Introducing My New ChicagoNow Byline: CHICAGOSPHERE!

(Graphic: It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, the neighborhood, the blogging neighborhood…)

Two weeks ago, I alluded to a cool, new blogging project I was invited to be a part of. Today, that project is being unveiled as a public beta. As some of you already know, I’m talking about ChicagoNow, a new blogging community in development by the Chicago Tribune as a way to increase the masthead’s relevancy in an increasingly Web 2.0 world. The community includes several of the Windy City’s leading bloggers (CTA Tattler and Da’ Bears Blog, anyone?) and is now the new home of RedEye.

It’s also the home of my brand-new byline, CHICAGOSPHERE. If that sounds like a portmanteau of Chicago and blogosphere, it should. CHICAGOSPHERE is an ongoing look at local blogs and the good reads, great writers, and engrossing comment debates to be found there. It’s the second coming of Chicago’s Best Blogs, the Trib’s blogger-supportive online column that led to the development of ChicagoNow.

The opportunity came about because I have a big mouth (and a bit of prescience, judging by this April post about the digital future of the Tribune.) ChicagoNow’s news & opinion editor, Fernando Diaz, formerly of the Chicago Reporter and Chitown Daily News, has been a CARLESS fan for some time. When he approached me to relocate this blog onto the Trib’s new community domain, I said, “Hell, no!” These virtual pages are my brand platform and not even I monetize them (do you any idea how many automotive ads Adsense would try to serve if I did?)

But I still thought it was an interesting effort. Imagine my surprise when I sat down with the ChicagoNow team in a corner office adjoining the Trib’s newsroom and the paper’s digital editor Bill Adee said to me, “How would you like to write Chicago’s Best Blogs, instead?”

My overall response was something like, “How high? But ditch the clunky name and expand the focus.” And both of things came to pass (I came up with the monicker “CHICAGOSPHERE” a day later). To say I’m grateful would be an understatement. Hell, I’m still doing my best Akeelah and the Bee effort to believe in success and stave off my perennial Fear of Falling.

The bells and whistles aren’t all ready yet (my banner won’t be finalized ’til later today.) ChicagoNow will be so much more in terms of design and functionality once the beta period is over. But there’s already great work from gifted bloggers going on over there.

So with that, I invite you to come over and check out CHICAGOSPHERE. Here’s what’s in store right now:

  • Misbehavin’ with Ms. Bea Haven–An interview with Chicago’s leading lesbian burlesque performer, complete with sample performance video. (Straight guys and queer gals in the readership, need I really say more?);
  • Marina City Online: Life Inside the Corncobs–All the intrigue I regularly rue about life in River North’s most nefarious residential high rises, brought to you daily by a Marina Citizen on a mission…mostly to outlive the shenanigans of the condo board; and
  • Modern Wing Windiness–Local architecture bloggers seem to have lost the ability of appraisal in their recent over-the-top applauding of the Art Institute’s new Modern Wing. Now that starchitect Renzo Piano’s gone home, has critical insight floated away with all the hot air?

While you’re there, browse around the rest of the ChicagoNow beta and see what you think. If you’d like to pitch a blog, topic, or discussion thread for inclusion on CHICAGOSPHERE, I’m all ears (at mike (at) chicagocarless (dot) com.)

And as always, thank you for taking the time to read my words. It is an ongoing privilege to bring them to you.

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