Illinois nonprofit newsrooms bolster collaboration with new arrangement

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Three nonprofit news organizations in Illinois are strengthening their agreements to share content, and two of the outfits will soon be under one roof.

CU-CitizenAccess, an online, nonprofit newsroom run out of the University of Illinois College of Media, will move its operations to the Illinois Public Media newsroom. Both are based in Urbana.

The relocation, along with a formalized content-sharing agreement with The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, in Champaign, is expected to help all three organizations do more investigative work and data journalism.

CU-CitizenAccess’s move made sense because it has worked closely with IPM in recent years, said Brant Houston, the College of Media’s Knight chair of investigative reporting and head of CU-CitizenAccess. The partnership will also give CU’s largely student-staffed newsroom access to resources of joint licensee Illinois Public Media through its WILL-FM, WILL-TV and online news departments.

“As time went on, we started working on projects together more and more,” Houston said. “And over the last year it became clear we have something good together, and we wanted to make it more efficient.” A CU-CitizenAccess and IPM collaboration on meth abuse in Central Illinois yielded segments for WILL-TV and won CU reporter Cheryl Silver a Radio Television Digital News Association Murrow Award.

CU-CitizenAccess and IPM will remain independent, working on their own stories and funding themselves separately. But the new proximity will allow for greater collaboration on stories and ease sharing of story budgets.

“It’s taking something that was happening in pieces and sporadically and saying, ‘Let’s make it work,’” Houston said.

“We’re taking the next step in our existing relationships and making our newsroom a collaborative workspace,” said Scott Cameron, news and public affairs director at Illinois Public Media, in a statement. “We’ll be better able to serve our audience, our communities and journalism students.”

Additionally, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting will join the collaboration and share more content with IPM. The center focuses on agribusiness stories and collaborates with commercial and noncommercial news outlets in the state.