Thirteen years ago, the Chicago Tribune launched a branded blogging platform, ChicagoNow. ChicagoNow contributors published over 100,000 posts. It hosted 300 active bloggers, and drew 25 million page views per month, according to the original community manager, Jimmy Greenfield. Eventually, Greenfield was rotated to other reporting duties and a new community manager took over.
I had two blogs on ChicagoNow, Interesting Chicago, and the Cooking Cop. I eventually spun off the Cooking Cop to its own website. Interesting Chicago was about the fascinating things in this city and a showcase for my freelance photojournalism. After Mr. Greenfield left, things were not the same, and I eventually decided to leave.
There was a benefit to ChicagoNow. When I wrote and photographed events like the Chicago Auto show or the National Restaurant and Housewares show, I received offers to photograph events from event planners. I made a tidy sum from these various jobs. I also got invited to various events to write about them. They offered free food and drinks. I met all kinds of people in various fields. I received free tickets to plays and concerts too from PR agencies to photograph and write about their clients.
There was a strong community of writers at ChicagoNow. Writers blogged about just about every topic imaginable. There were a few gatherings a year that was part social and part professional. I met some great people there. One of whom I worked with later.
When Alden Capital, AKA The Vultures, took over, there was some uncertainty if they would keep ChicagoNow alive. Eventually, Greenfield’s replacement disappeared, which caused more consternation. Then, without warning, the Chicago Tribune pulled the plug on the website. They gave content creators no notice, and they could not retrieve their content. No explanation was given. They just closed up shop and hid in the darkness like cockroaches.
Granted, the Tribune owned the blogging platform and could do what they want. News economics kept changing over the past few years. Add to that The Vultures, Alden, buying the paper, and you have a recipe for a declining once historic newspaper.
However, there are two ways to do things, the right and proper way and the lower than low life despicable way. The right and proper way would have been to give the bloggers notice so they could retrieve their material. They took the lower-than-low life despicable way, shuttering ChicagoNow with no notice.
Former ChicagoNow bloggers on social media are rightfully furious over the situation and are scrambling to find other venues to continue their writing. The problem is that their followers have no way to find them. They will be starting all over again from scratch. I know how hard that is. But, with social media and time, they can rebound.
As for the Chicago Tribune, I am torn about canceling my online subscription. It is no longer the great historic paper it used to be. But, there are still good people who work there and provide content I enjoy.