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Chicago Wed Jan 20 2010

Twitter and the Chicago News-O-Sphere

Woke up on the couch I call bed the other day, rolled over and popped open my Mac. Email; check. Facebook; check. Grab some coffee, head back to couch. Twitter feed; new updates from @ChicagoCurrent, @WBEZ, @chicagonewscoop, not to mention the dinosaurs.

Checking my twitter feed in the morning is sliding comfortably into that sacred place once occupied by pouring over the broadsheets, grey paper no longer splayed out across the table, coffee in hand, trying awkwardly to fold the page back upon itself.

People are moanin' and groanin' about the fall of newspapers and, with it, accountability journalism, but I'm not so sour. The business model of traditional papers is only the most recent--and loudest--piece misplaced from the puzzle set; Chicago's major dailies have been lacking in local political coverage for some time. Rather than lament their growing irrelevance, I'm more excited too see how the gap they've left will be filled.

And what better place to be than Chicago to watch the revolution? None other than Jay Rosen, the preeminent analyst of the changing face of journalism, tweeted his opinion on the top three American cities for local journalism earlier this month: "Seattle, San Diego and Chicago," with a link to this Reader piece.

A group of big shots and dogged reporters left the Tribune and elsewhere to form the Chicago News Cooperative, which is now selling content to the New York Times, as Times subscribers in Chicago have noticed local coverage on Thursdays and Sundays. Geoff Dougherty, who learned the difficult realities of unpaid citizen journalism at the Chi-Town Daily News, launched the new for-profit, public-interest centered venture Chicago Current; you may have been handed one at your chosen L stop recently (please opt for that rather than the RedEye with in-depth American Idol coverage). We at Gaper's Block are also working on a program to expand original local coverage.

Just about all the new ventures are to some extent dependent on grant money that may or may not be there in the future, and no model is sure to succeed. But I have never been more excited to follow the local news media than right now, in Chicago.

And it's never been easier to follow. Anybody upset about the races in Massachusetts last night? Who are you voting for on February 2? It's never been easier to engage yourself in local politics.

Young people do not buy newspapers, but they are on twitter. My twitter is basically a scrolling list of headlines from every local source; nothing could be easier than clicking on articles of interest, which are then displayed and indexed all in your browser.

It's not hard to foresee the day when little kids will watch young fathers pore over their twitter feed in the morning the way some romanticize the morning paper ritual of the last generation. We'll have to get comfortable with change, because that little kid will certainly become accustomed to something that is much better and--unimaginable as it may seem today--much quicker than twitter.

So here are some good sources to follow in Chicago, in no particular order, to get us latecomers all started:

@BGA_Chicago

@WBEZpolitics
@ChicagoCurrent
@capitolfax
@ProgressIL
@ChiTribCloutSt
@mmcottrell

And, eh-hhem, shamless self-promotion . . .

@gapersblock.com
@D_Feez

Readers, got any other suggestions for the community? Candidates, care to plug yourself?

 
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Jenna Culbertson / January 20, 2010 8:16 PM

Newspapers are certainly dying a slow painful death. Unless they adapt they won't be able to compete especially with the past growth of internet news sources. I have canceled my paper a year ago and don't miss it a bit.

ramsin / January 20, 2010 8:33 PM

great piece DF. Though I may thrown included @ramsincanon in there too...if just out of pity.

Bryan / January 21, 2010 11:24 AM

Great read, Dan. Speaking as someone who nervously embraces the "new media revolution", I am starting to feel the excitement. Thank you. Also, a good reference: http://www.ticklethewire.com/

Barbara Iverson / January 22, 2010 1:21 PM

Oh, you forgot ChicagoTalks.org.We are not for profit, feature local news from student journalists and from all around town. You should have us on your twitter, chicagotalks.

"There are some pioneers in this area. One of my favorite is Chicago Talks, a nuts and bolts neighborhood information hub that keeps its digital ear to the ground on everything from housing foreclosures to bike lanes. Fueled by citizen journalism, the site is constantly receiving and regurgitating the latest information about crime control, school budgets, and library hours," says Ars Technica's Matt Lasar .

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