Last week I wrote that, because of difficulty in raising philanthropic funds, the editorial staff of the Daily News would be moving on to launch a new, for-profit local news organization.
Apparently my corporate PR skills are lacking, because the announcement gave rise to a wave of questions, confusion and misinterpretations about our plans.
So, in an effort to clear the record, here's a rundown of the common questions we've been asked.
Are you closing down?
Absolutely not. ChiTownDailyNews.org will remain online for the foreseeable future. We are talking with other Chicago nonprofits about selling them the domain name, content, and the other assets they would need to continue operating our volunteer reporting program. Until that process is complete, the website will remain online, updated with content from our volunteer reporters.
So what's changed?
We have stopped operating our public affairs reporting program, which involved the work of three full-time journalists who covered Chicago city agencies.
What happened to them?
They were laid off.
Because we did not see a way to reliably raise funds for their work, and to expand the public affairs reporting program, as a nonprofit.
I heard the Daily News is out of money?
Yes and no. It's true that we don't have any money in the bank. However, we had identified a source of funding that would have allowed us to operate over the short term. But absent a long-term strategy, we concluded that we would simply land in the same position again soon. So we elected not to proceed with the short-term funding.
Are you blaming the recession?
Not really. The Daily News was having difficulty raising funds to support operations before the recession, and we expected those difficulties to continue after the economic recovery was underway. The recession exacerbated an underlying problem: Foundations and major donors in Chicago have, for the most part, failed to support our work, as have local corporate sponsors. Of the $600,000 we raised over the past four years, all but 10 percent came from outside Chicago.
Aren't you using donated money to launch your new for-profit business? Or doing something else dastardly with other people's money?
No. The Daily News doesn't have any donated money left. If we did, we wouldn't be having this discussion. All of the donated money we received went to pay the salaries of reporters and editors, to cover our rent, and to pay our phone bill. That's pretty much it.
As a tax-exempt nonprofit, the Daily News is required to conduct an external audit of its finances each year, and to report those results to the Illinois Attorney General. Rest assured, there are plenty of people who would notice if we did something funky with the money.
I heard rumors about wage theft or employees not getting paid. What's that about?
In an effort to be as honest as possible with our employees during a difficult time, we let them know that we did not have money in the bank to pay for their work on Monday and Tuesday of last week. While that remains the case, we expect to be able to pay them for their work on those days in the very near future, and also to provide them with severance pay. Payday is Sept. 23, so we're actually not in arrears at this point.