On The Block to cover neighborhood news
One of the Chicago area’s newest non-profit journalism start-up is expanding into the linear TV realm.
Block Club Chicago and Weigel Broadcasting are teaming up to launch a new half-hour weekly newsmagazine show featuring stories from the city and suburbs. Titled On The Block and hosted by Brandon Pope, the show aims to take an in-depth look at neighborhood stories not usually covered by the other local news outlets. Joining Block Club beat journalists on the show is Weigel’s Jon Hansen, who appeared on You & Me In The Morning and The Jam. Hansen also hosts a podcast for Block Club, It’s All Good.
Block Club’s strength lies in covering neighborhood news in Chicago, as demand for such journalism has been on the rise. For example, Block Club did extensive reporting on the battle between the owners of Nipsey’s Restaurant and residents of the neighborhood where it operated, including city officials and 8th Ward alderman Michelle Harris over nuisance issues. The restaurant burned down in a suspicious fire two weeks ago.
Weigel’s The U (found on WCIU-DT 26.2/WMEU 48.1 and various channels on cable systems) debuts On The Block next month with a prime-time Thursday 7 p.m. slot, with the repeat of the previous week’s episode following at 7:30 p.m., with more encore showings on 8 a.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. Sundays. Block is also airing on CW 26 (WCIU) Saturdays at 10 a.m. and on the local feed of MeTV (WWME-CA) at 7 a.m. Sundays.
“Social media has a played an important role in how people access the news, and with ‘On the Block’ we are taking some of the visually compelling themes and amplifying those for television. You won’t see any anchors reading copy behind a desk,” said Afua Owusu, who is the director of news & local content for Weigel’s Chicago stations. “Our partnership with Block Club Chicago affirms our commitment to producing diverse local content that represents the city as a whole; it also gives us an opportunity to be innovative within the local news landscape.”
Block Club Chicago was founded as a non-profit entity shortly after the demise of another similar effort, DNA Info Chicago in 2017. Non-profits news start-ups have blossomed in the last few years as for-profit newspapers (such as the Chicago Tribune) have increasingly come under ownership of hedge fund companies such as Alden Global Capital, basically putting profit instead of journalism through cost-cutting.
Recently, Chicago Public Media’s WBEZ-FM and the Chicago Sun-Times merged into a newly-formed non-profit company.
On The Block comes as other local Chicago shows were canceled over the last year, despite the notion local programming is what helps stations establish themselves from streaming services. The Block Club project with Weigel is certainly welcome news for fans of local television.