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4 Years Ago, DNAinfo Ended. Then, Block Club Was Born — Thanks Entirely To You.

What our billionaire boss didn’t know is we had the secret to making neighborhood news sustainable all along. We had you.

Block Club Chicago journalists pose for a picture in summer 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

For those of you who have been around here awhile, you know Block Club Chicago’s story started with an end — the end of hyperlocal news site DNAinfo. 

Four years ago yesterday, we were working in the DNAinfo newsroom when a letter from CEO Joe Ricketts suddenly replaced our site’s homepage. Five years of hyperlocal reporting in Chicago were over, countless communities lost a primary news source, 115 journalists and newsroom staffers were out of a job. We were done. 

It’s also the four-year anniversary of us learning how much you believed in us — and the power of truly local news. 

You flooded us with messages, telling us how much our coverage meant to you and offering to help find us jobs. You launched a fund to buy laid-off workers drinks, toasting DNAinfo’s mission.

Then, when it became apparent no other newsroom in Chicago was going to pick up the mantle of neighborhood reporting, you told us you’d pay for the news. All we had to do was ask.

We didn’t know if you were serious, but we took a leap of faith, launching a hyperlocal newsroom. It would be a scrappy nonprofit — community-focused, reader-funded and journalist-run.

We quickly learned how serious you were when you broke a Kickstarter record funding Block Club. Since then, you’ve grown our support to 17,000 paid subscribers strong, allowing us to develop from eight to 19 full-time staffers. 

You’ve enabled us to grow to new corners of the city, launch innovative services, like our free COVID-19 hotline; and empowered us to cover stories with impact. Just this week, we broke the news the FBI in investigating Loretto Hospital‘s vaccine program after our dogged investigations, and we were named Best Online-Only News Source by Editor & Publisher. 

The last line of Ricketts’ letter from the day DNAinfo closed sticks with me. He wrote: 

“I’m hopeful that in time, someone will crack the code on a business that can support exceptional neighborhood storytelling for I believe telling those stories remains essential.” 

What Ricketts didn’t know is we had the secret to crack the code all along. We had you. 

Do you believe Block Club’s neighborhood storytelling is essential? We’re trying to get 300 new subscribers by the end of the week to show you do. 

By subscribing here today for 20% off or making a tax-deductible donation here to support us, you’re ensuring we never have to turn out the lights on neighborhood news again. 

Thank you for believing in us. 

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation. 

Thanks for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods. Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: