Once the neglected media child of a busy city, the Chicago
Sun-Times has undergone a rebirth. The paper has redefined itself as a
local paper, and is now taking business seriously. John Frank
Nick Kalm, an EVP with Edelman, remembers that a few years ago,
Chicago-based clients often had one major media goal: getting covered in
the business section of the Chicago Tribune, the city's largest daily
Grabbing some ink in the Chicago Sun-Times, the city's then gritty
tabloid, was seen as nice, but not necessary. Another Chicago PR pro,
asking for anonymity, is even more blunt, recalling, "I had a CEO who
said the only people who read the Sun-Times are truck drivers and
But times, and the Sun-Times' business coverage, have changed. Since
hiring long-time Chicago journalist Dan Miller as business editor two
years ago, the Sun-Times has taken on a new, more focused approach to
covering local business. "We've made the business section a
destination," says Miller.
Miller's roots in Chicago journalism go back nearly 40 years to his days
as a young business reporter for the now-defunct Chicago Daily News.
Miller made his mark as founding editor of Crain's Chicago Business, a
position he held for 10 years, until 1988, when he became a VP and
publisher of another Crain's publication. A rarity among journalists,
Miller has also served in state government, chairing the Illinois
Commerce Commission from '94-'98.
Miller was working for the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think
tank, in 1999 when the Sun-Times called. He jumped at the chance to be
an editor again. "I love business news," he says. That love of business
news is starting to translate into an improved Sun-Times business
"I really think the Sun-Times business section has gotten much, much
stronger," says Kalm.
In addition to Miller's efforts, Sun-Times reporter Howard Wolinsky also
garners kudos from local PR people for writing about small, privately
held local technology companies long before the rival Tribune did. He's
been spotlighting such companies in the Sun-Times for two years.
"Howard has been a proponent of emerging technology companies. He's a
great listener, and very amenable to pitches," says Howard Solomon,
managing director with Ruder Finn's Chicago office.
Indeed, PR people give Sun-Times business staffers credit for listening
to PR pitches rather than shunning PR people, as reporters at the
Tribune are known to do.
"The Sun-Times is leaner and meaner, but in a lot of cases, has been
easier to work with," says long-time Chicago PR man Larry Mathias.
Responds Miller, "I know that we need the PR professional to do our
All of my people know that." Miller isn't averse to answering his phone
to speak with a PR person pitching a story.
He does have some pet peeves about PR, though. Chief among them is
getting mail addressed to people who no longer work at the paper, or
getting mail directed to the wrong reporter. "PR people have got to know
who covers what here," he says. Miller also wants exclusives or, at
worst, information released to him at the same time as the Tribune and
Crain's get it.
Miller knows his job of transforming perceptions about the Sun-Times'
business coverage is far from over. After all, he still runs across
people who think Rupert Murdoch owns the paper (it was sold to Hollinger
International several years ago).
"It's a daily struggle against perception," Miller says. He's responded
by focusing the Sun-Times tightly on local business news, while the
Tribune business section covers national stories, such as the recent
collapse of Enron.
"We're the local newspaper of Chicago," says Miller. "We're militantly
Miller works with a full-time staff of only six reporters, compared to
scores of Tribune business writers. He uses a stable of columnists to
fill coverage gaps in such areas as mutual funds or personal finance,
and relies primarily on Bloomberg for national news.
"The paper is always undermanned, understaffed, and under-resourced,"
Miller says. Indeed, the Sun-Times, with a daily circulation of 480,920
(compared to the Tribune's 621,305), is facing a possible reporters'
Miller frets about what impact that could have on his rebuilding
efforts, but he's not letting that slow him down. His advice to Chicago
PR people: "Give us another look if your clients are reluctant about
getting in the Sun-Times."
Address: 401 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611
Tel/Fax: (312) 321-2841/321-3027
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (Note: Don't send large files or graphic
Business editor: Dan Miller (ext. 2525)
Deputy business editor: Mike Gillis (ext. 2140)
Ad/marketing: Lew Lazare (ext. 2819)
Financial services: Tammy Williamson (ext. 2892)
Information tech: Howard Wolinsky (ext. 2564)