HOW CAN YOU HAVE A CHICAGO JOURNALISM TOWN HALL AND NOT MENTIONREDEYE? YOU REALLY THINK THE KINDLE—AKA THE NEWTON 2.0—IS MORE IMPORTANT????
Actually, that’s not entirely true. At the very, very end, the editor ofRedEye, Tran Ha, got up and said, basically, hey, there’s theRedEye, we’re makin’ money.
There was grumbling. It was bittersweet.
I’m serious as a plague about this: theRedEye
is the most read paper in Chicago. Numbers whatever: I trust my eyes,
which are on public transportation twice a day, and it’s everywhere. So
it has to be reckoned with. Tran Ha should have been on the panel.
And the first question should have been: What isRedEye? I still don’t really know.
editorial voice, or, as far as I can tell, mission. Its news is
imported from Mother Tribune and the AP. Itscolumnists andbloggers
seem to have no interest in local or state issues, especially political
issues. It’s sterile, a sterility masked by its tightly edited
cleverness, and not just because of its overwhelming celebrity and
sports content. There’s little of the marrow of city life to the paper. It doesn’t feel like a city, it feels like a focus group.
Right.It’s a shallow piece of shit, if you’re a stuck-up newsie snob like me and most everyone I know in the business. But it’s an omnipresent shallow piece of shit. It has simple, cheap distribution and is marketed as if the lives of tiny kittens depended upon its success, and the people who run it don’t spend all their time beeyotching in public about how it used to be this colossus and now it blows.
The question I have is whether you could apply the backend tactics that make a shallow piece of shit work so well to a newspaper that isn’t a shallow piece of shit. My position has long been that content matters far less than we content-producers like to think it does, that you can convince anyone to pick up anything if you shove it in their faces enough, and that people who came up through journalism to become newspaper execs like to fuck with the journalism because it’s what they know but they’re not willing to dig into the intricacies of marketing and distro because they feel out of their depths.
(Which is stupid; we pride ourselves on becoming experts at anything by talking to all the experts and distilling it down to the simplest form so people can understand it. Mostly, though, the problem with all discussion of newspapers these days is that it’s being done by journalists, who can do jack shit about the actual problems with newspapers.)
It helps RedEye that it’s free (I thought only the dastardly Internet had free content?) but it also helps that I cannot walk twelve blocks to work every day without tripping over at least five boxes of the thing. Even though I’m adamantly opposed to it in theory, by the end of my daily trek I feel like I should get one anyway on the off chance that then it might leave me alone.