Capitol News Illinois to expand operations with $2 million McCormick Foundation grant
Capitol News Illinois will significantly expand its operations as it enters the fifth year of operations in 2023 because of a large grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
The foundation has announced a three-year, $2 million investment in Capitol News Illinois, a nonprofit news organization that provides daily coverage of state government and is operated by the Illinois Press Foundation.
The CNI grant is one of four being announced by the McCormick Foundation, which is also investing in Block Club Chicago, Injustice Watch and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The four grants total $7.5 million over three years. The grants complement the McCormick Foundation's investment in the Illinois Solutions Partnership, formed with the Better Government Association and announced in 2021.
The McCormick Foundation has granted Capitol News Illinois $700,000 over its first four years of operations. McCormick said the increased investment in CNI will "help a promising outlet scale to meet the need for greater scrutiny in Springfield."
Jeff Rogers, the executive director of the Illinois Press Foundation and editor of Capitol News Illinois, said the McCormick investment will be used to expand the news service's print reporting operations, launch a broadcast news operation in 2023, and hire a development director that will be tasked with growing and diversifying revenue streams to support continued editorial growth and impact.
Other Capitol News Illinois initiatives planned in the coming months and years with the McCormick investment include adding print reporters outside of the Springfield area; continuing to grow the broadcast newsroom; and hiring a photographer/videographer, a web/digital developer, an events coordinator, and a college internships coordinator. News literacy and civics initiatives are also planned, as is an expanded effort to provide analytical reporting and commentary.
"Capitol News Illinois' mission has always been to connect as many people as possible to state government in Illinois," Rogers said. "We have been very successful in doing that through the more than 460 newspapers in Illinois that have published CNI stories since 2019. This investment in Capitol News Illinois from the McCormick Foundation will allow us to expand our audience significantly through broadcast reporting and through significantly expanded print offerings."
Capitol News Illinois stories have been published more than 75,000 times in Illinois newspapers with a combined circulation of about 2 million.
"Equally important is the investment in CNI's business operations which will yield more funding for our newsrooms in the coming years that will enable us to continue to grow our news service," Rogers said.
Capitol News Illinois operates solely on grants and donations. It does not charge a subscription for access to its coverage or a fee to publish its stories. The McCormick Foundation and Illinois Press Foundation have been the major donors to CNI during its nearly four years of operation.
Rogers also said CNI is "looking forward to being a part of a collaborative investigative journalism powerhouse McCormick is fostering with these grants."
Timothy P. Knight, the McCormick Foundation president and CEO, shared that sentiment.
"All of these organizations have a history of collaborating closely with others, and several of these organizations currently collaborate with each other on a range of editorial, promotional, and operational initiatives," Knight said. "The simultaneous investment in each of these organizations, together with our investment in the Illinois Solutions Partnership, is intended to promote and strengthen collaboration and recognize the strong, complementary skills each of these organizations brings to Chicago and Illinois media."
In recent weeks, Capitol News Illinois also has received financial commitments from the Illinois Broadcasters Association and the Southern Illinois Editorial Association that will aid in the news service's expansion efforts. More details on those investments will be made soon.
Rogers said searches for a development director, an additional print reporter, and broadcast reporters are underway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.