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Coming back from the day that changed Chicago Tribune history

By Sarah D. Wire
Dec. 9, 2008 is the day that changed Tribune history. That’s when the Tribune filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

“A city without a strong vigilant paper dedicated to its welfare was unthinkable,” Chicago Tribune editor Gerry Kern said. “We will not be intimidated and we will fight. We’re resolute in that.”

Kern said after the company filed for bankruptcy protection, he made sure everyone knew the responsibility of making sure the paper survived was up to the editors “no matter who owns us.”

The economic reality is that the staff had out grown the revenue. He said there could be no good journalism without a business that could support it.

But, Kern said, while the public saw layoffs “inside we were remaking ourselves.”

They set new goals.

The Tribune wanted to be a watchdog, represent the Chicago experience and connect with people on an emotional and intellectual level. The paper wants to help people navigate their daily lives and drive communication.

Kern said the paper wants to be the “guard of Chicago.” They created government and consumer watchdog teams and expanded the editorial board. They began running editorials on the page for the first time in 30 years.

He said “pressure works and you can hold people accountable.”

The paper tries to release a watchdog report every day.

So, what did the paper learn in a year?

They’re in the black, and hope to emerge from chapter 11 in the first half of 2010. They’ve launched a Trib-to-go addition and have launched Chicago Now, a blog network.

“One size does not fit all and the only way to gain mass is through multiple channels,” Kern said.

He said print circulation is down but readership is up. And total audience, both print and online, continues to grow.

“We are here to stay,” Kern said.


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