Saturday, December 10, 2005
LOCAL: Chicago Daily News II: This Time It's Digital
Originally posted: December 9, 2005
A Chicago Tribune Web log
By Steve Johnson
Chicago Tribune Internet Critic
Chicago's got a new newspaper, if a threadbare Web site with a lofty name
and set of ambitions can yet be defined as a newspaper.
Cdn_1 Up for over a week now, the Chicago Daily News is the product of Geoff
Dougherty, who, until mid-November, was an investigative and business
reporter for another storied name in Chicago journalism history, The Chicago
Tribune. (The Tribune, of course, hosts this blog and pays my salary.)
Dougherty, who resigned from the Tribune before the recent round of lay-offs
(the paper, as is standard in personnel matters, won't comment), will
probably tick off veteran Chicago hands with his cheek in using the Daily
News name, but the writers and readers he's hoping to attract don't fit that
"We target professional Chicago residents between the ages of 22 and 45,"
says the site's "Advertise" page. "We offer advertisers a way to reach
young, affluent, culturally savvy consumers in an era when newspapers,
television and magazines are struggling to connect with them."
"It feels great to be bringing that name back," says Dougherty, a 35 year
old who was raised in Maryland and came to Chicago to join the Tribune in
The Daily News was a legendary entity in Chicago journalism, known as a
"writer's paper" in part because it was the one that came up with the bright
idea of giving a column to a locally bred reporter named Mike Royko. The
Daily News was closed in March of 1978 by one portion of what was then the
Field empire, also the owner at the time of the Sun-Times.
"The Chicago Daily News stopped publishing in 1978 and the federal trademark
lapsed shortly thereafter," Dougherty writes, explaining the name grab in an
e-mail followup to a phone interview.
The mission of this new thing called the Daily News, to hear Dougherty
describe it, is the usual reaction against the coverage choices (and gaps)
of the city's big papers plus the becoming-usual hope that "citizen
journalism" -- reporting and writing by amateurs -- will create an active
community and provide lots of good copy. The concept hasn't fully proved out
in many places beyond the Korean OhmyNews and, in a sense, Wikipedia, but
the trend and the hopes of many on the Internet lean in that direction, at
least for now.
"There's a lot to be done with investigative reporting, a lot to be done
with the Chicago Housing Authority, a lot to be done with whole swaths of
Chicago that were essentially abandoned years ago," he says. "We're non
profit. We can cover those neighborhoods because they deserve to be covered
not because they're going to yield a pot of gold."
Time, one supposes, will test how that jibes with the plan to reach the
young and affluent.
Unencumbered by marriage, kids or mortgage, Dougherty hopes to hire a staff
at some point and to solicit ads beyond the nickel-and-dime (or,
increasingly, quarter-and-dollar) ads-by-Google model. He's advertising on
Craigslist for (unpaid) writers, offering the potential lure of professional
editing, and looking to give internships to eager, or even jaded, college
Here is the page with the plan, but right now it's just him and a two-person
board, a journalism professor in Arizona and a video professional in
Chicago. Dougherty says he was inspired by working at the St. Petersburg
Times and the close ties he says that non-profit paper, owned by the Poynter
Institute, had with its community. He's also worked at the Miami Herald
Does it stand a chance? The editor says his costs, right now, are all of
about $10 a month in Web hosting. "The question is, Will we get the funding
to add the other features?" he asks.
The competition, beyond the bigs, would include what are essentially
community blog sites such as Chicagoist and Gapers Block, both
well-established. They publish mostly brief items that are, in fact, quite
frequently about things the Tribune and Sun-Times don't cover, although the
reverse is certainly true, too. Alternative weeklies the Reader and Newcity
are in the digital space, but the newish Time Out Chicago listings and
entertainment guide, while a vibrant print product, restricts useful Web
site access to subscribers.
Right now, the Daily News site is, Dougherty acknowledges, fairly empty,
with a scant handful of articles and items. What strength it has is in the
blogs: a few on local sports teams, one on offbeat world news, and
Dougherty's lively editor's blog.
"Quirky NY Mag appoints white man as editor," says the heading on his post
about the Harper's gig. Elsewhere he invites readers to "look around. Notice
that we don't have all that much content. Find some content and send it to
us. Repeat until thy fingers bleed all over thine keyboard."
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