Our Responsibility

March 11, 2016


People close to me know that I recoil from the word Journalism. I prefer to talk about “news” or the “news business”. To me, journalism is overloaded with misty-eyed retroverts who want to imagine it’s still the 1990’s and people read your stories because they need to eat their vegetables.

News is a better word, in my opinion. It’s less biased and more broad. It conveys becoming informed, whether on Tom Hanks’ new hairstyle, Frank Ocean’s latest croon or Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s best gaffes; you are gaining something you didn’t have before.

And in my mind, there is plenty of room for just about every kind of news you can imagine. In today’s long-tail media environment, thousands of publications ply their wares so that we consumers get to pick. From TMZ to Breitbart to Modern Tire Dealer, we get to choose how we want to be informed.

My friends also know that I am relatively laissez faire when it comes to the actions of my contemporaries in the media world. Maybe it’s because I worked in politics for 15 years, but my expectations of others is relatively low, so I’m seldom surprised, even if I am sometimes disappointed.

But my laissez faire attitude has been challenged by the latest leadership moves at Tribune Publishing. While the changes don’t surprise me, the reality is hard to digest for those who care about the Fourth Estate.

As much as I want to slough off the possibility of a news organization in trouble, the fact remains: It matters to my community, my city. Sometimes, great news organizations have the potential to change the world with their reporting. But mostly, they keep us from sliding backwards. In the moments when civic evils are revealed, Journalism becomes the appropriate word. I want to see more news become Journalism.

I’m the publisher and owner of Aldertrack, a growing local news publication that aims to produce high quality, detailed reporting on our local government. So, to some extent, the Chicago Tribune and its sister publication, Chicago Magazine, are competitors. But the news world is small. Competition among political reporters is both sharp and collegial. When a rival reporter breaks a cutting story, I am simultaneously irked that someone else did it, yet appreciative of the work.

A competitor’s great reporting may pull them ahead of me for now, but ultimately it lifts us all, encouraging my team to strive to be better, to beat the other guys to the scoop next time.

The reports from Tribune Tower have riveted Chicago’s news community: Is great reporting in danger there?

The question makes my responsibility clear as Aldertrack’s publisher: Serve our community with success. Sponsor more great reporting. Build a thriving business.

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