Getting started


preston-bradley-hall-holiday-party-for-opengovchi_11346925516_oThank you for hosting a conversation May 10 as part of the Independent Media Circle for the Chicago Community Trust’s On The Table 2016.


  • Sign up at On the Table 2016.
  • Your event description is the headline and a paragraph of what you want to discuss.
  • Invite your guests via email through the OTT 2016 interface.
  • In the form, select “Independent Media” as your partner (this puts you in queue for the special independent media survey questions.)
  • You’re done registering!
  • You can revise your event and add guests up until the day of your conversation.
  • Follow me on Twitter and join a Facebook group of your peers.


I highly recommend reading some reporting from the New Jersey Local News lab about their experience. First get better acquainted with the concept of what a news ecosystem is.  Then  head over to Medium to read Molly de Aguiar (@MollydeAguiar) and Josh Stearns (@jcstearns) six part series Lessons from the Local News Lab.

Reading these pieces will take you about a half an hour and help you focus on your  contribution to Chicago’s independent media ecosystem and your On The Table 2016 conversation.


  • Look over the Host Kit. That will help you understand how to guide your conversation.
  • Sign up for an On The Table training session, if you like.
  • Share names of others you think might want to participate.
  • Read the online description of the On the Table 2016, independent media circle.

Beginning criteria



savingsWhat are the criteria to be considered independent media for On the Table 2016? 



Adapted from Michele McLellan’s work with the BlockbyBlock News Network and with Michele’s List, these criteria provide a starting point and will evolve as this project does.

The journalism maker is devoted primarily to original news although the outlet may provide commentary on content from other outlets.  In addition, we are interested in Chicago focused-journalism reporting on a beat, a neighborhood or serving an audience in a media desert.

The content demonstrates a desire and an effort to practice accuracy, transparency and fair play.

The site demonstrates a desire and an effort to promote civic engagement or an ethic of participation.

The news is updated weekly – preferably three times per week – unless it is investigative, broadcast or beat. Investigative, broadcast and beat reporters and sites often distribute news and information less frequently, and through commercial partners.

Independent media who are non-commercial as well as commercial are developing a variety of revenue streams as they seek sustainability, including advertising, foundation funding, memberships, crowdfunding and events.

On The Table 2016: We are Chicago’s Independent Media






Are you an independent media outlet / journalism maker who reports on Chicago issues? If so, this message is for you.

The Chicago Community Trust is using its May 10 On the Table 2016 event to better get to know Chicago’s independent media outlets and start-ups. The intelligence gained from your OTT discussions will be a critical asset in June, when the Trust is planning a collaborative ecosystem design session for Chicago’s independent media.

A new crop of media activists are stepping up. Acts of journalism are proliferating. Fresh approaches to journalism are taking hold. The goal is to reach as many independent media voices as possible on May 10 and collect some information through a special survey that will inform a special strategic session in June.

What happens on May 10?
You invite  some media friends to a meal, drinks or coffee to talk about what’s important to you. You and your guests —  publishers, information gatherers,  media friends and community members — are united in caring about the issues, policy, and action that activate Chicagoans, our neighborhoods and our leaders to make Chicago a better place. 

The Trust will foot the bill with a $100 gift card (Supplies are limited to those who need it.)  We’re looking for independent media outlets whose focus is civic, government and community life. Here’s our beginning criteria.

On May 11 ….
You’ll be emailed a survey to share what you discussed and  that will include several questions tailored to independent media. The Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) at University of Illinois is helping us develop the survey.

When you record your conversation and take the survey, you’ll share how you work with your audience and colleagues as well as which services you’d find most valuable and least valuable for your operations and sustainability. In addition, the Chicago Community Trust wants to hear your ideas for sustaining independent media.

The outcome
The intelligence gained from your  OTT discussions will be a critical asset in June, when the Trust is planning a collaborative ecosystem design session for Chicago’s independent media. Take good notes and share them in the survey!

How does it work?
— Go to On The Table and sign up to host.
— Fill out the simple online form.
— Choose “Independent Media”  as your  partner  organization.
— You’ve joined the custom network for Independent Media OTT 2016!
— Complete registration by inviting your guests via the email interface.

NOTE: If you are hosting a conversation about your outlet, you can still choose “Independent Media” as your partner.

Ready to sign up? Read about next steps and check out some reading about media ecosystems.

QUESTIONS? Contact We’ll get back to you.