The Chicago Media Future Conference: Now is the time for solutions

It’s probably a little pompous to call something “The Chicago Media Future Conference.” After all, who really can say for certain what the future holds for local print and online news publications? And yet, that’s the name its organizers have chosen. Spoiler alert: One of those organizers is yours truly.

February’s Chicago Journalism Town Hall brought tremendous energy, intellectual curiosity and talent together in one room. The discussion sparked many conversations and ideas, online and offline, about a range of topics. Having been in on many of these discussions, we knew the desire for another event was palpable. So my friend Mike Fourcher (a friend and former colleague from my Chicagoist days) and I along with Barbara Iverson (a Columbia College professor and editor of and decided to hold our own event focused on one of those discussion topics: How news coverage can successfully migrate to profitable on-line distribution. (See the bottom of this post for complete bios of all three organizers.)

The Chicago Media Future Conference
will be held Saturday, June 13 at Columbia College’s Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash) from 1:30pm to 4:45pm. It will consist of two 90-minute, moderated, five-person panels, with a 15 minute break in between. Each panel’s topic will be introduced by a 10-minute “scene-setting” informational presentation.

We planned The Chicago Media Future Conference with a few stipulations in mind:

* The conference would be about the future of news. We broadly define news using the intentionally broad dictionary definition, “1: a report of recent events 2: previously unknown information.”

* The innovative future of news will take place online, while print, television, and radio will remain necessary and vital mediums for analysis and reporting.

* People are already paying for news online, in direct and indirect ways. These solutions need to be acknowledged and discussed in detail.

* Most people are interested in retaining the commonly-understood ethical standards for news delivery currently followed by offline media. Many standards and best practices already exist for online news delivery, though some sites don’t always follow them. Some ethical standards have yet to be established, as technology often outpaces “the rules.”

* Our panels should look forward, not backward. The time has passed for lamenting what used to be. We’re not interested in talking about problems unless we’re also discussing solutions.

The working title for the first panel is “How do people consume news and what do they do with it?” The second is “How do you make money selling the news and who is willing to pay for it?”

Right now, we have not confirmed any panelists though we’ve got a short list worked up of editors, business managers, digital strategists, bloggers, tech developers, ad sales managers, news publishers and SEO strategists. But we also want to hear from you – the people who have an interest in this sort of thing – about whom we should invite. One complaint I’ve had about past conferences like this is that they inevitably end up having the same panelists over and over or the organizers end up asking only those they know to participate. We wanted to avoid that, as much as possible. Truth be told, the reason why some people end up over and over on panels like this is because they’re the smartest minds on the subject. Having said that, if you’ve got an idea about a panelist who fits one of the descriptions above, send an e-mail to info (@)

We’ve also launched a website,, though there’s nothing there but a splash page right now. Eventually, will be an information resource, built around a WordPress template, with online registration, panelist bios, and context for both the Chicago and national media landscapes. We also hope it will be a vibrant means of continuing the discussion after the event. We’re planning to launch the site in full on May 1.

By the way, if you ever have website design needs, allow me to recommend Stephen Schmidt, who is the brains and brawn behind Seriously, look at that graphic. How cool-looking is that? Hire this man.

In the coming weeks, we hope to have more announcements about panelists, and the content of The Chicago Media Future Conference. Until then, we could use some help with the following:

What do you think about all this? Does it sound interesting? Do you foresee some problems? What topics do you think we should be discussing on these panels? Do you want to recommend someone as a panelist? Let us know at info (@)

This is a pretty big undertaking. There’s a lot to do, and we’re hoping to get some smart, talented folks to help us. Here are the tasks we need help with:

* Day-of assistance with check-in, answering attendee questions, herding people around, etc.
* Audio and video recording of the event (and possibly to edit said footage)
* Photographing the event

Just a note, everyone involved in this project is volunteering their time and talent (though it’s possible we might buy you a beer at some point) for this non-profit venture. But we will go out of our way to credit you for your work and throw a little business your way, if we can (just look at the nice things I said about Stephen up there).

Speaking of money, we’re also looking for…

There are some incidental costs associated with an event like this (renting the space, buying refreshments, hiring a tech person to run sound, etc.) so we’re hoping some local businesses out there will be interested in throwing a tiny bit of cash our way in exchange for the honor and prestige of being named a sponsor of the first Chicago Media Future Conference. Think of it: You will be able say you were at the forefront of the revolution of Chicago news! How often does an opportunity like that come along? Once in a lifetime!


Lastly, we need lots of help with…

Promotion/Word of mouth
We want your help in telling people about The Chicago Media Future Conference. Write about it, blog it, Twitter it, text it, Digg! it, post it on your Facebook page, and tell your smart friends about it.

We want this conference to be a room full of people working together on the future of Chicago news who then go out into the world and turn words into action. I hope you’ll join us on June 13th and online at

The Chicago Media Future Conference organizers are:

Mike Fourcher
Mike Fourcher is founder of Purely Political Consulting, with dozens of state and local candidates across Illinois. He has built a dozen political websites, served as staff to California Congresswoman Lorett
a Sanchez on Capitol Hill and served in the in Clinton Administration on the personal staff of then-Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. More recently Mike wrote for Chicagoist, founded and After obtaining an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003, Mike consulted for daily newspapers and lead an investor group to purchase alternative newspapers around the country.

Barbara Iverson
At Columbia College, Barbara teaches, talks and blogs about blogging, citizen journalism and digital technology. She blogs at and is also co-editor and publisher of She has a Ph.D. in Public Policy Analysis from the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a specialist in web publishing, interactive multimedia, integrating technology into arts and media courses, and training teachers to use technology in the classroom.

Scott Smith
Scott Smith is now a Senior Editor at, having recently spent two-plus years at Time Out Chicago as Web Editor. He previously worked as co-editor at local news and culture blog Chicagoist, where he wrote about music and movies, and has spent time in radio promotions, teaching, tech support and social work. He has also freelanced for Metromix and Centerstage Chicago, and has been a commentator on Chicago Tonight, WGN Radio 720, and Filmspotting, a film review podcast.

7 comments for “The Chicago Media Future Conference: Now is the time for solutions

  1. April 13, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Hey Scott — I’m very interested to hear how this goes. I am currently teaching a class about Web 2.0 technologies and one of the things my students are *supposed* to be doing is analyzing the way we the people get our news and disseminate news.

  2. April 13, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Finally, an excuse for you to visit Chicago again!

  3. April 13, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    This is the best news I’ve heard about people actually getting off their duffs and making it happen, since the creation of the Chicago Media Hub Project, that is. Where do we send offers to help?Scott

  4. April 13, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    gah! The 13th is the day I graduate from the UofC…I had to miss the other conference, too (if NU’s graduation is then, too, maybe you’ll be missing out on a lot of folks). But it does sound interesting and I hope you have more. Perhaps you can get people to register and send out some background reading beforehand so people are familiar with some of the options and business plans available.

  5. April 13, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Dammit, Beth, why can’t you be teaching that here?! I’d be taking your class!

  6. April 13, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    CMH: info @ chicagomediafuture.orgKatie: We intend to have background reading available as well as post-event blogging, as well as audio and video.

  7. April 26, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    I’ll be there, because this topic is enormously interesting to me due to some experience in strategy mapping…and because I’d follow the intelligent and good-looking Dr. Barbara K. Iverson anywhere.

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