People With Passion: Elaine Coorens

People With Passion: Elaine Coorens

A People with Passion series

Chicago journalism

November 4, 2011: Elaine Coorens

In the 15th installment of Jack M Silverstein's Chicago journalism People With Passion series, Our Urban Times founder Elaine Coorens discusses the way advertisers still value print journalism over electronic.




On a weekly basis, you’ve got a group of people working in Wicker Park who are all volunteers. They put in their time, their money, and their heart and soul, and many of them do not live in this community. Now, why is that? It’s disturbing, and if you look at the history of this neighborhood, it’s even more disturbing, because all the families that came and made this community what it is, many of them were not from money when they came to this country.

All of these people were involved. They were involved in ethnic groups that were here. They were involved in churches. They were involved in community organizations. And this was heads of companies. Many of them went on to be legislators and work in government. They were involved in the community.

It’s probably not just here. Maybe this is just a sad statement on our society. But everybody wants to enjoy things, they want to have a good time and enjoy that camaraderie, but they don’t want to help make it. And it’s going to go away. I look at organizations in this neighborhood that I’ve given a lot of time and energy and money to. They’re going away. And a group of people just want to keep this shell going? But to what end? They’re not doing anything. They’re not giving back to the community. They’re not really making community happen.

Everybody I’ve spoken with who have had newspapers here in the last couple of decades pulled out for the very reason I told you. They told me that they came in here, they did everything they could, but they couldn’t make it work. They couldn’t make it work because they couldn’t get people to advertise. In the 70s, the businesses that were around here, a lot of them were not people from this community. They lived elsewhere, but they made their money here.

This gets us into this whole subject of local first, back to what it was like when you had small towns, and small communities, where people mainly bought from their neighbors and delivered services to their neighbors. It’s different now, because you’ve got the internet. Everything’s global.

There is also a difference between people’s perception of what they should pay for print vs. electronic. That’s how people grew up. They’re told that, “Our circulation is going to be 20,000, 30,000, 12,000, 10,000,” whatever. They say that like that means each one of those is going to be read. How do you know if something is read? You don’t. You don’t even know if they got into anybody’s hand to be read. Have you ever gone somewhere and picked up a copy of something, and you never open the damn thing? So yeah, okay, they were printed, but what does that mean?

Electronically you know what that means. We know how many people came there. We know that we’re being read in 106 countries and territories. Somehow the value from some people who have money to spend in advertising, they think that there’s less value if it’s electronic. You and I know that’s not true. But it’s all a paradigm switch. People still feel that if it’s in somebody’s hand, it’s more valuable.

So we’ve got two things going. Number one, we’ve got the whole switch in what’s happening in media, and then you’ve got the issue of this community as far as supporting your local newspaper. Well, Our Urban Times is the only local newspaper. There are newsletters, and there are versions of the city’s newspapers, but we’re local. We are local. There’s that difference. I really want to do what I’m doing with Our Urban Times, and I think it’s important, but sometimes I’m not sure other people think it’s important.

I did a print publication. It’s too expensive to print. You can’t do it without a lot of advertising. You just can’t. But it’s also because the internet is where it’s at. You can go to Our Urban Times at any time of the day or night, whether you’re well-coiffed or you’ve got bed head, or you’re dressed formally or not dressed at all. (Laughs.) Your choice! And you can read it because it’s online and it’s there. So it is a paradigm switch, and every publication from the Wall Street Journal down, everybody’s facing the same issues. Look at all the major newspapers, you know? I could never have done it if I would have done it in print.

Jack M Silverstein is an oral historian working in Chicago. His non-fiction novella Our President about Barack Obama's inauguration is available at Amazon. Say hey on Twitter @ReadJack.




Enjoy this interview? Click here for a longer version as Elaine discusses the importance of using newspapers to create community.

Check back every Wednesday at Eye on Chi for more of Jack M Silverstein’s People with Passion interviews with Chicago journalists. Coming up next week: William Lee, crime reporter, Chicago Tribune.


(NOTE: The dates below refer to the date of the interview. The order is the date they were run.)

November 4, 2011: Andrew Barber, Fake Shore Drive founder

October 21, 2011: Jane Hirt, Chicago Tribune, managing editor

September 19, 2011: Andrew Huff, Gapers Block founder

September 21, 2011: Chris Cascarano, Chicago News Cooperative, video producer

September 30, 2011: Christie Hefner, Playboy, former CEO

September 15, 2011: Alden Loury, Chicago Reporter, publisher

August 17, 2011: Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune, editorial board and columnist

September 13, 2011: Kimbriell Kelly, Chicago Reporter, editor

August 26, 2011: Chuck Sudo, Chicagoist, editor

August 17, 2011: Clayton Hauck, photographer

August 18, 2011: Rick Telander, Chicago Sun-Times, sports columnist

August 15, 2011: Mick Dumke, Chicago Reader, investigative reporter

December 12, 2008: Alex Kotlowitz (re-edited August 15, 2011)

August 10, 2011: Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune, columnist

August 4, 2011: Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune, columnist

Photo of Elaine Coorens taken by Sarah Tilotta Photography


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