Monday, December 05, 2005

Sun-Times' Cheryl Reed on Chicago Journalism

PR Week interviewed Cheryl Reed, investigative reporter for your Chicago Sun-Times:
PRWeek: Can you explain the difference between the Sun-Times and the Tribune?
Cheryl Reed: The Sun-Times really covers Chicago. We don't really cover Illinois that much, we don't cover the nation. We cover what happens in Chicago and the suburbs, and mostly the city. The Tribune views itself as The New York Times of the Midwest. It has bureaus all over the world. The metro section is kind of considered second-class to the national and international reporters.

PRWeek: Do you feel like you don't compete with them as much as offset each other?
Reed: I think we do compete. Typically it's viewed as, we're the first ones on a story, and they're the ones that come in a week later and do the big blowout. ***

PRWeek: Do you think diversity, or lack of it, in newsrooms affects the way that media cover race?
Reed: I don't. I have very opinionated feelings on this. I think most of the blacks and minorities that we hire are very middle/upper-middle class. Most have gone to very good schools. They do not come from poor backgrounds. It's pretty rare to have a minority in the newsroom that came from a poor background, went to a community college or something like that, who can really relate to what's happening on that level. And so I think there's not a lot of diversity in thought and class between those minorities who are in the newsroom.

PRWeek: The newspaper sector is facing serious economic issues. How will that affect investigative reporting? Is it in danger?
Reed: Yes, I think it is. The Tribune, which is our competitor, is in the middle of layoffs. The LA Times laid off 85 people in the newsroom. You won't stop covering breaking news, so having people to work on projects for three and four weeks is a luxury. They certainly didn't always have that here, and that's at stake if we reach the point where we must have layoffs.

PRWeek: Do you think that type of reporting will migrate to the Internet and elsewhere, or just disappear?
Reed: I think really to do investigative reporting well, you need someone with a tremendous amount of skill, and you're not going to necessarily find that [among] people who are doing Internet stuff. You also have to have a lot of money. It's very expensive...I think people who are eliminated from those jobs will either end up going into private sector jobs, or teaching or something like that. I know at the Tribune those jobs are somewhat protected because of the skill base, but at a union paper like ours it would be based on seniority. So, whoever came in last [would be out first].
via Romenesko

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