It's not often that one gets to comment on mixed-income neighborhoods and the future of journalism in the same breath, but this is one of those days so I'm taking advantage of it.
One of the final editions of the News-Star newspaper came through my Rogers Park mail slot today and I got a big kick out of the story about the Aldi grocery chain trying to "sneak one of its stores" into a new development in Edgewater. It seems that some neighbors and 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore would prefer something more upscale.
I laughed out loud because the same scenario has played out in West Haven, where the Near West Side Community Development Corp. has taken heat for trying to bring Aldi into the planned shopping center at Madison and Western. Some vocal neighbors there would prefer a Whole Foods, but even in well-off neighborhoods that store is known as "Whole Paycheck" because of its high prices. In Edgewater, the preferred alternative was Trader Joes, but the developer just couldn't swing that deal.
News-Star knows a good editorial topic when it falls into its lap.
In an editorial titled "Give Aldi's a chance," the editors wrote that "Our lakefront neighborhoods are changing, and with these changes come a delicate balancing act. Residents often cite racial and socioeconomic diversity as what they love most about living in Rogers Park, Edgewater and Uptown. . . . So let's stop being snobs and paying lip service to economic diversity, and give Aldi's a chance to thrive in Edgewater."
Now that's good journalism: first the story, which provided well-reported, timely information about the community; then the editorial, which offered a reasoned analysis about the tradeoffs that come with diversity.
The pity of it is that the News-Star won't be the same after March 19. Its most recent owner, Chicago Journal, is laying off its staff and selling the name to Inside Publications, which will fold it into its free paper serving Lincoln Square. That means the already-meager flow of news about neighborhoods will be reduced even further.
The only bright side is that there's plenty of room for new approaches to collecting and distributing news, and we'll keep doing our share with this blog and tools like the Chicago Neighborhood News Bureau.