Former DNAinfo journalists crowdfunded $100K for local news in one day

by Andreas Rekdal
February 8, 2018
block club chicago tech team
Image via block club chicago

The shuttering of DNAinfo left a void in Chicago’s local news coverage.

Sports, city politics and business news still receive plenty of attention, but updates on police activity, business closures and changes in neighborhood demographics are harder to come by.

Block Club Chicago, a local news startup run by DNAinfo veterans, wants to bring hyperlocal news coverage back to the city under a reader-supported, nonprofit newsroom model.

Block Club Chicago launched a Kickstarter page on February 6, which surpassed $118,000 in pledges from nearly 2,000 backers on the morning of February 8.

Its founding team includes a three-person editor and strategy team, as well as five on-the-ground reporters. The team will also rely on freelancers across the city to supplement the coverage of its full-time staff.

According to its Kickstarter campaign, reaching its $100,000 stretch goal allows the startup to hire an additional full-time reporter. Its long-term goal is to provide consistent coverage of news from across the entire city.

Block Club Chicago will keep its breaking news coverage free and offer a $5 monthly membership that gives readers “full access to [its] coverage,” according to its Kickstarter page. Notably, its website will also be free of ads.

Perhaps more importantly, the membership model gives readers an opportunity to directly support independent local news coverage.

In adopting a nonprofit newsroom structure, Block Club follows in the footsteps of public radio stations and ProPublica — an investigative reporting outfit which recently opened a newsroom to focus exclusively on Illinois news.

Block Club Chicago’s Kickstarter campaign offers funding tiers ranging from $10 (for which the backer receives a postcard) to $10,000 (which will land you a private dinner with the founders and listing as a “founding member” on its website). The most popular funding tier, $50, lands a backer a year-long subscription.

In addition to its reader community, Block Club Chicago is backed by Civil — a Brooklyn-based media startup whose media platform leverages blockchain technology to let readers support the reporters and outlets they follow.

Block Club Chicago expects to launch its coverage in April.

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