Interview: Tammy Chase

Unlike many US cities today, Chicago still has two major daily papers that compete vigorously for readers. The Chicago Sun-Times is the smaller of the two, but it has built a reputation for being scrappy in digging up scoops.

Unlike many US cities today, Chicago still has two major daily papers that compete vigorously for readers. The Chicago Sun-Times is the smaller of the two, but it has built a reputation for being scrappy in digging up scoops.

PRWeek: How did you get into journalism? How did you come to your current Sun-Times post?

Tammy Chase: I never meant to be a journalist. I graduated from a tiny liberal arts college in Iowa in 1990 with a BA in political science. The economy was crap. The cops-and-courts reporter job at the Newton (IA) Daily News was the first job I was able to land that paid more than $12,000 a year. It paid $14,000. From there, I worked at weekly business newspapers in Des Moines and then Milwaukee. I went into business journalism because there were actually jobs in the field that didn't pay too badly. In 1996, I was hired as the Midwest bureau chief of The Bond Buyer, a New York-based trade publication covering municipal bonds. I went on to Bloomberg News' Chicago bureau in 1998 to cover the Federal Reserve and economics. The Sun-Times hired me in 2000 as a business reporter. I followed United Airlines, SBC, Bank One, and other public companies. I also wrote news features to keep my sanity.

By 2004, I'd done a bit of writing for the Sun-Times' lifestyle section. I was approached by the editors there to become that section's editor, which I became last August.

PRWeek: What is the aim of your section? Who is the target audience? What types of stories does it include?

Chase: The lifestyles section is two pages (usually), Monday through Friday. It is aimed toward urban younger women, covering trends, fashion, sex and relationships, health and fitness, and other women's issues. We try to make it look and read differently from the rest of the paper with graphics and photos, bits about cool events and deals coming up, and things like that.

PRWeek: Are you open to pitches from PR people? What type of pitches would you want?

Chase: Yes, I'm open to them. PR people can best help by keeping women's themes in mind. A story pitch has a better shot if there's a good local peg. We're looking for fun trends that have not been done to death, or for new angles on ongoing trends. It must be fresh and compelling. Think, what do Chicago women want to read about? What do they care about - both the serious and the fun stuff?

PRWeek: What's your biggest pet peeve with PR people?

Chase: Sorry, but I have more than one. Lying to me and making up trends just to promote a client are two. I'm getting a lot of pitches on hair extensions, for example, but outside of Hollywood, I don't see it happening much among average women. Pitching "exclusives" that have already run in the Tribune or somewhere else peeves me. Stupid pitches, such as telling me your client has been on Oprah and therefore is credible, also don't fly with me.

Name: Tammy Chase

Outlet: Chicago Sun-Times

Title: Lifestyle editor

Preferred contact method: chase@suntimes.com

Website: www.suntimes.com

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