Chancelor Bennett, known by his stage name, Chance the Rapper, recently announced that he is the proud new owner of Chicagoist. The purchase was announced in "I Need Security," one of four new songs that he released late Wednesday evening.
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) July 19, 2018
Chicagoist was part of the local news empire that started with New York City's Gothamist, founded in 2003. The group of sites was purchased by billionaire Joe Ricketts in 2017, who shuttered the suite later the same year after employees voted to unionize. The closure affected 115 journalists, including those who worked for Chicagoist, DCist, LAist, and similar city publications. Three of the publications affected—Gothamist, DCist, and LAist—were relaunched in February by New York public radio station WNYC.
According to Gothamist, Chance's Social Media LLC purchased the Chicagoist website from WNYC.
"I'm extremely excited to be continuing the work of the Chicagoist, an integral local platform for Chicago news, events and entertainment. WNYC's commitment to finding homes for the -ist brands, including Chicagoist, was an essential part of continuing the legacy and integrity of the site. I look forward to re-launching it and bringing the people of Chicago an independent media outlet focused on amplifying diverse voices and content," he reportedly said in a statement. Or as he rapped in song form, "I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist bitches out of business."
It would appear that Chance is already getting into the investigative spirit with a set of lyrics directed to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel:
And Rahm you done I'm expectin' resignation
An open investigation on all of these paid vacations for murderers
(As Genius notes, Chance's anger is motivated by Emanuel's 2017 proposal to spend $95 million on a police and firefighter training center in response to a Justice Department investigation that concluded excessive force was disproportionately used against black residents. In November, Emanuel walked out of Chance's speech to city council when the rapper suggested that the city should put the resources into public schools and mental health programs.)
The move is in sharp contrast to a news experiment currently being explored by the state of New Jersey. As Reason's Joe Setyon previously reported, New Jersey has put aside $5 million to subsidize local news in response to a "growing crisis" in local coverage. If the concerns associated with such a move being carried out by one of the most corrupt states were not obvious, Politico's Jack Shafer explains:
Even if the consortium stays clean, won't it avoid politically charged stories of great watchdogging potential because it will fear to bite the hand that feeds it? Government-funded news outfits like NPR and PBS, ever fearful of offending their funding sources, avoid hard-hitting government news for this reason. Public media may follow the news pack on a story about government corruption, but generally, they're too compromised to lead.
Chance's venture into local media is consistent with his recent embrace of political activism. He met with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) in 2017 to talk about Chicago public schools and later reported disappointment with the governor's vague answers. Just a few months ago, he tweeted that black Americans were not required to vote for Democrats.