Monday, April 30, 2012

Chicago Tribune pulls the plug on local journalism

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The Chicago Tribune pulled the plug on the Trib Local, one of the more reliable major news resources. Most if not all of the reporters for the Trib Local will be "let go." It's going to be outsourced to a "content provided" called Journatic LLC. (Read story.) Journatic pays its writers about $12 an hour. But they offered reporters $50 if they heard that reporters were asking about the gutting of the TribLocal and told the company. Reporters were banned from talking about the transformation from journalism to content management. (Read story from Michael Miner in the Chicago Reader.)

The TribLocal was a balance to the news offered by major newspapers. The Chicago Sun-Times gobbled up and gutted the once impressive Daily Southtown, fired most of the Southtown's Employees, merged it with another victim of its community newspaper absorption policies and merged it with the fading Star Newspapers. Most of the writing is done by a handful of reporters from what used to be an impressive lineup of journalists.

22nd Century Media, which publishes the informative The Orland Prairie, is one of the only remaining independent community news organizations left in our region, published by 22nd Century Media. (Click to read a profile on 22nd Century Media Group.)

What does the TribLocal's demise mean for the region?

Well, Orland Park is a good example. The MainStreet Development has been a white elephant and burden on the taxpayers of Orland Park. But this week, the Village of Orland Park announced that it was giving management of the project to HSA Commercial Real Estate, which did a phenomenal job of reviving the old Orland Park Place. Orland Park Place is now a beehive of activity.

But a taste of what you can expect from the TribLocal comes int he form of news regarding The MainStreet Triangle project, which has many remaining unanswered questions and a very uncertain future -- let alone the political hay that will be made about it during the upcoming battle for Orland Park Mayor, assuming Mayor Dan McLaughlin decides to seek re-election.

Here is the story published on the TribLocal's Page under "From the Community," which will be growing since it won't be able to boost "From Our Award Winning Reporters."

Click here to read it.

The story has a by-line from "By Taylor Johnson." Sounds like a writer. But Taylor Johnson is a PR Company that apparently works for HSA.

Click here to view Taylor Johnson's information.

That's the future folks. No one to ask questions (whether we like them or agree with them or not). No one to point out political ties, question the TIF or the growing burden on the property taxpayers for projects like this.

Orland Park is an important community and there is a lot of room for good newspapers. 22nd Century Media does a phenomenal job. But there is room for another weekly community newspaper here. Despite the sluggish economy and the many vacant commercial properties that sometimes make Orland Park corners look like slums, Orland Park has one of the largest retail bases in the Southwest Suburbs. It's a strong community and it has a vibrant politics, one worth covering -- good, bad or ugly.

Journatic LLC would make a great resource for any newspaper. But as a primary news source?

-- Ray Hanania

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