A look back at City Bureau’s biggest and best projects this year.

By City Bureau

In case you don’t make it to the end of this list (yep, we see you), we won’t bury the lede. City Bureau is a nonprofit, and our work is only possible thanks to folks like you. Please help us out by the end of the year, and your donation will be doubled thanks to our matching donors. If you sign up for our Press Club for just $8 this month, your full-year membership fee ($96) will be doubled. Think of it as getting free money, for the benefit of your community!

It’s your last chance to make a tax-deductible contribution this year. Thanks for following us, and we’re wishing you a very merry start to 2019.

Sister Donna Liette, Timika Rutledge and Sakena Barnes (Photos: Sebastián Hidalgo)

Sister Donna Liette, Timika Rutledge and Sakena Barnes (Photos: Sebastián Hidalgo)

1. City Bureau reporting fellows Sarah Conway and Sebastián Hidalgo spent hours interviewing and photographing women who are part of the Mother’s Circle at Precious Blood Ministry in Back of the Yards. In “After Unthinkable Loss,” published in Chicago magazine in February, you meet these women who are tied together in their grief and resilience — all have lost their sons to either gun violence or prison. (Winner of the 2018 “Best Essay” award from the Chicago Review of Books.)

2. In March we hosted our first-ever Documenters Summit, designed as celebration of our Documenters community and as a way to share ownership of the program’s future. Documenters delivered valuable feedback, not just about the program and how it’s managed, but why they participate. Most importantly, it was a place for everyone to meet each other and see the connections within the group.

Folks from all over the city gathered for our first Documenters Summit. (Photo: Sebastián Hidalgo)

Folks from all over the city gathered for our first Documenters Summit. (Photo: Sebastián Hidalgo)

3. Collaboration has always been part of our DNA, and this year we were thrilled to see our first out-of-state Public Newsroom come to fruition via our friends at Mississippi Today.

4. We’re always looking for ways to disrupt and repair the ways that journalism is done. This year we worked with three local publications — Block Club Chicago, Chalkbeat Chicago and the Chicago Reader—to host discussions about ways to improve reporting on crime, education and elections, respectively. Turns out the #PublicNewsroom is the perfect place to facilitate a brave space to have critical conversations. (P.S. If you want to steal the #PublicNewsroom to improve public dialogue in your town, we’re happy to help.)

5. How do you find out about meetings hosted by your local government officials? Despite their importance, cities often make it hard to find information and attend. In August, we wrapped a year-long project in which we convened volunteer coders to help scrape and standardize meeting information in Chicago. Plus, we published a City Scraper guide so you can do it in your own town!

6. It certainly wasn’t an “all work and no play” year… in October we hosted our 2nd annual Soap Box Ball, a celebration of the amazing, thoughtful and passionate community that makes City Bureau possible. A huge thanks to our wonderful special guests Ricardo Gamboa, Jane Beachy, Kristiana Rae Colón and Anton Seals, plus the 350+ people who attended!

7. The journalism we do in Chicago is a lot more than just storytelling. We are creating tools and accessible information for folks who are directly affected by the issues that we cover. There’s no better example than the After the Trial zine, a 32-page free publication that demystifies the complicated process of appealing a conviction in Illinois’s court system—inspired by a young man (and his family) who’s been fighting his case from prison for years.

8. City Bureau is closing out 2018 on an auspicious note. Nowhere has the organization grown more than in the Documenters program: In December, we wrapped our pilot program in Detroit, in partnership with WDET and Citizen Detroit, where folks documented education meetings. And in January, we’ll launch our brand-new web app, which will enable us to bring more Documenters into the fold and document more meetings each week, creating a new public record, accessible to everyone.

We’re so thankful to you and to everyone who has supported City Bureau from the very beginning. Here’s to another year of highlights!

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