WILL Pressroom

IPM News, CU-CitizenAccess and Midwest Center form editorial partnership


IPM News and Public Affairs Director Scott Cameron, left, with Acton Gorton and Claire Everett of CU-CitizenAccess, U of I journalism professor Brant Houston and CU-CitizenAccess's Robert Holly.

Three non-profit news organizations in central Illinois have agreed to share news content and resources to produce more in-depth investigative stories and data journalism.

CU-CitizenAccess.org, an online community journalism project of the University of Illinois College of Media, will move its operations and staff members to the Illinois Public Media newsroom to expand their editorial collaborations with WILL reporters.

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, an independent online newsroom that focuses on agribusiness, also will share more content with Illinois Public Media and join the collaboration.

WILL Radio already has been working with CU-CitizenAccess and Midwest Center to create content on the air and on the WILL website.

“We’re taking the next step in our existing relationships and making our newsroom a collaborative workspace,” said Scott Cameron, news and public affairs director at Illinois Public Media. “We’ll be better able to serve our audience, our communities and journalism students.”

Reporters for the three organizations will work together on some stories, while also sharing stories that are reported independently, he said. Last year, Cheryl Silver, a reporter for CU-CitizenAccess, won in the Best Investigative Feature category in the Radio Television Digital News Association’s Murrow Awards for a story produced in cooperation with WILL on the resurgence of meth in central Illinois. (Above, law enforcement officials with meth components.)

“We look forward to building on the many successes we have had,” said Brant Houston, the Knight Chair of Investigative Reporting in the College of Media Journalism Department, who oversees CU-CitizenAccess. “Having a combined newsroom will help us come up with better stories and projects.”

CU-CitizenAccess is devoted to investigative and enterprise coverage of social, justice and economic issues in east central Illinois. It specializes in data journalism, in which it analyzes and visualizes data as a part of its reporting. In addition, it provides a multimedia platform for student work.

It recently completed a major project on nursing homes in central Illinois and is now examining issues of flooding, criminal justice and low income housing.

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting has a special focus on agribusiness and related topics such as government programs, environment and energy. It collaborates with other investigative journalism centers in the Midwest and works with international reporters. It is funded by the Robert M. McCormick Foundation, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, and donations from individuals and other foundations.

The Midwest Center distributes its stories and content for free to public broadcasters and commercial media such as the News-Gazette in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and the Des Moines Register.  Its board of directors includes journalism professors and public media journalists. It also provides reporter positions for post-graduate students.

It has recently done in-depth pieces on crop insurance, migrant labor, new GMO products and water issues.

“We’re excited to have an independent media organization focusing on what’s important in agriculture and how it affects our daily lives. That’s a service we can provide through a partnership. And they are really good at investigation work, the deep dive into financial sheets, government reports and public comments,” Cameron said.

Illinois Public Media News is an award-winning news organization focusing on in-depth stories in central Illinois. Last year, it was named the Best Downstate News Operation in the Illinois Associated Press Broadcasters Association Journalism Excellence Contest, and also won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award and a Public Radio News Directors Association Award for breaking news coverage of a tornado in Gifford, Illinois. IPM is based on the campus of the University of Illinois.