Thursday, October 22, 2009

Former Tribune editors to supply New York Times with Chicago content

By: Lorene Yue

(Crain’s) — Former Chicago Tribune newsroom managers have created a venture that is making its debut in local editions of the New York Times.
The Chicago News Cooperative will provide two pages of local content, primarily political news, in the Friday and Sunday editions of the New York Times starting Nov. 20.

Chicago News Cooperative is being led by Jim O’Shea, former editor of the Los Angeles Times and former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune. Jim Warren, a former managing editor for features at the Tribune, will contribute a regular column.

“The New York Times’ strategy and intent is to provide local content to our existing readers in the Chicago metropolitan area,” said Scott Heekin-Canedy, president of the New York Times. “It will enhance our circulation retention and maybe even grow it a little bit.”

Terms of the contract are not being disclosed.

The New York Times collaboration is the first phase of Chicago News Cooperative, which plans to launch Chicago Scoop Web site next year and possibly partner with radio station WBEZ on local content.

Peter Osnos, chairman of the group’s advisory board, said the Chicago News Cooperative model is still “very much” in development, but should also include various newsgroups of interest to readers. For example, Chicago Symphony Orchestra fans could join a newsgroup that would be moderated by a Chicago News Cooperative member who would also provide concert reviews.

Chicago News Cooperative will start with non-profit status as an affiliate of Window to the World Communications, the parent of WTTW-TV/Channel 11. WTTW will also provide space for Chicago News Cooperative’s newsroom in its station at 5400 N. St. Louis Ave.

“We are looking at the possibility of converting (to low-profit or for-profit status),” said Mr. Osnos, who is also founder of PublicAffairs books, a New York-based publisher.

The majority of Chicago News Cooperative’s funding is coming from a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant.

Chicago is the second city where the New York Times has contracted with a local agency for news content. The national publication recently launched a San Francisco edition.

“We believe this is an added service to our existing circulation base,” Mr. Heekin-Canedy said.

He said that Chicago and San Francisco are essentially test markets for the New York Times, which is in discussions with news outlets in other markets for similar ventures.

Chicago News Cooperative will have control of its content including layout and design. It will send production-ready pages to the New York Times.
Messrs. O’Shea and Warren are news veterans with long careers with Tribune Co.

Mr. O’Shea was forced out of Tribune Co. in January 2008 over budget cuts. He was the fourth editor to leave the Los Angeles Times in recent years after disagreements on how to trim expenses. Tribune Co. eventually sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2008.

Mr. Warren left the Chicago Tribune in August 2008 as part of a management exodus that began when commercial real estate magnate Sam Zell took Tribune Co. private in a December 2007 deal that also saddled the company with $13 billion in debt.

Mr. Osnos would not disclose what other reporters would be part of Chicago News Cooperative, but did say that eventually the organization hoped to have enough to field a full City Hall and statehouse bureau.

Other Chicago News Cooperative advisory board members are:

Dan Schmidt, president and chief executive officer of WTTW
Newton Minow, senior emeritus partner at Sidley & Austin
Martin Koldyke, former chairman of WTTW and founder of the Golden Apple Foundation
Ann Marie Lipinski, a vice-president at the University of Chicago and former editor of the Chicago Tribune
Michael Davis, president and chief executive officer of Alphazeta Interactive

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