The Orland Prairie isn't just a great and reliable newspaper. It's also a part of a successful media empire being built by Jack Ryan, the former Republican Candidate for the US Senate (whose decision to leave the senate race handed the post to then unknown Barack Obama). Ryan always felt he was bullied out of the race by vicious news media attacks against him by the major downtown Chicago news media, and he was right.
But Ryan has gotten his vengeance, building an empire of compelling and informative newspapers in the Southwest Suburbs under the banner of 22nd Century Media.
The newspaper chain includes editions in Orland Park (Orland Prairie), Tinley Park (Tinley Junction), Homer Township (Homer Horizon), Frankfort (Frankfort Station), Mokena (Mokena Messenger), New Lenox (New Lenox Patriot) and Lockport (Lockport Legend). This past week, though, Ryan has expanded his magnificent newspapers into the north suburbs taking on the Chicago Sun-Times' owned Pioneer Press Newspapers with newspapers by adding an edition in Glenview (Genview Lantern) to join his papers in Wilmette (Wilmette Beacon) and Winnetka (Winnetka Current). Ryan is a Wilmette Native.
Ryan's principle of journalism is ideal and not only a response to the ugliness that represents the mainstream media and the wild out-of-control online news media (with their vicious anonymous posters and personal attacks)/ It's based on a solid principle of journalism that has been forgotten: local coverage. Each of his newspapers focuses only on the communities where they are located. He calls it "hyper local."
He has plans to launch three more editions up north in Lake Forest, Northbrook and Highland Park where media choices are few and far between.
The truth is the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune have pretty much abandoned local news coverage. The Sun-Times bought up most of the community newspapers in the area, gutting their staffs and plundering their advertising resources.
I saw the need for a suburban newspaper in the southwest suburbs back in 1993 when I launched The Villager Newspapers, consisting of 12 editions. It was very successful and popular. And although we had a strong advertising base, we never had the deep pockets you need to build a media giant. We ended up selling the chain and it was later gobbled up by Liberty Publishing.
Ryan, though, which is strong financial base, has put the newspaper on solid ground. Their online web site has a user-friendly system to navigate and find stories. It doesn't have the viciousness that dominate other local online news web sites,and postings are generally informative. Readers and submit and post their local news and photos online for others to see and read.
Ryan's newspaper giant could become the model for how print newspapers can survive in the Internet generation.
-- Ray Hanania