Last Wednesday, a few hours after CWBChicago needled the Chicago Tribune for its softening of headlines about weekend violence downtown, a member of the paper’s editorial board followed us on Twitter. The board member, Lara Weber, then sent a tweet:
Considering the ribbing we gave the Trib that morning, it seemed strange that one of its editorial board members would suddenly take such a personal interest in our operation. Even stranger was Weber’s decision to just throw it out there for public input rather than sending us an email or direct message.
We have been blessed to receive an outpouring of support from countless CWBChicago readers since Wednesday. Some chose to make a contribution to our operating fund and others jumped in as subscribers. We’ve thanked each of them individually and, now, we thank them publicly.
Below is our response to Lara Weber. It’s also our commitment to you.
Dear Chicago Tribune Editorial Board member Lara Weber,
No. We will not change a single thing about CWBChicago because you think we should.
It took gumption for you to discover us one day last week and then jump on Twitter to see if you could uncover “the forces (financial and editorial) behind @CWBChicago.”
Your subsequent e-lecture from Tribune Tower about how “journalism” is supposed to operate was…something.
You seem amazed that ordinary Chicagoans might be willing to support a very small operation that reliably and consistently provides original and exclusive reporting about events that are happening where they live. We’re not sure why this seems far-fetched to you—why you immediately jumped to the dark side implication of there being “influencers” at the wheel.
CWBChicago was founded in 2013 because a group of Wrigleyville and Boystown residents became fed up with the refusal of local Alderman Tom Tunney and the 19th District (Town Hall) Community Policing office to address a rampant robbery problem in our neighborhood. The full story of our history, as always, is available here.
Until July 2015, we paid every expense out of pocket. That month, we tried to raise a few bucks by selling 100 t-shirts. To date, we’ve lost $181.43 on that effort, mainly because we grossly underestimated Boystown’s preference for tight-fitting extra-small clothing. (Let us know if you’d like some of the remaining XL tees. They’re great for dusting and we have plenty.)
Since we started our voluntary subscription model at the end of last year, some folks have chipped in $5 some $20. Others have backed us with annual subscriptions of $49 and a handful have signed up at the $219 level. There is no “influencer.”
Every one of those dollars means the world to us. From what people have said in their subscription messages, our backers range from young people who are just starting out to established families. No one’s dollar is more important than anyone else’s here.
Unlike employees of the Chicago Tribune, we can’t count on a paycheck to compensate us for the hours we put in and the expenses we encounter. We have to produce. We have to produce and hope that more people will someday decide that our work is worth supporting.
When we wake up, nothing—nothing—motivates us more than knowing there are people down the street and around Chicago who are counting on us to do our thing. It is a pleasure and an honor to go to work for them every single day.
Our commitment is to our readers: to chase down leads; to speak with authorities, witnesses, and sources; to review public records; and to communicate facts as clearly, accurately, and timely as possible.
We will keep that commitment every day. On our terms, not the Chicago Tribune’s.