* Robert Feder…
Illinois News Network, which provides coverage of state and regional issues to media outlets across Illinois, has changed its name to The Center Square. The rebranding is intended to stake out a nonpartisan centrist position. But it also can be seen as a break from the organization’s controversial past ties to the Illinois Policy Institute. Since 2017 INN has been owned by the nonprofit Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. “For each of us associated with this project, our name serves as a reminder that we’re working with the highest journalistic ethics and precision in mind,” said Chris Krug, president of the Franklin News Foundation. Krug previously served as publisher of the Pioneer Press suburban newspaper chain and as vice president of Shaw Media and editor of the Northwest Herald.
* Chicago Public Square…
Confusion, Squared. The Illinois News Network, a once-reliable state government watchdog whose recent past has been spotty (2016 link)—including funding from the conservative Koch Brothers (2018 link)—is taking a new name: The Center Square – Illinois.
■ It’s backed by the Franklin News Foundation, which ranks just one star (of four) from the nonprofit-evaluation site Charity Navigator.
■ Please don’t mistake it for Chicago Public Square, which comes to you courtesy of four-star supporters including Lora Engdahl, Frank Heitzman, Joseph Sjostrom and Teresa Powell—whom you can join here for a few cents a day.
* The organization’s website lists its address as 200 W. Madison St., Ste. 2100 in Chicago. That appears to be a “virtual office” which is also home to a wealth management firm and the former address of InTouch Cuddle Therapy, which is now defunct.
* From the president and publisher…
Our company has been renamed Franklin News Foundation, which is about as straightforward as it gets. With a nod to Benjamin Franklin, our nation’s best-known publisher, we’re a non-profit, non-partisan, non-political, no-nonsense organization whose mission is to connect content and audience with news from state capitals and across the states that simply isn’t reported elsewhere.
Our journalism platform is TheCenterSquare.com. When a reporter is on target within their beat, they’re said “to be hitting the center square.” I’ve always liked that saying, because rather than writing “a story,” I’ve always preferred that our reporters write “the story.” For each of us associated with this project, our name serves as a reminder that we’re working with the highest journalistic ethics and precision in mind.
Over the past two years, we’ve watched as partisanship has permeated reporting from Washington. And, state by state, as we’ve increased our staff and dialed into state-level issues across the country, reading thousands of competitive stories, we’ve seen how this same bias creeps into capitol-level news coverage – pushing readers and journalistic reputations out to the right and the left.
Commentary has overwhelmed straight-news content, and caused significant distortion for time-pressed readers disinterested in becoming professional fact-checkers. Too many people are reading someone’s take on a story before they’ve read the story.
Millions of Americans seek news from the vacated middle ground – from that center square – and simply want to understand what is happening in their state capitol, and how it affects their lives.
Our reporters are keenly interested in economics and finance, how tax dollars are generated and how they’re spent. We talk to our readers in terms that they understand rather than through the wonky, inside baseball that so often stands for statehouse reporting.
Legislative mechanics already are complicated. Reporters should be educating the reader and simplifying the news, rather than showing off and making the activity or inactivity of the statehouse more confusing. We commit to write in plain English.
I Googled “‘hitting the center square’ reporter” and came up with one result, the column excerpted above. Not quite a Googlewhack, but still unique.