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: Chicago Sun-Times to tear down its subscriber pay wall and seek donations based on ‘ability to pay’


The Chicago Sun-Times, owned since early this year by public broadcaster Chicago Public Media, is dropping its website’s subscriber pay wall and moving toward a donation model reminiscent of those of PBS and NPR and their local affiliates and of the British-based newspaper the Guardian.

“We’re dropping our paywall and making it possible for anyone to read our website for free by just providing an email address,” the newspaper announced in a Twitter thread early Thursday. “Our new, donation-based digital membership program will allow anyone to pay what they can to help us deliver the news you rely on.”

The Sun-Times, founded in 1948 upon the merger of the Chicago Sun and the Chicago Daily Times, is by virtue of its lineage characterized as the city’s oldest continuously published daily newspaper, even with the longtime rival Chicago Tribune marking its 175th anniversary this year.

The Sun-Times, whose compact tabloid format and “bright one” market positioning helped make it a favorite for generations of mass-transit commuters, has been associated over the years with columnists and writers including Mike Royko, Roger Ebert and Ann Landers.

Equally legendary are the daily’s investigative reports, at times reliant on subterfuge. In one example, Sun-Times reporters, teaming with the watchdog Better Government Association, in 1977 acquired a rundown tavern in the then-dodgy River North neighborhood, opening for two months as a bar called the Mirage and ultimately producing a 25-part series on corruption in the city’s inspections of commercial operations.

The paper’s ownership history has been just as colorful, with its roster of past owners comprising the Chicago Federation of Labor, the family of department-store pioneer Marshall Field, and media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black.

From the archives (May 2019): Media baron Conrad Black, convicted of fraud, receives pardon from Trump

The Sun-Times, with a reported daily print circulation of 57,222 as of last year, ranked No. 20 in the country by that metric. The Tribune, with roughly twice that daily circulation, ranked seventh.

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