Chance the Rapper has purchased the defunct hyperlocal news website Chicagoist, announcing the deal in one of four new songs released late Wednesday.
In the track, titled “I Might Need Security,” the artist also calls out Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Chicagoist.com has been dormant since November, when owner Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade and patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs, shut down the site along with Gothamist, DNAinfo and others. That came after the sites’ staffers voted to unionize under the Writers Guild of America East.
“I’m extremely excited to be continuing the work of the Chicagoist, an integral local platform for Chicago news, events and entertainment,” Chance, born Chancelor Bennett, said in a news release. “I look forward to relaunching it and bringing the people of Chicago an independent media outlet focused on amplifying diverse voices and content,” added the 25-year-old rapper-songwriter-actor-producer, who hails from the West Chatham neighborhood.
Chance acquired Chicagoist from New York Public Radio’s WNYC through his newly formed company Social Media, which aims to promote local investigative journalism, diversity and representation for people of color in media. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Representatives for the rapper did not respond to requests for comment.
WNYC took ownership of the Chicagoist assets, including the site’s archives, internet domain and social media channels, in February when it used funds from anonymous donors to acquire Gothamist and four associated sites. The public radio station relaunched Gothamist in New York City in April.
Public radio stations in other markets also took over Gothamist sites. LAist.com is operated by Southern California Public Radio’s KPCC, while DCist.com is owned by Washington station WAMU. WNYC is maintaining the assets of the fifth site, San Francisco’s SFist.com, and is continuing to have conversations with potential new owners.
In Chicago, public radio station WBEZ-FM 91.5 looked at acquiring Chicagoist, but those efforts did not come to fruition, said Goli Sheikholeslami, CEO of WBEZ parent Chicago Public Media.
“Earlier this year, we explored the possibility of acquiring the Chicagoist assets as part of an examination of our own digital strategy, but decided to focus our energies on our own local journalism and on continuing to build the WBEZ Chicago brand and WBEZ.org,” Sheikholeslami said Thursday in an emailed statement.
Into the void stepped Chance.
“We are delighted that the Chicagoist assets are finding a new home in the hands of a proud Chicagoan,” Laura Walker, president and CEO of New York Public Radio, which includes WNYC, said Thursday in a news release. “WNYC has a strong commitment to local journalism and building community, and we are pleased that these assets will be used to support local coverage in the great city of Chicago.”
Launched in 2003, Gothamist developed a loyal following as a pioneering New York-based urban news site. In March 2017, DNAinfo acquired the Gothamist network of news sites, with Chicagoist designated as the official blog of DNAinfo Chicago. By November, Ricketts abruptly shut down DNAinfo and the Gothamist sites, saying the ad-supported business model wasn’t viable. The decision by the staff to unionize made it harder for the business to be financially successful, a DNAinfo spokesperson said at the time.
Last month, WNYC gave the DNAinfo archives, website and other assets to the nonprofit Block Club Chicago, a hyperlocal news site launched by DNAinfo Chicago alumni. Rather than relying on ad revenue, Block Club is using a subscription model.
Chance’s four new songs — “I Might Need Security,” “Work Out,” “65th Ingleside” and “Wala Cam” — are available via his website, chanceraps.com, and all major streaming platforms.
Chance offered some insight into his media aspirations through his lyrics in “I Might Need Security,” saying he “bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist (expletive) out of business.”
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