In the two years following the start of the pandemic, more than 360 newspapers went out of business, and local newspapers are continuing to close at a pace of about two per week, while many others are shedding staff and cutting coverage as they fight for survival. In addition to creating public information gaps, research indicates the collapse of local news is leading to greater polarization, costlier government, and deeper public distrust.
The Driehaus Foundation's Investigative Journalism for Government Accountability program champions thorough, fact-based reporting that sustains a civically engaged public. While Chicago continues to be the focus of our grantmaking, new grants this year will support original, accountability-focused reporting statewide.
The Better Government Association (BGA) is a 100-year-old, nonprofit news organization and civic advocate working for transparency, efficiency, and accountability in government in Chicago and across Illinois.
Earlier this year, the Driehaus Foundation announced a three-year $1.4 million grant to the BGA to establish a new statewide investigative and solutions reporting initiative for the BGA's Illinois Answers Project. This new "embed unit" will pair the investigative and solutions journalism expertise of the BGA with the local-market knowledge of newsrooms across Illinois. This combined effort will produce statewide reports with local relevance, while addressing problems and solutions of consequence in overlooked communities statewide.
These partnerships will highlight local government failings, identify possible solutions, and engage local residents and civic leaders to equip them with the information they need to act. The grant is one of several special legacy grants awarded this year in memory of our founder, Richard H. Driehaus.
Report for America (RFA) is a national service program that aims to transform communities and strengthen democracy by eliminating the country's news deserts. RFA matches journalists to communities where their reporting will help to fill critical information gaps. These corps members typically join their host newsrooms on two-year commitments, and the newsroom and RFA share the cost of the corps member.
A two-year, $171,600 grant from the Driehaus Foundation will support two full-time, Illinois-based reporting positions focused on government accountability. An RFA corps member at the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights will cover local government's efforts to address climate change. And an RFA corps member at public radio station WGLT in Normal will follow the progress on an ambitious new mental health program. Reporting from these positions is already reaching local news audiences.
Since its founding in 2017, Report for America has placed more than 500 reporters and photographers across all 50 states. Today, RFA corps members are doing on-the-ground reporting on a wide range of subjects including health, state government, energy and climate, and the foster care system.