrounding area to The Times.
    In addition, the Chicago Public Schools told The Times that its students needed a fair like this to help educate them about the entire college experience, from admissions to dorm life, athletics to the uncertain job market. Along with the Illinois ACAC, the Chicago Public Schools are involved in helping plan key aspects of the fair."

  • http://nytcollegefair.com/faqs/

  • Contrary to your post (“Did Schools Coverage Doom CNC?”), the MacArthur Foundation did not “defund” the Chicago News Cooperative. There has been a lot of inaccurate media coverage of this matter. Let me set the record straight.

    MacArthur was among CNC’s earliest and most generous supporters. No one wanted CNC to succeed more than the MacArthur Foundation.

    Since CNC started in 2009, we provided a total of $1 million in grants and we were prepared to invest more. We were working on an additional grant to CNC when it notified us that it was closing.

    CNC relied on other funders and earned revenue as well. So, beyond the short-term, an additional MacArthur grant would not have fundamentally changed CNC's fiscal situation.

    We support many other non-profit news organizations, including NPR, the PBS NewsHour, and the Investigative News Network. In no case do we monitor or get involved in any editorial decisions at these organizations.

    MacArthur is committed to continuing our proud 30-year history of support for non-profit journalism because informing the American public matters as much now as it ever has.

    I invite anyone with questions to contact me at asolomon@macfound.org.

    Andy Solomon
    Vice President, Public Affairs
    MacArthur Foundation

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  • roger feder debunks the macarthur connection: Foundation didn’t cave in under Chicago News Cooperative - Time Out Chicago http://ow.ly/9k0eV

  • New Michael Miner story on CNC doesn't make it sound like coverage of CPS had much to do with it after all http://ow.ly/9xNel

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