Monday, July 14, 2008

Coverage of neighborhood news? Not so bad

Trainee Larry Smith leads a tour at Growing Home's open house on June 28. Photo by Patrick Barry.

Was a time, when I was a boy delivering the afternoon daily Chicago American, that our fair city had four big daily newspapers and half a dozen smaller ones covering ethnic groups and suburban regions. On top of that were dozens of weeklies covering the neighborhoods, or in the case of the Lerner papers, twice weekly. So it's no wonder that today's lament about weak coverage of the neighborhoods is so often heard.

But wait. From what I've been seeing lately, the growth of new-media outlets is changing the game, and since they can be updated often at much lower cost than print vehicles, we might even be seeing more news than before. Some of the grist comes from community groups, some from journalism students, but even the old media are in on the act.

All that's by way of prelude to this little roundup:

At Chicago Talks, Columbia College journalism student Brian Patrick Roach tells how students on the Southeast Side interviewed retired steelworkers to capture their stories from the mills. On the same site, Bryce Wolfe provides an update on the Bloomingdale Trail, which when built will provide a three-mile elevated bike and pedestrian path bisecting the Humboldt Park and Logan Square neighborhoods. Land is being acquired alongside the trail to provide mini-parks and access ramps.

At a new site called, formerly the Chicago Methods Reporter put out by students at Medill, there's an in-depth piece by Elizabeth Riley featuring the defense of a certain block in Auburn Gresham. Riley has done a few stories down there, according to local host Ernie Sanders, carving out something like a beat.

Not bad, but stick with me. At Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation's site, you can learn how three South Side restaurants, BJ's Market, Lagniappe and Soul Vegetarian, made out at the Taste of Chicago. You'll get hungry just reading the story. Go east to the NCP Woodlawn site and find out about a planned health fair and kidney screening, "another example of how a small but determined group leverages relationships to promote health education and provide access to health services."

While the new media are definitely adding depth to our reading choices, the old is still in the game. This morning's Tribune had a good piece about how Oji Eggleston and Earnest Gates organized a basketball league at Crane High School, offering mentoring alongside ball-handling tips.

And in today's Crain's Chicago Business? There's a short piece on Growing Home's executive director Harry Rhodes. That's the group that runs the Wood Street Urban Farm in Englewood, which is adding two more mini-farms nearby and constructing a small building for training, office space and a produce stand.

In my book, that's a pretty solid list of stories about action in the neighborhoods.

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