This content originally appeared on my former Chicagosphere online-media blog, hosted on the Chicago Tribune‘s ChicagoNow network.
As major Chicago media increasingly search for inroads into community news on the Internet, some existing sites are doing a good job of covering neighborhood-level news all on their own, especially on the South Side. One of the them is the Southwest Observer, which I told you about back in October. Another such great, granular news site is the University of Chicago-based Chicago Weekly–an alternative weekly taking on the responsibility of keeping the Presidential first-neighborhood informed.
Earlier this winter, I spoke with Chicago Weekly editor-in-chief Sam Feldman about the publication’s desire to be the primary community news source for Hyde Park. According to Feldman, it’s curiosity that’s driving the paper’s ambitions.
“The University of Chicago already has a paper, the Maroon, that comes out twice weekly and covers only the campus,” says Feldman. “But I see journalism as just about the best possible way to get to know a place. I think almost everyone on our staff is here because they want to dig deeper into the neighborhoods around us and really find out where it is that we live.”
Helping make that happen, the Chicago Weekly covers news stories not only from the local neighborhood but drawn from around the South Side in general. A weekly print (yep, print) edition is distributed in and around Hyde Park and mirrored online, and a daily blog picks up news items that arise between print editions.
All of that is a neat trick since the University of Chicago doesn’t have a journalism program. It’s not a problem says Feldman. “We’ve been trying to develop our own journalism skills,” he tells me. “The Weekly (hosts) a series of workshops every Friday afternoon on various topics like reporting, interviewing, and arts writing, and we’re trying to provide more opportunities for experienced editors to mentor new writers one-on-one.”
Those writers include students, alumni, and people unaffiliated with the University, and according to Feldman, the Weekly is always looking for new voices. Together they produce a magazine-style publication that includes narrative journalism and first-person stories and, unlike last-century’s journalistic paradigm, allows for the sharing of opinion and subjective perspective–as long as it’s accompanied by a reasoned analysis.
The Weekly’s covered a lot of ground already. “We’ve posted on World Music Festival events on the South Side, a Masonic temple listed as endangered by Landmarks Illinois, a map of South Side jazz clubs from 1925-1940, and the ‘Autumnal Slowterium’ slow bike ride,” says Feldman. “We hope to keep posting on interesting, quirky, and important news from around the South Side.”
At the end of every winter, the Chicago Weekly chooses a new editor who in turn chooses a new editorial tree. Here’s wishing those incoming staffers continued success as an independent online source of community news.