MEDIA: Pop goes the culture at Chicago’s number-one daily

The Chicago Tribune was established in 1847 by Joseph Medill, whose famous last words were, ’What’s the news?’ Claire Atkinson tells you how to pitch the arts and entertainment section of the legendary daily

The Chicago Tribune was established in 1847 by Joseph Medill, whose famous last words were, ’What’s the news?’ Claire Atkinson tells you how to pitch the arts and entertainment section of the legendary daily

The Chicago Tribune was established in 1847 by Joseph Medill, whose

famous last words were, ’What’s the news?’ Claire Atkinson tells you how

to pitch the arts and entertainment section of the legendary daily

Joseph Medill built a newspaper whose influence in the Windy City is

still great today. The daily is read by around a quarter of all

Chicagoland households, rising to a third on a Sunday, according to the

newspaper’s own statistics. The title is also the fifth-largest

metropolitan daily in the country behind The New York Times, Los Angeles

Times, Washington Post and the New York Daily News.

Chicago is a thriving cultural center, where some people choose tickets

for Oprah and Jerry Springer, others for the opera and the city’s myriad

art exhibitions. Sometimes the two merge. Earlier this month, Winfrey

acquired two fiberglass cows that had formed part of a huge outdoor art

exhibition that attracted two million tourists.

The paper’s daily arts and entertainment section, Tempo, is led by

editor Tim Bannon. He moved across the road from the Chicago Sun-Times

in 1995 and says he has tried to give the Tribune’s arts and

entertainment coverage a populist touch. ’We were a bit esoteric,’ he

says, ’now we are more geared toward pop culture.’

The section has upped its movie and TV news but, Bannon insists, not at

the expense of other subjects. Tempo ran a Pulitzer prize-winning series

by architecture critic Blair Kamin on lakefront development. The section

has a new column called Info Culture about media and the information

age. The column is written by Julia Keller, who wrote a caustic piece on

TV sports journalism this month.

First stop with pros

Bannon claims there isn’t too much rivalry between the Tribune and the

Sun-Times for interview subjects, but says most public relations pros

see the Tribune as their first stop because of its number-one


Sales figures published November 10 by the Audit Bureau of Circulations

show the Monday to Friday average circulation at 618,000, against the

Sun-Times’ 468,000. The gap is even wider on Sunday; figures for the six

months to September show the Tribune busting a million, against the

Hollinger-owned Sun-Times’ circulation of 402,000.

Tempo goes to press usually around two days before it appears on the

stands. Bannon describes the section as ’everything under the sun,’ with

food columns, some fashion writing, rock and classical music reviews,

theater, books and the arts.

Tempo recently carried a piece on actor John Malkovich, who once lived

in Chicago. The article aimed to detail the actor’s favorite haunts, in

a parody style that mimicked the movie Being John Malkovich.

Bannon describes another recent story on the opening of an Icelandic

phallus museum for which he was unable to find any artwork. The coverage

is not restricted to Chicago since the paper has a bureau in New York

and Los Angeles and his critics pay frequent visits to both.

The Tempo editor says that the best way to contact him is via or Bannon encourages pros to

pitch him as long as they have an original angle. ’Good PR pros are the

ones with the ideas.

When you are just marketing a product, we can see that,’ he says.

Bannon does not deal with ’who, what, where’ material, which is the

domain of Kevin Moore, another Sun-Times veteran and editor of the

Friday section.

Moore advises that all review material such as books and CDs should be

addressed to his colleague Bannon. He also wants PR pros to call rather

than e-mail. Moore wants to know about upcoming events as far in advance

as possible, as the entertainment section gets filled quickly.

While Bannon is more interested in trends, Moore is probably a better

person to ask if you want to find the best blackened catfish or deep

dish pizza. He is heavily involved in the newspaper’s entertainment web

output, called MetroMix, which has an alliance with AOL’s Digital


Most admired

The newspaper was one of the first media companies to heavily immerse

itself in new media. Parent group Tribune Company ran ahead of the pack

with a series of savvy web investments such as AOL and iVillage.

The Tribune Company, which has a market capitalization of dollars 14

billion, was also ranked the number-one most admired publishing company

by Fortune in 1999. About 90% of employees hold stock. The company also

holds a stake in the WB Network and Food Network.

The Chicago Tribune benefits from the fact that many of its staff

contribute to all manner of outlets, which often share the same stories

from a single server. The Tribune Company owns variety and talk radio

station WGN and cable station CLTV, among other properties. It has seen

its stock rise steadily since January, from dollars 29 to a 52 week high

of dollars 60.

At time of press it was dollars 59. The Chicago Tribune alone recorded

revenues of dollars 808 million, according to the 1998 report.

However, with circulation figures down and web sites eroding classified

advertising revenue, one wonders if the newspaper will be facing the

same challenges as the arts.


Chicago Tribune

435 North Michigan Avenue

Chicago, IL 60611-4041

Tel: (312) 222 3232

Fax: (312) 222-4479




Associate managing editor, entertainment: Geoff Brown

Tempo/arts & entertainment editor: Tim Bannon

Deputy Tempo/arts & entertainment editor: Linda Bergstrom

Friday section editor: Kevin Moore

Friday film editor: Heather Lajewkski

Tempo assistant editors: Marcia Borucki, Jeff Lyon, Kaarin Tisue

Tempo assistant editor/ArtsWatch (reviews) editor: Mo Ryan

Tempo night editor: Marjorie David

Good eating editor: Carol Haddix

Dining editor: Leigh Behrens

Restaurant critic: Phil Vettel

Food writer: William Rice

TV editor: Karen Olson

TV critic: Steve Johnson

Rock critic: Greg Kot

Arts critic: Howard Reich

Classical music critic: John von Rhein

Movie critic: Michael Wilmington

Architecture critic: Blair Kamin

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