One Illinois is a new statewide, nonprofit news outlet intended to bring Illinoisans together and unite neighbors around our shared interests and aspirations.
Fake news. Russian trollbots. Another presidential tweetstorm. Now comes something different. Launched by Chicago Alderman and former gubernatorial candidate Ameya Pawar, One Illinois will spotlight the common struggles of working people across the state and showcase their resilience in a way that helps bridge the divides across race, class, and geography by pushing back against the divide-and-rule strategy.
The Illinois Policy Institute has spent the last decade creating a false narrative around progressive policies, labor groups, and public institutions. The IPI produces news content with far-right-wing policies embedded within the stories. By shaping the narrative around far-right policies, the IPI shapes public discourse and elections. To date, there hasn’t been a progressive response to the IPI. One Illinois has the opportunity to disrupt the marketplace of ideas by countering the IPI narrative with a contrary story line based on empathy and unity.
“We are at our best when we realize we rise and fall together and when we are able to see our neighbors as people. We are at our best when we stop judging people based on who they voted for in the last election and instead focus on our common humanity,” Pawar says. “We want to build a lasting coalition of neighbors around the issues that that unite us. We believe journalism and storytelling is the best way to shape a new narrative about Illinoisans reconnecting with one another."
One Illinois will be the market disruptor. This year we celebrate the bicentennial of when people came together in 1818 to create a united state. Today, that state still exists, but we are divided among ourselves. It’s time to reconnect and come together once again.
What makes us different?
Our content! Simply by telling the tales of Illinois residents who embody the determination, resilience, and joy within their communities. Stories will be posted on the One Illinois website and distributed through social media, email newsletters, and even local newspapers and TV and radio stations, says Ted Cox, a veteran journalist who worked most recently at the Daily Herald and at DNAinfo Chicago.
Come our launch in April, One Illinois will feature long-form and short stories on the people of Illinois. No vitriol or anger. The stories will focus on people’s common humanity and the hopes, dreams, and concerns Illinoisans share. Most working people — regardless of race, class, and where they live — struggle with the same issues: finding and keeping good jobs, achieving the American Dream in the face of disinvestment, hanging on to what they have, and creating a better future for their children and generations beyond. One Illinois will tell their stories and serve to link people across our state.
Our goal over the coming years is to build a broad-based audience across party lines, across race and class, and across Illinois to help shape a more positive and unified narrative.
One Illinois will use journalism and storytelling to emphasize our common humanity that includes:
- Long-form articles with in-depth reporting
- Short-form stories perfect for social media sharing
- Mini documentaries and video explainers
- Podcasts and audio breakdowns
- Live events, including interviews, town halls, and live-streamed shows
To give each piece a solid policy backbone, One Illinois has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. This partnership will help One Illinois develop more robust content by drawing on policy expertise to round out and fully explain what’s really going on in struggling towns and cities.
We are committed to diversity and equality, to honesty and empathy, to giving voice to unheard communities and bolstering those in need, to recognizing and celebrating the qualities that unite us as Illinoisans.
Ameya Pawar (President and Executive Director) - A two-term progressive Chicago alderman and published textbook author who developed one of nation’s first Open 311 smartphone apps, writer of three op-eds (Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times), written about in The New York Times, The Economist, The Intercept, Politico, and others. Defeated Chicago political machine in 2011 and passed 12 major pieces of progressive legislation.
Sam Hobert (Vice President) - A Chicago native, Whitney Young High School and George Washington University graduate. Sam is an alum of the offices of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He’s a veteran of too many Illinois municipal, legislative, and statewide campaigns to recite here.
Neal Sales-Griffin (Chief Tech Officer) - A native of Kenwood, Neal attended Northwestern University, where he co-founded ContextMedia before joining venture capital firm Sandbox Industries as their Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Currently CEO of CodeNow, a nonprofit that hosts coding workshops for middle and high school students from low-income backgrounds, Neal is helping young people learn to solve problems through technology and code.
Katelynd Duncan (Senior Adviser & Co-Founder) - The founder of KJD Strategies, she has raised more than $25 million for political action committees and nonprofits. She is active in her greater Chicago community, serving on the board of directors at Streetwise and volunteering her services to Chicago Cares, Chicago Scholars, NAMI Chicago, The Inconvenience, and the Chicago Foundation for Women’s Young Women’s Leadership Council.
Ted Cox (Senior Adviser and Editor) - A University of Illinois journalism graduate with more than 35 years of experience in media, most recently at the Daily Herald and as City Hall and neighborhood reporter at DNAinfo Chicago. A longtime Chicago Reader columnist, he is author of the compilation “1,001 Days in the Bleachers” and has also written a series of children’s books on major figures in sports and music.
Zachary Sigelko (Video Producer) - A Chicago native and graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Zach co-produced the Ba le Flag documentary series and founded ADPT Productions. His work has been featured on The Atlantic, The Washington Post, TIME.com, and Vox, and he has produced work for Cards Against Humanity, Buzzfeed, Johnson & Johnson, and the National Immigrant Justice Center.
Cher Vincent (Audio Producer) - An audio producer based in Chicago, she is a the co-founder of Postloudness, a podcast collective of audio shows by people of color, women, and queer-identified hosts. Cher has contributed audio pieces with Gimlet Media, MTV News, BuzzFeed, Spotify, and NPR affiliate stations WNYC and WBEZ. Most recently, she will be producing a limited run series with the Chicago’s Terra Foundation.
Risks and challenges
One Illinois is a nonpartisan nonprofit that will be funded through contributions from readers (that's you!), philanthropists and like-minded agencies and organizations. As we get started, your support is extremely important since it fills a gap as grants are processed and allows us to start producing content right out of the gate.
We have no illusions that reaching across party lines and uniting diverse neighbors will be a walk in the park. Breaking people out of their news bubbles means we have to do the extra work of meeting them where they are, not just sitting back and expecting them to come to us. That means targeted social media advertising and taking the time to really engage with Illinois residents from Galena to Cairo and from East St. Louis to Zion.
Questions or want to get involved? Email us at email@example.com and one of us will get back to you!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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