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About CIMA


The Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA) was created in 2019 by the Chicago Reader as a direct response to changes in the media ecosystem, especially related to advertising revenue declines. For a dozen years, we watched many of Chicago’s legacy newsrooms and new media entities fold. We believed the creation of an alliance for local and independent media could help create a more healthy, viable media ecosystem.

CIMA—now a project of the nonprofit Reader Institute for Community Journalism, publishers of the Reader—knows that a range of solutions are needed. The impact of COVID-19 has been devastating for independent media, slashing advertising budgets by more than half in a short period of time and suddenly canceling scheduled events and fundraising initiatives. CIMA aims to create a space for local and independent media to meet and collaborate on revenue-generating projects, including our annual joint fundraiser which has raised more than $500,000 over three years. CIMA’s goals include helping to bring more resources into this ecosystem, boosting equity in government and corporate advertising, and raising awareness of the vibrant diversity of independent media.

The History of CIMA

By the year

In the summer of 2019, the Chicago Reader sent a survey to 103 independent media-based organizations in the Chicago area, ranging in size and scope from small all-volunteer nonprofits to large independent newspapers. Our wide-ranging survey asked for information about their business model, their coverage areas, what languages they produce in, and whether they’d be interested in collaborative projects. By the end of 2019, 50 media entities had joined CIMA.
January, 2020
First joint editorial projects are conducted thanks to two U.S. Census-related grants from the McCormick Foundation and Forefront.
February, 2020
First and only in-person member meeting—hosted by the Chicago Community Trust—is held with more than 70 people in a joint media space in the Civic Exchage Chicago office. Funders and publishers were invited to discuss why funding journalism is critical and how to effectively build partnerships.
March, 2020
Multi-year partnership with City University of New York (CUNY) Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism begins. The CIMA & COVID-19 Report is produced the week of March 16; Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker's state mandate required all bars and restaurants to close on March 13. CIMA reached out to all members to participate in our survey assessing the anticipated financial impact of the COVID crisis on their outlets. In all, 28 of 51 outlets responded, saying that they predicted decreases ranging between $300 and $250,000 within the three- month period.
May/June, 2020
In response to the rapid decrease in advertising sales, CIMA organizes and coordinates the first-ever Chicago media joint fundraiser. In total, CIMA raises over $160,000 to support 43 Chicago media entities. More than $100,000 comes from individual donors and the rest from matching foundation grants. The Chicago Reader also uses additional resources to promote the fundraiser, including a $5,000 Facebook ads grant and dozens of hours of staff time.
December, 2020
Publication of CIMA’s annual report with updates to include data from new members. By the end of 2020, membership was 66 outlets representing 82 media entities.
January, 2021
CIMA receives Democracy Fund support to host four peer-to-peer workshops and trainings for members on fundraising and website development.
February, 2021
Media kit training project launches to help members who need assistance developing media kits.
March, 2021
Partnership with DePaul University and the Online News Association begins. They create a pilot project to pair university journalism centers with hyper-local media outlets. CIMA patterns with local tech nonprofit, Code for Chicago, in order to provide free website development and support for CIMA’s nonprofit members. First training of the year is hosted by Code for Chicago on most efficient website practices for ongoing maintenance and development.
April, 2021
CIMA hosts the second workshop of the year. The Chicago Community Trust and Field Foundation meet with CIMA members. Foundations presented how they make funding decisions and what they are looking for in potential grantees.
May, 2021
Two members, CHIRP Radio and City Bureau, lead a peer-to-peer member workshop on successful fundraising tactics a week before the second annual CIMA fundraiser launches. This is the third of four workshops.
April/May, 2021
10 CIMA members form a fundraising committee to make marketing and strategic decisions prior to the annual joint fundraising campaign’s launch. The fundraiser also includes an update to our website
May/June, 2021
CIMA’s second annual fundraiser is launched—43 of 68 CIMA members participate and raise $172,500, with $95,000 coming from individual donations and $77,500 coming from foundations. CIMA and Chicago Reader leadership participate in monthly Zoom meetings of a nationwide network of independent media, coordinated by CUNY. CIMA joins a networking project led by the Democracy Fund and Due East Partners of independent media outlets, collaboratives, and funders. The quarterly meeting brings together national media ecosystem leaders to discuss best strategies for successful journalism solutions. This group has connected CIMA to similar efforts across the country and elevated CIMA’s presence nationally.
June, 2021
Membership increases to 69 representing 81 media entities.
October, 2021
CIMA partners with the Chicago Public Library to show interested members how they can submit their archives to the city’s library network. This was the fourth and final training of the year.
November, 2021
CIMA creates statement in support of a pooled fund that was shared with Chicago’s local pool of funders.
December, 2021
CIMA’s Annual 2021 Report and 2021 Fundraiser Report are produced. The City of Chicago Marketing Report is released. Phase one of CIMA’s FOIA government marketing project is completed .
January, 2022
CIMA partners with Public Narrative to create the Chicago Media Directory. The Chicago Media Directory is an expansive marketing guide for Chicago’s local media outlets that take advertising and sponsorships. Interested clients can utilize the directory to access market volume, frequency, and coverage/distribution areas.

CIMA’s State and National Partners

CUNY Center for Community Media

Illinois Local Journalism Task Force

Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities

Local News Lab hosted by the Democracy Fund

Media Power Collaborative

Meet The

Cima team

Tracy Baim

Tracy Baim

Tracy Baim (she/her) is president and co-publisher of the Chicago Reader newspaper. She is co-founder of Windy City Times. Baim received the 2013 Chicago Headline Club Lifetime Achievement Award. She is in the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists Hall of Fame, the Association for Women Journalists-Chicago Chapter Hall of Fame, and the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. She has won numerous LGBTQ community and journalism honors, including the Community Media Workshop’s Studs Terkel Award in 2005. Baim has written and/or edited 13 books, including Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America.

Yazmin Dominguez

Yazmin Dominguez

Yazmin (she/her) coordinates the Chicago Independent Media Alliance for the Chicago Reader. Since joining the Reader team in 2019, Yazmin has developed and managed the alliance and represents CIMA in national partnerships for media collaboratives. Yazmin has previously worked as a reporting fellow for City Bureau and production assistant for WTTW Chicago.


Savannah Hugueley

Savannah (she/her) grew up in California and Georgia, and studied at Reed College. She moved to Chicago three years ago to coordinate a bankruptcy legal assistance desk and later do grants management work. Simultaneously, she got involved in local media, working as a freelance fact-checker and documenter. As the CIMA Support Specialist, Savannah is dedicated to supporting independent, community-driven media that reflects, and is created by, all communities in and around Chicago. With additional support from the Chicago Reader’s staff members.

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