By: Brenda Torres
Block Club Chicago, was originally DNAinfo and was shut down last year, and reopened under a new entity. Block Club Chicago, a local digital newspaper, focusing on Chicago neighborhoods, has launched in April, and people are excited about it! Three former journalists from DNAinfo have built the entity; Stephanie Lulay, Jen Sabella, and Shamus Toomey are the founders.
Block Club Chicago is a nonprofit and ad-free neighborhood digital newspaper that is reporting for just Chicago neighborhoods. Their name is unique and relatable to their mission, “We decided to call ourselves the Block Club because we felt it reflected our mission: to build community through truly ground-level reporting of the city’s neighborhoods.” Tommey is the Editor-In-Chief, Stabella is serving as Director of Strategy and Lulay as Managing Editor.
Much like DNAinfo, Block Club Chicago is focusing on the neighborhoods. Unlike other newspapers from the city who focus on the city as a whole, they want eyes in the neighborhoods. “Our focus remains on telling stories that matter in the neighborhoods, and growing our coverage sustainably through reader and donor support,” according to their story.
Currently, Block Club Chicago, has six staff reporters Kelly Bauer, Mina Bloom, Lee Edwards, Alisa Hauser, Alex V. Hernandez, and Mauricio Peña. Each reporter focuses on a certain set of neighborhoods. All of the reporters worked for DNAinfo, except for Edwards. He has worked for other newspapers, The Chicago Defender, Chicago Crusader and the City Bureau. Since the news site is just starting, they ask readers to bear with them because they are smaller than DNAinfo. Still, they have four contributor writers at this time.
When DNAinfo first shut down Nov. 2017, readers did not take it too kindly. Former billionaire CEO Joe Ricketts of DNAinfo shut down the newspaper site because of economic issues. “But DNAinfo is, at the end of the day a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” stated, Ricketts, in his note to the public.
At the time, a former DNAinfo staff member, Lisa White, who was laid off last year, posted on Twitter that she started an online fund page, to buy drinks for former DNAinfo staff. The fund page started filling up and they met for drinks.
A paramount reason they wanted to launch Block Club Chicago is because they did not want to be done after DNAinfo shut down, according to the Tribune. They were able to launch because they set up a Kickstarter account and secured funding. Their news site is run by Civil, a platform for newspapers.
Block Club Chicago has a subscription option and readers can sign-up for a daily newsletter sent to their email. “It’s become clear to us — and so many news outlets that produce original news with real reporters — that asking our readers for support is the only way to be sustainable,” according to their site.