BGA forms Illinois Solutions Partnership with $10 million grant from McCormick Foundation

David Greising

Chicago’s Better Government Association, the nonprofit investigation journalism and government watchdog organization, is about to expand dramatically, thanks to the largest gift in its 98-year history — a $10 million grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Over the next five years, the grant will be used to more than double the investigative and enterprise reporting staff of the BGA and broaden its mission to encompass “solutions journalism” across a variety of platforms.

Dubbed the Illinois Solutions Partnership, the ambitious new collaboration will focus on providing residents information they need “to hold their government accountable and engage public officials and civic leaders in efforts to improve Illinois and Chicago,” according to a joint announcement Monday.

Better Government Association

“We’re launching the Illinois Solutions Partnership at a crucial time for both the state and for journalism,” said David Greising, president and CEO of the BGA. “Disinvestment in news coverage is a threat to a healthy democracy, and the McCormick Foundation’s significant investment will help to combat this dangerous trend.”

Greising, who has headed the BGA since 2018, previously managed the Chicago News Cooperative, a short-lived digital news startup. He also served as Midwest bureau chief of Reuters and as a business columnist and reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times.

Reporting by the nonpartisan, nonprofit partnership will adhere to BGA policies ensuring the independence and objectivity of its journalism, according to the announcement. A board with equal representation from the BGA and McCormick Foundation will oversee the venture.

“We’re confident the Illinois Solutions Partnership will make an important impact in helping our city and state identify and pursue solutions to key challenges we are facing,” Timothy Knight, president and CEO of the McCormick Foundation, said in a statement.

“We are excited to partner with the Better Government Association, which knows how to bring journalism firepower to investigate the problems we face. We must figure out what’s wrong and help fix it.”

The new venture, still to be branded, is expected to reach readers and viewers through a new website and mobile platform, newsletters and social media channels, as well as through content and distribution collaborations with other broadcast, print and digital news media across the state.

The Chicago-based McCormick Foundation is the nonprofit charitable trust established in 1955 after the death of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune and founder of WGN Radio and TV.

Knight, who stepped down in 2020 as president and CEO of Tribune Publishing, succeeded David Hiller, another former Tribune CEO, as head of the foundation.

Friday’s comment of the day: Gary Bernstein: Nick [Digilio] was the last reason I had for listening to WGN at nights when I was awake then. Now WGN Radio sounds just like a dozen other radio stations across the AM dial at night. The station has lost their unique live sound for sure.