Tuesday, December 20, 2005
LOCAL: Ex-newspaper reporter starts "Chicago Daily News" blog for Windy City
Published December 20, 2005
By Steve Johnson
Chicago Tribune Online
Chicago Daily News surfaces on the Internet
Chicago's got a new newspaper, if a threadbare Web site with a lofty name and set of ambitions can be defined as a
But the fledgling Chicago Daily News may have to fight to retain that storied Chicago journalism name because the
Sun-Times has sent a cease-and-desist e-mail and promised to follow with a more detailed letter.
The Chicago Sun-Times and the Daily News were both part of the Field empire in 1978 when the Daily News, Mike Royko's
first major paper, was closed.
"They don't have a right to [use the name] and we have cease-and-desisted them," Sun-Times Editor John Barron said in a
voice mail response to a voice mail query seeking comment.
He referred a reporter to in-house lawyer Linda Loye, but Loye would not comment on the matter.
Daily News Editor Geoff Dougherty sounded ready to fight, contending the Sun-Times had let the Daily News trademark lapse
by not using it.
"It would be unfortunate for Chicago and, in a public-relations sense the Sun-Times, to take us into court and try to shut
down the Daily News for a second time," Dougherty said.
"We'd be interested in seeing any information from them indicating they are, in fact, using the name. We were diligent in
trying to locate any evidence they were and couldn't find any."
A trademark search of the term "Chicago Daily News" at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reveals words such as "dead"
and "abandoned," and Marc Fineman, a Chicago intellectual property lawyer, said current law requires use of a trademark to
retain rights to it. If it's not used within the last three years, those rights are, in essence, lost.
Barron did not return a second call seeking comment, but the Sun-Times is surely thinking of its recurring "Chicago Daily
News: On this date" historical feature, which has been published intermittently since 1989 and regularly in recent times.
It begins with the line, "as reported by the Chicago Daily News, sister paper of the Chicago Sun-Times."
Up since late November, the Chicago Daily News (www.chicagodailynews.orgcq) is a non-profit defined in the usual manner of
new publications: as a reaction against the coverage choices (and gaps) of the city's big papers.
It also carries 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, the online encyclopedia 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," Dougherty said. "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."
Dougherty, 35, is a Maryland native who came to Chicago in 2001 to work for the Tribune. He was an investigative and
business reporter until mid-November, when he resigned.
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,
Dougherty said 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.
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 asked.
The competition, beyond the big dailies, would include what are essentially community blog sites such as Chicagoist and
Gapers Block, both well-established.
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 acknowledged, fairly empty, with a scant handful of articles and items,
although it has grown quite a bit since a Web-only piece Dec. 9 (on my blog at www.chicagotribune.com/johnson) made its
existence widely known.
In addition to an almost immediate e-mail from the Sun-Times after the article was posted, he has heard, he said, from
scores of would-be writers willing to work for free.
But the site's strengths, so far, lie in the blogs, including a few on local sports teams, one on offbeat world news and
Dougherty's lively editor's blog.
In one entry, 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."
Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune
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