The Tribune Needs an Outdoor Writer

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.

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  • Great post! Although I'm completely down at the other end of our fair state, I wholeheartedly agree! We are seeing a trend towards families starting to recognize the importance of outdoor time, and the healthy impacts it has on mind, body and spirit. As print newspapers struggle to survive, a simple look at the sheer number of outdoor enthusiasts in IL and the Tribune circulation area should be enough to wake them up, however it doesn't seem to be doing that. Sadly what we have seen down here in southern IL is several of the dailies have cut their outdoor writers and just sort of left it up to whomever might want to occasionally take it on - a move I feel was not a good one especially where so much of the economy is based on outdoor sports and recreation. I have two mid size dailies to pick from - the one I pick is the one that not only keeps their outdoor writers busy, also has entire outdoor section, and often runs outdoor related articles ~ gasp~ on the front page! I like your line of thinking here!

  • In reply to gretchensteele:

    Thanks Gretchen. I enjoy reading about what you do in your area of Illinois and since I have two daughters, I've made sure they know about you. Too often girls, young women, don't feel they can participate in the hunting/fishing aspects of the outdoors. The healthy impacts you mention seem to get short shrift. Luckily I have one that likes to fish and hunt and the other is turning out to be quite the photographer. And simply loves being outdoors.

    We have to lead by example and if the examples aren't out there and easily accessible, then what?

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    I get the Trib 3 days a week because of a whole bunch of family that worked for them for years and I am discontinuing there service just because of this. I got away with reading all sun-times stuff for free online but not that I have to pay for it I may as well get a discount on the paper and the now pay for it online. It is honestly hard to leave the trib as it employed my grandfather and my uncle for over 40 years but

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    Well I hit the wrong button but I would rather hear about the outdoors then to read about the other random sports that the trib reports about. If they had a outdoor writer I would think about staying.

  • In reply to Rob Plank:

    I was a Sun Times reader for years as a kid, that's what my dad read so that's what I read. Funny how we get attached to specific papers.

    Would be interesting to get the reasoning behind not having one from someone that makes those kind of decisions.

  • I believe most are in the same boat Ken. I bought the paper every Tuesday, then Saturday "after they switched days on me" just to read the outdoors section.

    I still grab the Wednesday's Sun-Times to see what Dale has in print for that week.

    Hopefully someone will come around and realize that there is more to the sporting world than the big "3". Don't get me wrong... I enjoy Baseball, Football and Golf, "not a fan of basketball" but the outdoors is what I favor most!

    Dan

  • In reply to Dan Sims:

    Dale didn't have the specific numbers, but he thinks 50,000 a week read him in the paper. He also thinks he's getting 1,000 or more hits a day on his blog posts.

    Why would the Trib walk away from readership like that?

    I don't know though, with figure skating on the front page of the Sports section, I may have something new to follow...

  • Basically, to the Tribune, the outdoors is the plaza overlooking the Showcase Studio and in front of the NBC5 Studio. Also, I don't believe that the Tribune has much readership with the 2nd Amendment crowd.

  • The first sentence is pretty funny.

    The second one, we're our own worst enemies. If you like to hunt/fish and even some of the other outdoor activities, we tend not to speak up enough. Usually I just throw the Pittman-Robertson Act in their face and say, here, match that, then get back to me.

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    You are right about the Tribune having a hole to fill with an Outdoor writer. With so many outdoor events and opportunities I am surprised the Trib doesn't have any coverage.

  • In reply to Daniel Roloff:

    The other 35 people that checked out this post might agree with you.

    Then again, maybe not.

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    In reply to Ken G:

    I'd read your column, if you had one.

  • In reply to Daniel Roloff:

    HA!
    You and my dad....that's my boy.

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