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Chicago News Coop = Trib Lite?

By Marcus Gilmer in News on May 5, 2010 3:50PM

2010_05_05_CNC.jpg Earlier this week, it was announced that former Tribune writer/editor Jim Kirk, most recently of Bloomberg's D.C. bureau, was heading back to Chicago to take the Managing Editor position at the Chicago News Cooperative, the (sorta) independent news organization whose stories are appearing in a special local Chicago edition of the New York Times twice a week. But Kirk's hiring is not going unnoticed for more than just the usual reasons. It seems that the original reason of skepticism over the CNC - that it's really just a collective of old Tribune folks - is being highlighted even further.

Last fall, when the announcement was first made, there was plenty of reason to eye the Coop with caution. Our pal Dan Sinker pointed out, "The cast of characters behind this is a pretty familiar one, Tribune hands almost all, and while it's nice to see the big dogs out for another run, one has to wonder if they've got it in them to truly learn some new tricks." Gawker was a bit more direct in its criticism.

But with this latest hire, it's hard to ignore the heavy Tribune-influence and we can now add Robert Feder to the list of folks questioning the structure.

Kirk, according to Feder, is the 13th former Tribuner to have something to do with the CNC, leading him to call the CNC, "a job haven for former Chicago Tribune editors and writers," an image of which Kirk himself is aware. Kirk told Feder, “I could see from the outside where it looks like [they’re] trying to get the Tribune back together. Everybody is very aware of that. But I don’t view it that way. I just view it as the people I’m working with.”

Because their stories are published every Friday and Sunday, the stories are feature-ish rather than a focus on breaking news. And while the quality of the writing has been solid and has highlighted a few stories that had been overlooked elsewhere, the Coop has yet to establish itself as an essential go-to source of information and stories yet, trailing behind weekly pubs like The Reader in terms of investigative journalism and being a "must-read" every week. That's not to say it won't evolve over time into something bigger than it is now and, well, more essential. But, for now, as the Coop finds its footing and tries to establish its own voice, the skepticism that its voice will be any different than what already exists remains in place.