I fish, hunt, wander, hike, camp, canoe, kayak, bird watch lately and pay attention to conservation issues that impact all of these activities. I don't travel much to take part in any of these activities, so the bulk of it all occurs within the Greater Chicago Area. Sometimes I'll venture into other areas of northern Illinois, but not that often.
If I want to read about these activities, I guess I should be satisfied with reading outdoor writer Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun Times. With his two weekly columns and his daily entries on his blog, I'm on the Sun Times site practically every day. He does a great job.
Now and then I'll go check out Mike Jackson of the Daily Herald or Steve Sarley of the Northwest Herald. Don Dziedzina is still writing for ChicagoNow and I look at what he has to say. Bob Maciulis, owner, editor and writer of the long running local magazine Outdoor Notebook is hard to find in any newspapers lately, but every month I pick up the latest issue of his magazine and his articles are the first that I read.
I should be happy with this.
Today I went out and for the first time in seven years bought a copy of the Chicago Tribune. That's right, the one actually printed with ink on paper.
I went directly to the sports section, the section that normally includes anything on the outdoors. There were numerous articles on all the sports that I don't pay any attention to. Hockey, basketball, football and sometimes stories by different writers covering the same team from different angles. Just below the fold on the front page of the Sports section was a story about figure skating. On the inside somewhere was something about the Australian Open, that's tennis I think.
I went to the Chicago Tribune website and found more of the same. It's amazing how many different opinions on the same subject can be bandied about and yet, not a single article on what I like to follow. Considering how many people are actively involved with the types of activities I like to do, not just sitting in front of a tube and watching others be active, there's nothing in the Tribune's paper or on their website to read.
I found a few details from a 2007 impact statement that drives home my point:
Fishing ranks as the 5th most popular participation sport in the nation. It ranks ahead of bicycling, bowling, basketball, golf, jogging, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, football and skiing. Only walking, camping, swimming and exercise with equipment are more popular.
More Americans fish than play golf and tennis combined.
More Americans fish than play soccer and basketball.
Considering the economic impact these outdoor activities can have on the local economy, and here they are only talking about fishing, how does the Tribune justify completely ignoring such a large reader base.
I'm a late bloomer when it comes to fishing and hunting. I didn't start fishing with a passion till I turned 40 in 1996. The hunting didn't start till I was 45. Starting in the late 80s I began reading Tribune writer John Husar religiously. It was his passion for the outdoors, his ability to tell a story and his love for conserving the outdoors that swayed me. Without him, I may not have bothered.
After Husar died in 2000, it took awhile for the Tribune to find a replacement. Then when that didn't work out, it took a few more years to find another outdoor writer. And now, here we are again. We'll probably have to wait two or three years for the Tribune to get around to having an outdoor writer. If they even bother.
They're missing an opportunity. The largest group of people in the U.S with expendable income, that would be the baby boomers, are all starting to reach retirement age. Quite a few others, like what happened with me, can no longer play sports but want to remain active. Their kids are now coming to an age where they don't want parents around so now the parents have to go find something else to do.
The Tribune is going to miss the boat on this one if they don't act soon. I mentioned above what to look for in a writer: a passion for the outdoors, an ability to tell a story and a love for conserving the outdoors.
Finding such a person can't be that difficult.