We stand up for you
Courageous reporting has the power to change the community and your life for the better.

If you care that good students are being denied admission to the University of Illinois in favor of less qualified candidates admitted because of politicians' clout, you know this is true.

If you are the parent of an autistic child who has been victimized by doctors peddling dangerous "miracle" treatments, you understand.

If you live in suburban Crestwood, where your village officials pumped well water tainted with dangerous chemicals into your home for more than 20 years to save a few bucks, you know as well.

And this is clear if you are a taxpayer fed up with the endless parade of crooked officials and the enduring pay-to-play culture that seemingly permeates every level of government in Illinois, notorious the world over as the "State of Corruption."

These stories and many others appeared first in the Chicago Tribune, and the wrongs they revealed are now being addressed.

This kind of reporting gives us the power to demand change and ensure that our leaders are held accountable.

At the Chicago Tribune, we are committed to standing up for your interests and serving as your watchdog in the corridors of power. There is nothing more important.

We can fulfill this mission only by investing in the reporters, editors, tools and technology required to uncover the facts. We are making that investment, even in these difficult times.

A watershed moment

You've heard a lot about the economic woes afflicting newspapers all across the country, about revenue loss, staff reductions, Chapter 11. The Chicago Tribune has not been spared. This has been a wrenching year of change for us, and Dec. 9, 2008, marked a moment of truth.

In that morning's paper, we reported that Tribune Co., our parent corporation, had filed for bankruptcy protection. Right next to that article we broke an exclusive about the federal probe of Gov. Rod Blagojevich that would result in his arrest later that day for allegedly attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. That story came after five years of relentless investigative work by Tribune reporters.

The juxtaposition of those stories made a statement: We must build a new economic foundation for our business in order to sustain this kind of investigative reporting. We are achieving both.

We've made some very difficult choices about what readers really want from us, what we do best and how to deliver it. Over the past few weeks, we've reorganized our news operation and changed our coverage priorities. We are intensifying our efforts in several important areas as a result.

Focused on Chicago

We are focused even more sharply on covering the Chicago region -- and the issues affecting it -- with depth, breadth and authority. We view the world from the vantage point of Chicago, one of the great cities of the world, and report news that is most relevant to people who live in this region. While local relevance isn't strictly geographic, our goal is to be the definitive source of news and information about the Chicago area because this is where we live, work and play. We are expanding our local news operation to achieve this goal.

Digital publishing

We've also increased our staffing and capabilities in digital media to report on the news that is most important to Chicago. Knowing that you want and need this information on demand, we've created the Breaking News Center, added features and greater utility to chicagotribune.com and will soon launch new digital media.

Watchdog reporting

At the core of our Chicago news mission is watchdog journalism. We are expanding here too. This is the focus of today's report to you.

Investigative reporting describes a method; "watchdog" describes a mentality. It means that your problems are our problems and that we are invested in solving them. Everyone on the staff performs this role. But to give it greater momentum, we have assembled three important teams.

One is centered on government watchdog reporting, such as the Blagojevich scandal and our current "State of Corruption" and "Your Government in Secret" projects. Another group is devoted to consumer safety, health and medical stories. A third crucial group is the Tribune's editorial board, which helps set the community agenda, advocates for change and blows the whistle on wrongdoing. Today we feature these dedicated journalists on the back page of this report.

And there's another member of these teams -- you. We want you to help us find stories of wrongdoing and injustice. Send your tips and ideas to watchdog@tribune.com.

Throughout our history, in innumerable stories great and small, our reporting has trained a bright light on injustice and abuses of power. This reporting gets results and, step by step, makes this city, state and nation better, stronger and fairer.

Together we can create the future this community deserves.

Gerould W. Kern, Editor