The Sun-Times wants to reflect the voices of all Chicagoans. Here’s how you can help

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Chicago Sun-Times Executive Editor Jennifer Kho

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Since moving to Chicago in September, I’ve fallen in love with the city. In just a few months, I’ve witnessed so much creativity, resourcefulness and resilience. And kindness: People I’ve met have been warm and welcoming, from strangers offering to help when I’m wandering around lost (which happens a lot) to new acquaintances providing me with great tips and restaurant recommendations — and calling to check in on me when I had COVID-19.

It’s also, undoubtedly, a great news town. I’ve been simply amazed at how much interest and opinion I hear from people about city politics or their wards. The number of passionate comments I’ve seen on social media or community forums when an alderperson misses an important meeting is like nothing I’ve experienced elsewhere. Chicagoans really care about their city and making it better.

It has its problems, to be sure — crime, corruption, pollution, poverty and homelessness, segregation and inequity, to name just a few. But I’ve also been inspired by all the people and organizations working to make progress and improve their city. And I want the Sun-Times to be part of that. I’m obsessed with the question of what the Sun-Times can do, as a news organization, to help our readers and our community thrive.

The truth is that news has, for too long, left many people out. The Sun-Times has done better than many: The majority of our readers are people of color (more than 53%), according to a third-party survey conducted last year. Nearly 40% of our readers earn less than $50,000 per year, and about half earn less than $75,000 per year. We dropped our paywall in October to make our content available to everyone, not only those who can afford to pay. (Thank you, founding members, for supporting the Sun-Times and keeping local news free for the rest of our community.) But we know we can and must do better. 

There are still so many worthy stories that nobody is telling, so many people whose voices we aren’t hearing. To find out which stories and whose stories you want to hear and learn how we can do a better job of serving the Chicago area, we’ve kicked off a series of community interviews and listening sessions. 

Among the themes we’ve already heard from you include: 

  • A desire for more stories that include the voices of regular people, not only people and institutions in power, and more stories about everyday life, not only the extreme highs and lows that are usually considered newsworthy;
  • More context and analysis about what the news we report means for our readers;
  • More information about the underlying root causes of the societal issues we write about, including more historical context;
  • Coverage of more neighborhoods, and a broader range of stories within each one — along with a more reflective balance of positive and negative news;
  • More service-focused stories, including guides and resources, to help people understand how the city works and make informed decisions in their own lives, for their families and communities; and
  • More stories about solutions — the different efforts to improve the societal problems we write about and whether they are working — and what readers can do to help.

My vision for the Sun-Times is all about connecting with and serving our community, especially among marginalized groups that have historically been left out or underserved by the news; working to bring diverse community voices to all of our journalism; and expanding our stories about everyday life and people in the Chicago area.

This has translated into centering voters in our election coverage, with our Sun-Times/WBEZ poll, voter guide and Pulse of the Heartland series, in which we spoke with voters around the state about the issues they care about most. It was embodied in our holiday guide, chock full of things to do throughout the season — and prominent Chicago chefs’ personal go-to holiday recipes.

It has included writing more stories about Chicago life, including manhole covers, ghost trains, the deer herd at Rosehill cemetery, the robots now rolling all over the UIC campus, the city and county’s guaranteed income pilot programs, illegal street takeovers, the lack of libraries at CPS schools, a biker war brewing between Mongol Nation and the Outlaws, the Chicago twins who helped bring down El Chapo and watching the World Cup in Chicago, especially the Mexico-Poland match.

We’ve continued to watch out for Chicagoans — and hold power accountable — with stories about a “check washing” scam impacting thousands of Chicago-area residents, Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson’s criminal trial and sentencing, inequitable police shutdowns of bars due to crime, car insurance companies reaping windfalls during the pandemic but returning very little money to consumers, among just a few examples. 

We’ve also been showcasing more voices from the community via op-eds and letters to the editor (read more about this from Lorraine Forte, the editorial page editor, in this edition), as well as our question of the day on Twitter and Facebook

But we’re just getting started. I would love to hear from more of you, more often. You can email me directly at jkho@suntimes.com, and I’ve been answering at least one reader email every day. I’m also here to help answer your general questions about news. If you include “Ask the Editor” in the subject line, your email could be selected to appear in the Sun-Times.

I’m looking forward to experiencing my first full year in Chicago, which I hope will include meeting many of you. Thanks for reading! 

Feeds,News,Region: Chicago,City: Chicago

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December 16, 2022 at 03:11PM

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