Chicago nonprofit news organization recognized for coverage of school-system bribery

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The nonprofit Catalyst Chicago has been getting attention this week for being Chicago’s only media outlet covering bribery and kickbacks within the city’s school system, which prompted a federal investigation.

Staffed by five full-time employees, the 25-year-old Catalyst Chicago focuses on issues related to improving Chicago’s schools. The Columbia Journalism Review and The Huffington Post profiled Catalyst Chicago for its coverage of the multimillion-dollar scheme, which involved the former head of the school system.

Catalyst Chicago was the first and only media outlet to question a $20.5 million no-bid contract for training. The organization’s stories caught the eye of the school district’s inspector general and then federal prosecutors. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former chief of Chicago schools, was indicted this year and pleaded guilty to fraud Oct. 13.

“It just goes to show that especially in this day and age, not all of the important work is being done by the big media outlets,” Lorraine Forte, Catalyst’s former editor-in-chief, told CJR.