Interview: Michael Miner

Michael Miner came to Chicago in the 1970s as a general assignment reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Michael Miner came to Chicago in the 1970s as a general assignment reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times.

He joined Chicago Reader, the city's venerable alternative weekly, in 1987. Now he writes its "Hot Type" column, a weekly look at journalism in Chicago and across the country.

Reader debuted in 1971 by featuring articles longer and more involved than anything the mainstream press was writing at the time, in addition to running classifieds and personals that listed anything and everything.

PRWeek: How would you describe Reader's role today?

Michael Miner: It talks to those in their early 30s with a fair amount of discretionary income. Most of our readers do not have families, live in the city, and are looking for things to do. They're also people with a certain sense of social awareness.

PRWeek: What do you need from PR people?

Miner: The ones who approach me really don't have any idea what I do. There's always some 20-year-old who's written a new book on relationships, and she's coming to town, and her PR person wants me to interview her.

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

Miner: It would help if they were more familiar with the title, but what can you do? Most of them are in New York. As long as they call me right back when I call them and are willing to help me out, it's as honorable a profession as any other.

PRWeek: What have been the biggest changes in Chicago journalism during your time there?

Miner: There's so much more of it, but it's not the traditional papers anymore - so much of it is given away for free now. When we started, there were four dailies; now there are two here. I've seen a generation grow up unwilling to pay for anything to read. Everything is free. People go online now. We have to compete with ourselves by offering a free web presence that keeps people from going elsewhere for entertainment or classified ads.

Reader invented the model of the free alt-weekly, but now it looks [as if] everyone is trying to invent the next business model.

PRWeek: What is your view on anonymous sources?

Miner: I think the policy regarding use of anonymous sources in news stories must be constantly re-examined, but it can never be changed much. It's like smoking: You cut way back, and then you creep up again because anonymous sources are just so useful.

PRWeek: Do you look at blogs?

Miner: I look at them when I need to. I've written a couple of columns about blogs that have just been way ahead of the daily papers. I did a column on Alan Keyes' daughter, Maya Marcel-Keyes. The papers didn't know how to handle the fact that she was gay. The blogs were talking about it, reflecting on what it said about her and about some of the sexual and political ironies about her being the daughter of a guy who was the antithesis of every value she represented. There was this internet-based conversation going on that the papers were ignoring.

Name: Michael Miner

Outlet: Chicago Reader

Title: Senior editor and media writer

Preferred contact method: mminer@chicagoreader.com

Website: www.chicagoreader.com.

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