Chicago Mayor Commits Ad Dollars to Community Media, Replicating NYC’s Ad Equity Policy

  • By Center for Community Media
Kathleen Hinkel

On October 26, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed an Executive Order committing at least half of the city’s annual departmental advertising spending to community media outlets.

With this commitment, Chicago becomes the first city to replicate New York City’s groundbreaking 2019 executive order and subsequent 2021 legislation, which delivered over $25 million in advertising dollars to more than 200 community media outlets in New York City in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

In 2020, the Center for Community Media at CUNY’s Newmark J-School launched the Advertising Boost Initiative, to support the city in implementing its commitment, serving as a liaison between the New York City Mayor’s Office, advertising agencies, and New York City community media publishers. The ABI was also established to help publishers build the capacity and tools they need to receive city government advertising. In 2020, CCM published our independent report on this powerful new model of advertising equity and public investment in community media, and issued an update in February 2022. CCM is working with partners across the country to see this model replicated in other cities.

“The Newmark J-School is thrilled to learn that Chicago is following in the steps of New York City and creating a more equitable landscape for community media,” said Dean Graciela Mochkofsky, who as executive director of CCM from 2019-2022 oversaw the launch of the ABI. “The New York City Executive Order and now permanent law, supported by the work of our Center for Community Media, allocates government advertising dollars to the myriad of newsrooms serving communities of color and immigrants in New York. This has strengthened the sector, effectively allowing thousands of people to stay informed and civically engaged.”

Chicago’s local media outlets have been advocating for this effort since October 2020, when the Chicago Independent Media Alliance — a project of the Reader Institute for Community Journalism linking more than 60 community media entities representing more than 80 outlets — began the work of replicating a 2013 CCM study of New York City governmental advertising. CIMA was CCM’s first regional partner in the effort to secure local government commitments to advertising equity nationally.

“This is a wonderful moment. CCM has been advocating for other cities to follow the New York City model and institutionalize the advertising policy of government spending to help sustain small independent media outlets in every corner,” said CCM Advertising Boost Initiative Manager Darlie Gervais. “CCM truly believes these efforts will provide a big boost to community news organizations. We also believe more equitable government advertising spending in all cities and states will have a deep and positive impact on the community media ecosystem.”

Signing the executive order, with representatives from both CIMA and CCM at her side, Mayor Lightfoot said, “Chicago is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and it’s only right that the city government honors that diversity by supporting community and ethnic media outlets. Through this equity-based Executive Order, we will ensure that city communications and information on programs are accessible to all of our residents — no matter their circumstances. This effort will also serve as an economic boon for many of our local media outlets, and strengthen the city’s relationship with the communities they represent.”

More than 153 languages are spoken in households citywide, in addition to other diversity factors. Together, Chicago’s local media outlets reach all 77 community areas in all of the languages the city’s communities speak.

For more information on the program, contact Darlie Gervais, Advertising Boost Initiative Manager, at