Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

The Urbanophile Named One of Chicago’s Top Online News Sites

A Chicago Community Trust sponsored study just named this blog one of Chicago’s top 20 online based news sources. The Urbanophile ranked #17 on the list and was the #3 ranked blog in all of Chicago, trailing only the esteemed CTA Tattler (congrats Kevin O’Neil – you’re definitely in my reader – and congrats on your five year anniversary) and District 299, a Chicago Public Schools oriented blog (congrats Alexander Russo). Urbanophile comrade Mike Doyle came in next to me with his amazing, must read Chicago Carless blog.

This study, “The New News: The Journalism We Want and Need“, looked comprehensively at online news in the Chicagoland area – which, due to my splitting time between Chicago and Indy, and my writings on Chicago proper, includes Yours Truly – looking for “publications that in addition to providing entertaining and informative content were influential, innovative, and had thought through their relationship to their audience as seen by their efforts at transparency.”

Honestly, I don’t consider myself a “news” site at all. I’m not a journalist by training or avocation, but rather a passionate advocate for America’s cities. Nevertheless, I am honored to be included in the Chicago Community Trust’s list of top sites. And I’m extremely proud of the innovation in the online world coming out of the Midwest and Chicago of which I’m privileged to be a part.

You can see Mike Doyle’s take on this over at his Chicagosphere blog.

The press release is included below:

June 10, 2009


For more information, contact:

Thom Clark, 312-405-2142,

Lehia Franklin Acox, 773-960-1908,

Eva Penar, 312-616-8000,


Local news “an endangered species;” study looks at 60 online publications that do it well

CHICAGO—A new study looks beyond journalism’s financial success or survival to investigate the not-so-pretty picture of the local news we have, ask what kind of local news coverage we want, and assess who’s doing a good job in the emerging world of online news publications in Chicago.

The Chicago Community Trust commissioned “The New News: Journalism We Want and Need” from Community Media Workshop at Columbia College Chicago as part of its work with the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation’s Knight Community Challenge. The report will inform the Trust’s work and will be released during The Workshop’s 2009 Making Media Connections conference Wednesday.

The study is available online at and will be available at

“Understanding how online information and communications are meeting, or not, the needs of the community is crucial to the Trust’s project supported by the Knight Foundation. We believe this report is a first of its kind resource offering an inventory and assessment of local news coverage for the region by utilizing the interactive power of the Internet,” says Terry Mazany, president and chief executive officer of the Trust.

“Our study suggests stories and information about our region’s challenges and opportunities is practically an endangered species in Chicago—while we’re excited about the possibilities online, there’s no guarantee these new publications will do better,” says Thom Clark, president of Community Media Workshop.

The bulk of the report is a directory and assessment of local online news publications. It’s based primarily on a survey of bloggers, citizen journalists, and others using an approach that blends self-reported data, Google page rank and traffic ranking, and a qualitative assessment of each site.

A second component, based on focus groups with community leaders, concludes that journalism “we want and need” has three characteristics: it’s vetted by editors for accuracy, clarity and to reduce bias, it’s selected from among the mountains of available data to entertain and inform, and it helps frame one regional conversation about challenges and opportunities.

The third component, a content analysis utilizing keyword searches of the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times suggests local news coverage of everything but corruption and bribery is down.

The keyword search, using the Newsbank database, found steep declines in the number of appearances from 1986 to 2008 of every keyword except “corruption” and “bribery” in the two leading newspapers, which tend to drive local broadcast coverage as well.

Examples of keywords used include local news staples such as “public housing,” “high school graduation rates,” and “toxic waste” as well as the names of major cultural institutions.

Articles by leading local experts highlight the region’s information challenges: focus on content, not platform to overcome the threat of aggregation, suggests Justin G. Massa of and prioritize open records reform, says Greg Sanders of Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The two men, along with three other authors were also part of a 25-member advisory committee that helped oversee and review the results of the study.

For 94 years, The Chicago Community Trust, the region’s community foundation, has connected the generosity of donors with community needs by making grants to organizations working to improve metropolitan Chicago. In 2008, the Trust, together with its donors, granted more than $100 million to not-for-profit organizations. From strengthening community schools to assisting local art programs, from building health centers to helping lives affected by violence, the Trust continues to enhance our region. To learn more, please visit the Trust online at

Community Media Workshop is a 20-year-old nonprofit whose mission is to diversify the voices in the news and public debates through communications coaching for some 2,000 nonprofit volunteers and staff a year as well as sourcing and Newstips from nonprofit groups for journalists. Based at Columbia College Chicago, its home page is



Cities: Chicago

11 Responses to “The Urbanophile Named One of Chicago’s Top Online News Sites”

  1. Ironwood says:


    Congrats on a remarkable achievement, and well-deserved!

    Am honored to know I knew you before you got so famous.

    Please keep up the good work. Oh, and don't end up like one of those great little cheap neighborhood restaurants with great food that gets discovered, and the service goes down and the menu changes and no one can get a table at anymore!


  2. indyjrob says:

    Congratulations Aaron. You continue to stir thought and take on issues so often ignored by our trained "journalists." Cheers for starting many conversations and provoking new perspectives on the city's we call home. Keep up the good work.

  3. thundermutt says:

    Aaron, I echo Ironwood's comments. Congratulations!

  4. the urban politician says:


    You certainly have earned it

  5. Alon Levy says:

    Congrats, Aaron. It's good to see that your analysis is getting this recognition.

  6. thundermutt says:

    No word from Cleveland yet?

  7. The Urbanophile says:

    Thanks, everybody. And thanks too for all your lively comments that keep the blog interesting.

  8. Lord Peter says:


    Can a MacArthur fellowship be far away?

  9. martha says:


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  10. Alon Levy says:

    Can a MacArthur fellowship be far away?

    Yes. It's a prize that goes either to geniuses (like David Foster Wallace) or people with very powerful connections (like a college friend of my dad's who befriended Donald Rumsfeld in the 1970s).

  11. Jon says:

    Quite an honor! Congratulations!

The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City is the first Urbanophile e-book, featuring provocative essays on the key issues facing our cities, including innovation, talent attraction and brain drain, global soft power, sustainability, economic development, and localism. Included are 28 carefully curated essays out of nearly 1,200 posts in the first seven years of the Urbanophile, plus 9 original pieces. It's great for anyone who cares about our cities.

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Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker, and writer on a mission to help America’s cities thrive and find sustainable success in the 21st century.

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