Block Club Chicago is a non-profit news site. It is based on readers' funding subscriptions. He also got a boost from a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.
But Toomey and his co-founders have also decided to try something more radical.
Collaborate with a New York start-up called Civil Media Company, which is building a network, or platform, for independent news organizations, including a new model to finance journalism using a technology called blockchain.
If you've heard of blockchain, it's probably because it's what's under the Bitcoin hood. Bitcoin is the cryptocurrency whose value has fluctuated wildly, making and losing a lot of money for many people.
In its simplest form, a blockchain is a giant digital ledger that tracks transactions. Records are not stored in one place, but on independent computers anywhere in the world. It means, say its supporters, it is permanent and almost impossible to hack.
The civilian is trying to exploit the same technology for journalism, including creating his own cryptocurrency to help journalists get paid for their work.