* Rumors circulated last April that the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity was shutting down. Not so, the Franklin Center claimed…
“The Franklin Center has not shut down; it continues to operate and we expect growth as we progress through 2017,” said Franklin Center spokeswoman Laurel Patrick, who previously worked for Walker. “In order to achieve this growth, it is undergoing a reorganization.”
She said that the center had appointed new leadership. John Tillman, the CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute, has been named the new chairman, and Chris Krug, the publisher and general manager of the Illinois News Network and Illinois Radio Network, has been named president, Patrick said.
Krug replaces Nicole Neily, who was in the job for only a year.
“Watchdog.org will continue, and we are committed to growing that brand,” Patrick said. “The new management team will be working with all current and former employees in the coming week to find the right path forward for each person and Franklin.”
Lots of familiar names in that piece. Laurel Patrick, you will recall, was brought in last July as Gov. Rauner’s director of communications during the first round of staff purges. She was purged by late August.
* And then this press release went out today…
Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity announced today that it acquired the Illinois News Network (INN) from the Illinois Policy Institute, and will utilize INN as the template for an initiative at Watchdog.org to improve statehouse coverage nationwide.
INN – a non-profit, non-partisan news service that reports on state, regional and local issues and distributes its content from the digital hub ILNews.org – continues to attract new partners, and delivered content to 139 media outlets across Illinois in 2017.
ILNews.org published nearly 1,600 news stories in 2017, and legacy media companies republished more than 1,300 of them in their print and digital editions.
Chicago Tribune Media Group, Hearst Newspapers, Lee Enterprises, McClatchy, Paddock Publications and Shaw Media are among the legacy news companies whose newspapers and digital sites published INN’s reporting in 2017.
Franklin Center’s Watchdog.org project is a non-profit, non-partisan journalism initiative that seeks to improve the accuracy, balance and quality of statehouse news reporting across the United States.
“Acquiring INN is precisely the right next step for the future of Watchdog.org,” Franklin Center President Chris Krug said. “INN has become an essential read for Illinoisans. Our focus now moves to bringing that same journalistic energy, focus and timeliness in highly consumable news packages to readers across the country.”
Krug, named president of Franklin Center last April, has served as publisher and general manager at INN since 2016. INN was launched by IPI in 2013, and operated as an independent project prior to acquisition by Franklin Center.
Krug said that accuracy, consistency and speed have made ILNews.org a trusted statewide reporting service for media companies seeking balanced coverage in their daily reports.
“ILNews.org established itself over the past two years as a trusted source for high quality, state-focused journalism created specifically for an Illinois audience,” he said. “We weigh in on important issues every day at INN. It’s that core approach and daily execution that will benefit Watchdog.org in other states.
“Each state will require a customized approach, but will benefit from INN’s operational excellence and efficiency. We begin with an incredible core group of journalists in Illinois who will mentor and train our national editors, reporters and contributors.
“Statehouse news coverage is in need of attention and manpower across the country. Legacy media is hurting everywhere, and the resources allocated to covering state legislatures have dwindled substantially. Contextual coverage of statehouse news is the proverbial donut hole in local news coverage. The expertise we have demonstrated in Illinois will allow us to bring truth to light elsewhere, and bridge the gap for readers in states across the country,” Krug said.
Dan McCaleb, News Director at INN, was named News Director for Watchdog.org. McCaleb will focus on building each of the forthcoming Watchdog.org state news teams.
“Dan has uncommon drive,” Krug said. “He has a true passion for finding the truth. He is an excellent news leader and manager who understands and meets the expectations of readers in the digital age. The editors and reporters Dan recruits into the Watchdog.org project will raise the bar for statehouse reporting nationwide.”
Watchdog.org has kind of degraded over time.
* The Illinois Policy Institute’s 2016 tax filing explained the original plan…
During 2017, the CEO of Illinois Policy assumed the chairmanship of the Franklin Center, another 501(c)(3) not for profit organization, and the board of directors of that organization was reconstituted. Also during 2017, a for-profit subsidiary of the Franklin Center, named American Media Unlimited, was established. During 2017, the assets of the Illinois Radio Network, currently owned by the Institute, will be transferred to American Media Unlimited.
According to the Policy Institute’s latest tax filing, the Illinois Radio Network brought in $162,170 in revenues during 2016.
*** UPDATE *** If you click here, you’ll see American Media Unlimited’s latest state corporate filing. John Tillman is listed as the company’s secretary.