We’re announcing a (working) break to reinvigorate City Bureau’s longest-running program: the reporting fellowship. 

By Sarah Conway and Bettina Chang

Fellows across the years, at a recent alumni BBQ.

Fellows across the years, at a recent alumni BBQ.

For the first time since City Bureau launched in fall 2015, we do not have an active application or cohort of reporting fellows. Instead, over the next few months, we will be meeting with former fellows, publishing partners and community groups to gather collective wisdom on the impacts of our fellowship, and the potential of our future work.

Why? The fellowship was City Bureau’s first program. It was created to address the challenges in Chicago’s local news ecosystem. But things have changed a lot in the past four years. Some publications have shuttered; some have opened. Local and national philanthropy now play an even larger role in supporting news organizations. Communities are gaining resources to demand more from their local newsrooms. And City Bureau has a full-time staff and runs two additional programs now.

As a civic journalism lab, we have always vowed to iterate and be responsive to the folks who work with us. So we are taking this break to ensure our Civic Reporting Programs will continue to provide a unique value to our community.

We’ll keep you updated on the process. But in the meantime, let’s look back at four years of City Bureau fellowships!

Here’s what alumni have to say

“I moved to Chicago a year ago knowing no one; after doing a fellowship cycle with City Bureau, I felt like I knew the entire city, literally.” - Resita Cox, City Bureau reporting fellow, poet and documentary filmmaker

“Without a doubt, City Bureau has changed my entire outlook on community news and reporting for the better. My time spent with [City Bureau staff and fellows] was not only transformative as a journalist but a ton of fun!” - Lee Edwards, City Bureau reporting fellow, Free Spirit Media

“I’m proud to have been a part of City Bureau… and can honestly say that it was one of the smartest decisions I made in my journalism career.” - Sebastián Hidalgo, City Bureau photo fellow, 2019 CatchLight Fellow

And here are some numbers of what we’ve accomplished

  • Four years

  • 12 cohorts

  • Over 100 fellowship alumni 

  • More than 220 published stories in outlets such as Austin Weekly News, Chicago Defender, The Guardian, Univision, Belt Magazine, Chicago magazine, CityBureau.org and more

  • In-depth coverage on community-driven topics like policing in schools, restorative justice, living with lead, Black maternal health, open-air demolitions, Black generational wealth, the census and predatory housing lending, and more

  • Over 20 Public Newsrooms hosted by alumni

  • Finalists and winners of 11 journalism awards for our coverage such as a Sidney Award for our investigation on the police union’s influence on media coverage of police shootings, and Lisagor Award Best Photography on how seniors are growing communities—while growing older—on the south side

That’s not all. Our fellows ...

  • Launched at least six entrepreneurial media start-ups and projects, such as El Cicero Independiente (Irene Romulo), Folded Map Project (Tonika Johnson), #MyOneWish Project (Aja Backham), ReGrowth documentary (Resita Cox), 90 Days/90 Voices (Sarah Conway, Alex Hernandez and Nissa Rhee), Coordenadas (Alma Campos), and counting 

  • Moved on to jobs at outlets such as Block Club Chicago (Alex Hernandez, Pascal Sabino), Hyde Park Herald (Samantha Smylie), The New York Times (Andrea Salcedo), Chalkbeat Chicago (Yana Kunichoff), Injustice Watch (Charles Preston, Adeshina Emmanuel), Illinois Public Media (Lee Gaines), WNYC (Jenny Casas), The Washington Post (Kim Bellware), Chicago Sun-Times (Manny Ramos), WBEZ (Bia Medious, Marley Arechiga), Chicago Reader (Yazmin Dominguez, Aaron Allen, Janaya Greene), Free Spirit Media (Lee Edwards), CBS News (Sajedah Al-khzaleh) and more 

  • Snagged some *bedazzled* fellowships, grants and opportunities from Ida B. Wells Data Institute, Chicago Filmmakers, Report for America, International Women's Media Foundation, Kartemquin Films, ivoh and more

As City Bureau fellow Bia Medious said: “Mark my words, 20 years from now City Bureau will be known as the SNL of journalism… A whole pipeline of talent.” Our fellows already out there changing the game, and we couldn’t be prouder of them! 

We'll share updates and photos on our progress, little discoveries and more during our pause. 

Bettina & Sarah

Support “the SNL of journalism” aka City Bureau’s reporting fellowship by becoming a City Bureau Press Club member today.

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