Case Study

Lenfest Institute supports potential merger between Chicago Public Media and Chicago Sun-Times

We’ve been proud to offer advice and counsel to Chicago Public Media

By Hayley Slusser

October 8, 2021

the chicago skyline

The big news in the world of local news last week was the announcement that Chicago Public Media intends to acquire the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper and digital properties, creating a local news powerhouse in America’s third largest city. The move was inspired in part by The Lenfest Institute’s ownership of The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Institute served as a strategic advisor in the planning process. 

The Lenfest Institute’s mission is not only to support sustainable solutions for local journalism at home in Philadelphia, but also to share what we learn with news and civic leaders around the country as they look to ensure that their communities are served by meaningful, public-service oriented local news. 

Most recently, we’ve been proud to offer advice and counsel to Chicago Public Media, which announced last week that it is moving forward with its plans to acquire the tabloid newspaper and digital news enterprise Chicago Sun-Times. The deal would create what it described as “one of the largest local nonprofit news organizations in the nation and be a national model for the future of local journalism.” 

The New York Times cited The Lenfest Institute as a model for Chicago: “The Sun-Times’s potential move to local nonprofit ownership would mirror the corporate structure of The Philadelphia Inquirer, which in 2016 was donated by its owner, H.F. Lenfest, a cable magnate, to The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, a nonprofit organization he had established.”

Lenfest Institute Executive Director & CEO Jim Friedlich told The Times that the model enables individuals and foundations to make philanthropic donations that support investigative stories, increased diversity, and enhanced digital products.

“(Chicago’s) news capacity has been ravaged over the years by out-of-town hedge fund owners, the secular decline of print, and a failure to invest in the digital transformation of local news products,” Friedlich told the Times. “Today’s announcement is wonderful news and a model for other public media and local newspapers to emulate.”

The Sun-Times and WBEZ, Chicago Public Media’s flagship radio station, will continue to serve their respective audiences but also expand their reach by sharing coverage across platforms.

Chicago Public Media CEO Matt Moog said the combined local news powerhouse will be supported by donations and major philanthropic organizations, with three major Chicago-based funders already secured. 

“This is an investment and growth opportunity. We are looking to build our staff, we’re looking to build the audience, we’re looking to invest in journalism,” Moog said. “All of that is focused on making sure that we serve an expanded and engaged diverse audience that is representative of the community that we serve.”

Local News Solutions

The Lenfest Institute provides free tools and resources for local journalism leaders to develop sustainable strategies to serve their communities.

Find Your News Solution
news solution pattern