Oct 5, 2021 - News
What we know about the WBEZ/Sun-Times merger
Dog standing on a WBEZ t-shirt and next to a newspaper.
Even Monica's dog is confused about the potential Sun-Times/WBEZ collaboration. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios.

Officials at the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ aren't sharing much about their potential merger. But some hints are emerging from questions WBEZ leaders have and have not answered.

Why it matters: The merger could create one of the city's largest newsrooms and change the way Chicagoans get news for years to come.

Context: Last week Sun-Times and WBEZ employees were surprised to learn about the potential merger from Rob Feder's media column and then had to play catch up.

Staffers also learned that interim CEO Matt Moog, who previously had insisted he had no interest in the job, would become the permanent CEO.

  • Thursday afternoon, WBEZ's unflinching Reset host Sasha-Ann Simons told Moog that his abrupt appointment flew in the face of assurances that WBEZ would perform a wide search for a CEO and prioritize diversity.
  • "I do recognize that I'm not a diverse CEO," Moog told Simons. "And it's a privilege for me to be here, and my main focus is wanting to help the organization grow and succeed and become sustainable and serve the community."

Staff also learned that WBEZ's historically free content may go behind a paywall.

  • And the new venture would be funded, at least partially, through grants.
  • "We have been very fortunate to have support from major foundations in Chicago and individuals and we hope to gain more of that support," Moog told Paris Schutz on Chicago Tonight last week.

Many questions remain:

  • What's the future of the Sun-Times in print?
  • How does WBEZ explain buying a financially troubled newspaper weeks after hiking staff health insurance rates and a year after laying off a dozen staffers?
  • How does a paywall square with public media values to provide free content to all?

Axios sent these questions to WBEZ, but station leaders declined to comment.

Full disclosure: Monica and Justin both worked at WBEZ for several years.

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