I believe the interns are our future

This post is a little “inside baseball” and I’m kind of burying the lede. So if you want to immediately see what I’m building up to, read this.

A couple weeks ago – as we were going to press on the blogging issue of Time Out Chicago – I found out that the cover story of Chicago magazine’s February issue was “171 Great Chicago Websites.”

Initially, I hit the roof.

Our feature involved critics from almost every major media entity in the city – I interviewed a handful of them for my story and Theater writer Kris Vire hosted a critics’ chat room with many more – so we were a bit worried that another publication would get wind of it and scoop us on our story.

To the casual observer, it probably looks someone’s a copycat. But Chicago magazine is a monthly, so they were probably closing their feature before we started writing ours, and I can honestly say that no one at TOC knew about what they were doing until we closed. It’s a coincidence that occurs often when you’ve got so much media out there.

After perusing a copy of Chicago, it turned out that both features covered different ground. Ours was focused on online criticism, specifically, and they cast their net wider to include every informational resource in town, and then some. They did a very thorough job, and I was hoping both stories would spur more of a discussion about what’s happening online in Chicago, but so far that hasn’t happened.

While Chicago beat us to the punch on the newsstands, we beat ’em online. In fact, I’ve been waiting for weeks for the story to show up on its website, as its other stories from February are already up. It’s been a running joke in the TOC offices that Chicago‘s story about websites wasn’t actually on its website even while people were commenting on the placeholder page.

As someone whose job depends on all media recognizing the importance of the Internet, I was irritated that Chicago wasn’t gettin’ to business. I was complaining about this to one of the NYC directors that was in town, and she said “Well why don’t you just put the links on our blog?”

And that’s how this happened. And then Metroblogging Chicago did us both one better by creating a newsreader file of both their story and ours.

So far, no reaction from the folks at Chicago magazine, but I’m hoping they’ll take it in the good-natured spirit that it’s offered. There’s already a troll in the comments section at Chicagoist who’s making the predictable arguments. (The notion that because our intern was working on this story, all other work in our offices stopped is amusing, but not worth addressing).

Blogging and remixing content of other media outlets isn’t “stealing” so long as credit is given where credit is due (for example, Gridskipper routinely Google-maps TOC content for stories like this). I’ve had dust-ups in the office about how our content’s being used online. Over the past year, one of my goals has been to get folks there to understand that this is the way that media works now, it’s ultimately good for us, and TOC needs to be doing it as much as Chicagoist, Gapers Block and all the rest do (so long as we stick to standards of journalism ethics, even if other folks don’t).

If we – or any other media entity – fails to recognize the importance of what’s happening online, someone else will.

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