By: Nu Yang
More than 2,000 journalists arrived in Chicago May 20 and 21 to cover the 2012 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit. As foreign leaders from around the world met and protestors gathered on city streets, journalists had no shortage of topics to cover. One local media partnership helped broaden the discussion by briefing foreign journalists on the local issues integral to the city of Chicago.
Chicago Stories (chicagostories.org) was created by Thom Clark, president of Chicago’s Community Media Workshop. The website offered briefing papers and source lists to visiting journalists who were interested in connecting with local stories during the NATO summit. Topics ranged from Chicago politics to the city’s musical and theater community. After securing funding and partnering with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Chicago Stories went live in mid-March. Jonathan Eyler-Werve was brought on as project director.
Eyler-Werve said he hired about 20 writers, many of whom were veteran journalists or former Chicago Tribune reporters. The experienced Chicago writers brought depth to the 25 published articles that covered everything from transportation to urban farming.
Clark said the goal of the project was to provide high-end editorial content that would generate story ideas for visiting journalists. Each piece was about 1,500 words long. Within two months, Clark said the site had about 45,000 visitors, with about 7 percent of that traffic from NATO countries.
Even though the NATO summit is over, Clark said that with modest funding support Chicago Stories could remain active for another two years. “(The website) is a phenomenal introduction to the guts of the city,” he said. He would also like to add more briefing papers on other topics, such as immigration, youth, senior citizens, and labor.
“Something that surprised me with this project was that we were able to create an identity,” Eyler- Werve said. “It was big picture storytelling that asked, ‘What is Chicago?’ and I think we put an answer to that.”