The view from the 22nd floor Cliff Dwellers Club on S. Michigan Ave., was stupendous and the conversation was even more uplifting Saturday morning for the “All Chicago Media Pep Talk.”
A handful of speakers, all gathered for the event organized by Karen Kring, president of the Association for Women Journalists-Chicago, volleyed about their reasons for optimism, in a lively banter moderated by GreenMark Public Relations’ Sue Markgraf.
“It’s a wonderful time to be in media,” Markgraf said, for media entrepreneurs going out on their own. “We are at our core a creative group.”
Past what he called the “hand-wringing stage,” Chicago journalists are starting to realize they “have a skillset still much in demand,” said Thom Clark, president of Community Media Workshop, which just completed a 2010 study of 120 community news sites.
Storytelling “is all we do, no matter what platform,” said Sylvia Franklin, an independent producer and content strategist. “Be smart enough and stretegic enough for people to find your information,” she advised the room of about 75 media workers.
Moving from traditional print to a radio variety show, “Chicago Live!” co-executive producer Lara Weber said her career is still about “respecting the storytelling” in an innovative way. The stage show in a partnership between the Chicago Tribune and Second City, she said, is very much like a weekly Sunday print magazine, with the best stories of Chicago now reaching a new audience.
Hyper-local news is the impetus for a positive outlook, said Mike Fourcher, publisher of CenterSquareJournal.com and RoscoeViewJournal.com. in what appeared to be the only precisely timed, prepared remarks of the morning.
Fourcher’s four reasons for optimism:
- Cynicism. Because mistrust of mainstream media is high, “start-ups can find a niche and get a foothold.”
- Long tail. Taking a page from author Chris Anderson’s view of the Internet, Fourcher said the “one-size fits all” approach to news by MSM proves there is room “for as many different niches as possible.”
- WordPress. Noting the agility and ease of publishing with this free tool (this is a WordPress blog), there has been a “revolution in publishing.”
- Patch.com. Because of the high-dollar, aggressive start-up of this conglomerate of hyper-local news, this endeavor is the “Starbucks of news.”
Editor and publisher of Our Urban Times Elaine Coorens presented her view in 4 C’s , a P and an S. She said Change, Challenge, Choice, Creative Collaboration (actually it’s 5 C’s then), leads to Passion and Success. We all applauded.
Sherry Thomas, former editor at North Shore Magazine, (coincidentally, my first job out of grad school was as managing editor there in 1979) said when the magazine folded she did not panic. Now the editor-in-chief of Quintessential New Trier magazine, Thomas said the secret for success is to “give them stories they are not getting anywhere else. ” She added, “People will want what they always wanted– good storytelling.”
After Kring cheerleaded the group to finding their own answers and concluded that she hoped everyone “got inspired for a few things,” the tables of journalists and media entrepreneurs went about the process of sharing their take-aways.
Swapping praise and business cards, we filed out after Markgraf reminded us it was up to each of us to “create your own brand.” That is precisely what I tell my students at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
Ending just after 11 a.m., it was the start to a sun-fileld glorious Chicago day, where the view on the media landscape was as inspiring and bright as the one from the 22nd floor.