I’ve become friends with a few people at the Chicago Tribune over the last year or so. Some of those people launched a network of local blogs – called Chicago Now – each serving a different niche of Chicago life. (One written by Amy Guth – who you all know is one of my very best friends).
I was brought in to be in a small focus group to get a preview of the site and provide feedback. When I dropped by a meet-up for the bloggers last week, I told people I was there as a tire-kicker. I kicked the shit out of that metaphorical tire. I sent at lease one 1,000 word email to the team and a number of follow-up thoughts and bugs that I found.
The team was incredibly responsive and I saw many of my comments turn into changes in the terms of service, community guidelines, excerpting and other areas of the blog network. I wasn’t the only tire-kicker, but I only know what I said and that a lot of my suggestions turned into changes.
I have a lot of thoughts about the site, but for now I’m going to withhold them and let you check it out for yourself. I hope that people give the Tribune a chance to succeed with this project. Why? Because they are friends trying to do something cool. Bill, Daniel and Amanda (D’oh! And Tracy and Alicia) have all worked hard to become a part of the local social media scene – not bystanders, not interlopers, but members of our community. They’ve stuck around in way that so many companies haven’t and this project, to me, is a logical progression.
Why not put the support of a large media company behind local bloggers and see what happens?
Watch the beta as it progresses, suggest blogs for the network and send feedback to the team. I’m certain they want to hear from you.
UPDATE: Two posts with a more critical eye about how this fits into the greater world of journalism. Whet Moser from Chicago Reader (who I just met in person a couple weeks ago) and Mark Potts the Recovering Journalist.