By: Mark Fitzgerald
“Thanks, RedEye!” — the world’s only blog dedicated to nit-picking the Chicago Tribune’s youth-oriented tabloid daily — is folding.
Scott Gordon, the Medill School of Journalism grad who ran the blog with current j-school student Andrew Nelson, said he realized when the site went more than a month without being refreshed that it had run its course.
“We got tired of nit-picking — even though it was a pretty good source for nit-picking,” Gordon said Monday evening, sitting on a bench at the Evanston, Ill., campus of Northwestern University, a stone’s throw from the Medill School of Journalism that graduated him not long ago.
“Thanks, RedEye!” was the subject of an article in the March edition of E&P. It critiqued — and, very occasionally, praised — RedEye from the perspective of people squarely in the paper’s GenY or “Millennials” target demographic who seemed forever disappointed by its journalistic performance.
As the blog’s permanent introduction puts it, RedEye “offers a promising format, but mostly just gives us the best of the obvious: clarifications only cretins need, cover stories we’d stopped caring about long before press time, disastrously self-important display type … For these and all other things you give us, we sample members of your target market would just like to say: Thanks, RedEye!”
“Thanks, RedEye!” was launched in June of 2005, and never made much impact at its own target newspaper, with most of the staff unaware of the blog until E&P asked about them about it this winter. (Gordon says, though, that the site’s user meter shows that at least one Tribune Co. person checked regularly even as the blog was on hiatus.)
TRE, as Gordon and Nelson call it, belongs to that tiny subset of blogs devoted to bird-dogging one newspaper. In Chicago, there’s one that targets the long-time alternative weekly, The Chicago Reader. But “The Reader sucks” — with the none-too-subtle subtitle, “The Chicago Readers Sucks and Needs to Die” — appears also to be fading away. It was last updated Jan. 22.
Carping at papers isn’t as easy at it might appear, apparently. “I’m at a point where I’d rather do my own work now, instead of just tearing down the work of others,” Gordon said.
And in one of those comments that chill the hearts of newspaper industry figures desperate to inculcate a reading habit in young people, Gordon says that in the month TRE has lapsed, he hasn’t picked up RedEye at all. “I still read papers — the (New York) Times, the Tribune, Slate (the online site) — but RedEye, honestly, since I stopped working on the blog, I’ve stopped reading it,” he said.
Clearly, too, Gordon’s not lost to all youth-oriented papers: he showed up for the interview wearing a t-shirt from The Onion.
Gordon is trying to come up with a final grand gesture to close out the blog, but admits he’s having a hard time coming up with an idea.
“I thought maybe I’d take some (TRE) postings, and put them in RedEye boxes, or, even better, in all those Red Streak boxes that are still around here,” he said.
RedStreak is the youth tab the Chicago Sun-Times rushed into production with the deliberately chosen market-confusing name when word spread that the Tribune was going to give tabloid publishing a try with RedEye. RedStreak was always just a guerrilla marketing ploy, and when RedEye abandoned the idea of charging a cover price, the Sun-Times happily folded it.
But months later, empty RedStreak boxes still stand ghostly guard throughout downtown Evanston.
Gordon says he realizes he’s abandoning TRE just at the moment when media-bashing blogs are hot, hot, hot. That only makes it easier to leave, he said: “Everyone seems to be compelled to weigh in on newspapers. It used to be that to find this stuff you had to go to Romenesko or Slate, places journalists went. Now it’s just random people.”