Journalists play a key leadership role in a local information system. They identify salient topics, use their skills to obtain and uncover facts, and provide the public with useable information to understand issues and enact reforms where needed. Such reporting is all the more important in areas of the city regularly dealing with the consequences of neglect, segregation, and other social inequities.
City Bureau is a seven-year-old journalism lab located in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. Its Civic Reporting Fellowship brings together emerging and established journalists with a commitment to civic media and an ability to report for communities underrepresented in Chicago journalism. The Driehaus Foundation has supported City Bureau and the Civic Reporting Fellowships through since 2021.
The program accepts around two dozen Chicagoans into paid, 11-week reporting fellowships each year. The fellowship prioritizes emerging journalists of color and those from backgrounds often missing from local newsrooms. Staff reporters help lead the teams and support the fellows with practical assistance and skill-building as they report together on key coverage areas.
In recent years, Civic Reporting Fellows have covered subjects including housing insecurity and the effects of the post-COVID "eviction avalanche" on Chicago communities, inequities in maternal and infant health, and the consequences of the city's budget crisis.
City Bureau fellows focus their reporting on the South and West Sides, and specifically on the 15 Chicago zip codes in which at least 90% of residents are people of color. Reporting within these zip codes aims to fill local information needs and equip community leaders who are positioned to act on the reporting.
Last year, City Bureau used its reporting to produce an accessible, illustrated guide, “Will That New Development Benefit Your Community? The People’s Guide to Community Benefits Agreements and Alternatives” to equip Chicagoans to play an active role in their community's development process.
This year, reporters are covering issues such as the outcomes of Chicago's guaranteed income pilot, how workers on the city's South and West Sides are navigating the ongoing effects of the pandemic, and whether local government's promises to those communities are being upheld.
By investing in the development of reporters who are directly connected to the communities most impacted by political neglect and exploitation, City Bureau is working to create the conditions for a new era of accountability journalism.