In my new role, I look forward to redefining my old broadcast beat, while expanding the scope of my reporting to include print, the Internet and whatever else comes along. Best of all, every reader will be welcome to offer instant feedback and participate in what I hope will be a lively, ongoing dialogue about media issues.
In case you haven’t heard, Vocalo.org is an interactive online community hosted by Chicago Public Radio, the nonprofit parent of WBEZ-FM (91.5). Launched in 2007, Vocalo.org is designed to be a virtual “public square” where people are invited to share ideas and opinions about everything going on in our metropolitan area. It serves as an outlet for audio content generated by users on both the website and WBEW-FM (89.5).
As my new boss, Torey Malatia, explained to me, my hiring (and that of other bloggers who’ll be added in the coming weeks and months) is at the heart of plans to expand Vocalo.org and fulfill its potential as a vital and thought-provoking gathering place.
I’ve always admired Chicago Public Radio as a bastion of quality, and I like the idea of contributing to Vocalo.org, an enterprise dedicated to serving our community and fostering honest discussion about things that matter. I think it’s a great fit.
It was exactly one year ago that I accepted a buyout from the Chicago Sun-Times, where I’d spent close to three decades as a columnist and reporter covering the television and radio beat. As much as I loved the paper and enjoyed my job, I was eager to take a break. At the time, I had no idea what I’d be doing next.
Little did I know that the last 12 months would turn out to be the most tumultuous year in the history of Chicago media. While both the Tribune and the Sun-Times filed for bankruptcy (and the Sun-Times narrowly averted liquidation), television and radio stations across the board struggled as never before for survival and relevance. Scores of the most talented and experienced men and women in print and on the air lost their jobs. At the same time, too many of their bosses focused more on cutting costs and saving their own necks than fulfilling their obligation to serve the public.
Were there times when I missed writing about all the upheaval and turmoil? No question. But I wouldn’t have traded my year off for anything. I learned who my friends are and gladly lost interest in those whom I’d once regarded as enemies. As a bonus, I was able to experience the exploding communications environment as a civilian for the first time in my life. I came away with new insight into the way news, information, opinion and entertainment are produced, disseminated and consumed.
Enough about me. It’s time to get back to work already. So I hope you’ll meet me here five days a week, starting real soon. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.