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July 19, 2018, 11 a.m.
Business Models

Chance the Rapper, Chance the Philanthropist, and now Chance the Publisher

He marked his purchase of Chicagoist — formerly part of the media empire of Joe Ricketts, whose family owns the Cubs — by beefing with Crain’s Chicago Business.

Add rappers to the list of people-who-might-buy-a-news-organization: This morning, Chance the Rapper announced in a new song that he now owns Chicagoist, as part of a deal with WNYC.

I missed a Crain’s interview, they tried leaking my addy
I donate to the schools next, they call me a deadbeat daddy
But Sun-Times get in that Rauner business
I got a hit-list so long I don’t know how to finish
I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist bitches out of business

“I’m extremely excited to be continuing the work of the Chicagoist, an integral local platform for Chicago news, events and entertainment,” Chance said in a statement. “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 relaunching it and bringing the people of Chicago an independent media outlet focused on amplifying diverse voices and content.” (The links in the lyrics are added by me, so you know that Rauner is the Illinois governor, etc.)

Chicagoist was part of the brand that folded when Joe Ricketts unceremoniously shut down his journalism portfolio, the DNAInfo and Gothamist groups, last fall. A group of public radio stations brought the archives of the media organizations under their wings in February; meanwhile, some of the sites’ journalists have banded together to restart the spirit of the group under different outlets, like Block Club Chicago or One Illinois. (Chance’s manager apparently donated more than $10,000 to Block Club.) The Ricketts remnants have been Kickstarting, restarting, and figuring out their next moves.

Chance, who has been called “Chance the Philanthropist” because of his reinvestment in his hometown (through donations to the Chicago Public School system, involvement at the DuSable Museum of African American History, and speaking to the City Council against the Chicago Police Department’s $95 million new academy, among other things), now adds the archives, internet domain, and social media channels of Chicagoist to his project list.

But Chance’s press record isn’t spotless — last year, his team got MTV to remove a review of his concert. Spin shared some internal MTV remarks about the situation, from then-editorial director of music Jessica Hopper:

Chance and his management became aware of David’s piece via the repost on Snapchat Discover and subsequently told MTV, amid high level negotiations for linear specials, that he was never working with MTV again because of it. M&T [the network’s Music & Talent division] asked us to unpublish and scrub it from social media as they attempt to repair this with him and his management. It is upsetting for obvious journalistic reasons — we stand behind everything we publish.

“When we brought our concerns to MTV, our rep agreed that the article was ‘a harsh shot’ & took ownership of the editorial misstep,” Chance’s manager emailed Spin.

He’s also sparred with the Sun-Times in the past for a column about his past child support dispute:

And he’s shared some thoughts about the media on Twitter over the years:

(Kyles was one of his close friends and stabbed in a street fight in 2011.)

(Chance is the first artist to win a Grammy without having signed to a record label.)

And of course:

Chicagoist × Chance will have to find a space among the city’s existing independent media outlets, like City Bureau, Block Club Chicago, and the re-emerging Chicago Reader. (The Reader is now under new ownership after the Sun-Times sold it to a group led by the publisher of the African American-focused Chicago Crusader in the fallout from its “African-American thing” flap.) Folks in Chicago’s independent media scene tell me it’s not clear if Chance’s representatives reached out to existing local journalism outlets on the ground — I’m guessing Crain’s and the Sun-Times aren’t high on his list.

Photo of Chance the Rapper playing Facebook’s F8 conference in 2017 by Anthony Quintano used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     July 19, 2018, 11 a.m.
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