Chance The Rapper purchased a local Chicago news site but what does that mean for the future of journalism?
Chance The Rapper dropped 4 surprise tracks on Wednesday night where he rapped about acquiring a media house, well he wasn't just rapping, he actually bought Chicagoist.
“If you can't beat them. Buy them” won't be an apt headline anymore because Chance The Rapper did not just buy a local news media in Chicago but plans to beat the rival media house that wrote a scathing opinion piece about him last year. Surprising his fans with four new tracks he explains in one that the reason he purchased Chicagoist is "to run you racist b*****s outta business.” The aforementioned "racist b*****s" referred to is the Chicago Sun-Times, who last year brought up a child-support dispute between Chance and the mother of his daughter, Kristen Corley, after Chance donated $1 million to Chicago Public Schools.
On a track titled “I Might Need Security,” he raps; "And I can’t do nothing right, they gon’ always be at me/ 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 b*****s out of business."
In the same track, he criticized Chicago's weekly newspaper Crain’s Chicago Business for reporting that he bought a condo. The 25-year-old's beef with media, especially in Chicago isn't a hidden affair. Soon after the column was published in Chicago Times, Chance posted a short Instagram video saying; “Y’all better do y’all jobs and stop worrying about how good my family is,” he said. “Just a friendly reminder. Don’t let anybody get between you and your family.” The Chicago native even snapped "Sun-Times, get the f--k back.”
The news company that he purchased, the Chicagoist.com, had been dormant since November 2017, when owner Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade shut down the site along with Gothamist, DNAinfo and few others after the sites’ staffers voted to unionize and join the Writers Guild of America East as their collective-bargaining rep.
Chance release the statement saying; “I’m extremely excited to be continuing the work of the Chicagoist, an integral local platform for Chicago news, events, and entertainment,” he said. “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."
The site was acquired by the rapper from New York Public Radio’s WNYC, through his newly formed Social Media LLC. The rapper's company highlights that it aims to promote local investigative journalism, diversity, and representation for people of color in media. But what does it mean for the journalism industry to have Chance The Rapper as the media mogul?
In 2016, a mildly critical piece by an MTV critic, David Turner, was labeled "offensive" by the rapper when the critic called him a “false prophet.” The rapper's management threatened the network of not working with the company in any capacity, and soon after that, the article was pulled off from the site. Given this record, there is hardly any room for honest journalism if the owner of new media gets easily offended. What is going to happen if there's negative news about him or any of the famous people of Chicago he is friends with? Chances are, Chance will never let negative news about him or anyone close to him, see the light of day, and that is going against the number one rule of journalism.
Another red flag on why his media ownership will be problematic is because of the sole reason why he acquired Chicagoist in the first place. To oust another media from the business. That's what he exactly said in his track that starts by stating he donates to school, which obviously is a thirst for good publicity.
His other causes may be noble and especially on diversity but one famous celebrity controlling the media isn't a good future for journalism. However, according to Vanity Fair, Chance is “[saving] Chicago journalism,” citing his support of Chicago Public Schools, since he has long called on news outlets to cover. A former contributor of Chicagoist, Leigh Kunkel, told the Ringer; “I think that Chance’s involvement will be an opportunity for an even more diverse set of stories to be covered.” Even Laura Walker, president and CEO of New York Public Radio, seems to have faith in the rapper when she said in a statement; "WNYC has a strong commitment to local journalism and building community, and we are pleased that these assets will be used to support local coverage in the great city of Chicago.”
It isn't likely for a celebrity to acquire a media house since most of them come up with their own venture. Chance has also been vocally political in recent years and has shunned negative press. Now that he is 'Chance the media mogul,' we only hope he doesn't control the basics of journalism ethics. The date for the re-launch of Chicagoist under Chance The Rapper hasn't yet been announced.