Sun-Times’ Digital Direction Sign of Times

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

A news report last week regarding Chicago’s longest-standing source of daily news was somewhat expected, given today’s digitally-driven world, but nonetheless saddening.


What kind of viewers/readers do you think the Sun-Times plan to target with its new direction?

The Chicago Sun-Times, the metro area’s remaining daily tabloid and number two newspaper, was “re-launched” as more of a national publication featuring news on a web platform designed to appeal to an audience well beyond the metropolitan Chicago area.

After viewing the site, yes there’s lots of news, much of it local. And yes, the print edition will still be published; but the news published by the new Sun-Times Network is delivered in the kind of “bash-you-over-the-head-with-headlines-and-graphics” style that makes it a challenge to gauge what’s news and what’s sponsored content.

Here's the cover of the "new" Sun-Times.

Here’s the cover of the “new” Sun-Times.

This development is certainly not surprising to anyone who’s followed the news business in Chicago or in just about any major market around the world.  Today’s readers demand news with drama, and they want a lot of it.

The old business model — publishing journalism that serves the community — doesn’t work as well anymore, as evidenced by news last month that the Sun-Times had planned another round of staff cuts.

Back in the day, the Sun-Times was considered the more “street smart,” blue-collar of the Chicago daily papers.  (I remember when Chicago had five daily newspapers, but that’s a topic for another day.)  It was the paper delivered to our home while I was growing up, and its marketing tag line was, “The Bright One.”

Sad to say, that light has gotten a lot dimmer over the years. So, perhaps, has real journalism. Or at least, journalism as I knew it and practiced it a long time ago.

* * *

Want more from The PRDude on the newspaper business?


Why I’ll Continue to Pay to Receive Home Delivery of a Real Newspaper (Even Though I Could Read It Online for Free)

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

The above arguably is the longest title for a blog from a communicator ever written. Well, at least by The PRDude.

It was inspired by an invoice we received last week from the Chicago Tribune for seven-day-per-week home delivery of the newspaper to the front door of our Chicago home.   The invoice  of $97.50 covered home delivery of the Trib through mid April.

We had the option to pay for home delivery through July of this year, or even through the second week of 2013 — and the second week of 2014!  But we’ll stick with the quarterly rate, which was a bit higher than in the past.

Will the Trib — at least the version we now receive, with sound reporting, commentary, features and The Jumble puzzle  — be around past 2014?  I’m sure it will, because people like me need, make that demand, a daily broadsheet or tabloid print publication.

We demand it because:

  • We were raised on newspapers, the source of serious news for us, our parents and their parents.
  • We like the whole process of unfolding a broadsheet and snapping it to the page we want to read.
  • We like the feel of newsprint, fragile paper that’s designed to be tossed in the trash after its value is consumed by the reader.
  • We’re loyal to our hometown and in turn, institutions like newspapers.

Loyal followers on this blog recall that The PRDude began his career as a hard news wire service reporter before transitioning into public relations a few decades ago.  In the late 1970s, reporters for the Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and the long-gone Chicago Daily News were heroes to guys like me, those of us who typed our stories on manual typewriters.  They were newspapermen (and newspaperwomen, of course.)  They reported and covered the news and we read about it the next morning or afternoon.

Aside from some columnists, a few beat writers and sports reporters, all of the Tribune and Sun-Times reporters I worked with and pitched stories to are gone, corporate casualties.  Most have left the business; the fortunate have found other careers (like public relations perhaps?) or teach.  I’m told “newspaper” reporters now write online content first in most cases, which is okay because that’s the direction mass communications has taken and that’s the direction it will follow.

Only a luddite would disagree.

Like all print mediums, the Tribune and to a great extent, the Sun-Times, are struggling to remain relevant, and of course, in business.  Last summer, the Trib launched an expanded print edition that offers home delivery readers more news, features and commentary.

The Tribune says us home delivery readers get an “an additional 40 pages of weekly coverage.” My only complaint is that I just don’t have the time to read all the new stuff; but I try.

I start my weekdays reading a newspaper, the Tribune, while riding a CTA el train. Usually, I’m the only person reading a newspaper.  I end my day working on the Jumble with Susan; she usually unscrambles the words faster than me.

As long as someone prints a newspaper, I’ll continue this practice. What about you? Do you subscribe to and/or read a print newspaper?