The Chicago Reporter was founded by John A. McDermott in 1972, a time when Chicago, as the rest of the nation, struggled to come to terms with the gains of the civil rights era and the resistance that followed. McDermott, active in the city’s civil rights movement for almost ten years, saw that the era of marches and lunch counter protests had come to an end. What people needed, if they were to follow what was happening, were facts.
The investigative publication set on a mission of documenting the city’s, and later the whole metropolitan area’s, struggles with the burning issues of race and poverty. While still in its infancy, in its trademark style of dispassionate but exhaustive reporting, the Reporter broke dozens of stories documenting widespread discrimination against African Americans in corporate hiring, city services and governmental affairs. More than five decades later, the Reporter continues to cover Chicago’s streets, neighborhoods and institutions, winning dozens of awards.
As one of America’s most segregated cities, Chicago continues to experience racial and economic inequality. The Reporter serves a critical role in the city and nation by focusing the power of investigative reporting on issues of racial inequality that rarely receive thorough and regular examination by mainstream media organizations. Our core areas of coverage are criminal justice, affordable housing, education, economic development, jobs and transportation.
The Reporter’s investigations have had a significant impact on policy and the public discourse in Chicago. In the 1980s, then Mayor Harold Washington cited the Reporter’s work in addressing longstanding racial inequalities in the distribution of city services. Almost 25 years later, the Reporter’s investigation of racially disparate home mortgage lending sparked a lawsuit by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan that resulted in an $8.7 billion settlement with Countrywide Financial. And in 2015, the Reporter was the only media organization in the city to acquire a video of a police officer shooting into a car of unarmed African-American teenagers, one of many cases of police-involved shootings leading up the release of a video showing the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
In 2016, the Reporter began a merger with its sister publication Catalyst, which for 25 years was a trusted watchdog and resource for school improvement in Chicago. Under the leadership of its founder, Linda Lenz, Catalyst combined data analysis, extensive on-the-ground reporting and a wealth of knowledge about the Chicago Public Schools to address a wide range of topics, among them issues in teaching and learning, school choice, equity in school resources and the latest relevant research. The merger has allowed the Reporter to broaden its education coverage to include higher education, regional and national news, and other issues outside of school that have an impact on student learning.
The Reporter’s pioneering use of computer assisted reporting has also allowed it to scour the city’s databases and computer discs, carrying on as gumshoes in the computer age. Used by legislators, policy makers, academics and individuals nationwide, the Reporter continues to break the news and influence the agenda in Chicago.
The Reporter is a publication of the Community Renewal Society.