Tuesday, April 18, 2006


For Whoever May or May Not be Reading

Well, we done pulled a Carole Brown and went a month-plus without posting. Forgetful? No. We've simply accepted that this blog existed to help us explore a subject for a while, and we think it has run its course. Not that we couldn't go on and on listening to ourselves type about RedEye--but we'd soon become as redundant and stagnant and ocassionally interesting as Red itself.

We do know from Site Meter that at least one person over at Trib. Co. has been checking in pretty regularly. Trib employee, we invite you and anyone else who happens to be reading to answer this question: What should we do for TRE's big finale--i.e. to let people know we actually fucking existed? Leave comments or email thanksredeye@gmail.com.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Staffer on the Street

I often forget about Red's "3 For All" feature. It's one of those features Red does that doesn't really distinguish itself, so when I see it I usually take a second to remember that I've seen it before, in that narrow little space on page 3. In "3 For All," three Red staffers say what they think about one of those urgent RedEye-type issues, today's being "How big is our appetite for Barry Bonds?"

So here's why this feature isn't interesting:

1) The questions tend to be inane.

2) There's really no reason for the reader to value the staffers' opinions over someone else's. Sure, the staffers at least know how to write for a newspaper, but we really have no idea where they're coming from or what qualifies them to answer a given question in a useful way. It's like the heads Red has been putting on its regular colums, blaring names like GREENFIELD and KYLES as if the names were as familiar and revered as ROYKO. (There are better ways to give these columns identities, like nicknaming them after a subject they're supposed to cover. Red's already done this with the Going Public column, etc.)

3) They really don't say anything interesting. There are usually a few easy, predictable ways to answer a given question, and there are no surprises here.

4) It doesn't make up for the lack of a solid opinion page in Red.

Maybe Red shouldn't rely on its staffers to provide all the opinion. I think that's only fair. In the interest of pluralism, it could expand and improve this feature with quotes gathered from syndicated columnists, sources' comments in wire news stories, bloggers, man-on-the-street interviews, and so on. It would serve the same function "3 For All" serves and keep it a little fresher at the same time.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


TRE in Editor and Publisher

That's right, we've attracted the attention of the media. Mark Fitzgerald, in the March issue of E&P, tells it this way:

So RedEye, designed for the Millennials and Gen-Xers who love to blog, is itself the sole subject of a blog by a small group of current and former journalism students at Northwestern University who needle, mock, chastise, and very occasionally praise the free daily.


The article includes a response from RedEye co-editor Jane Hirt:

"We know RedEye isn't for everyone, and that those interested in more traditional newspapering might take issue with some of our decisions.

"We're not really aiming for newshounds who devour newspapers all day," she adds. "We're winning over lighter newspaper readers who might not have been reading any newspaper, for whatever reason." RedEye's conversational style and editorial mix reflect the target audience, Hirt adds: "That's not patronizing. That's a newspaper's job."

Fair enough. I'm not going to babble on about this. We still believe what we've said about Red, but we're all for pluralism. To quote Neil Young, "They do their thing, I do mine."

Pick up the magazine, buy the article on E&P's Web site, or grab it via LexisNexis. We like Mark's story, and we also thank him for name-checking Golden Olympic, the most splendid diner on Earth.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


If Only My Spanish Didn't Suck

Assuming that young readers are mostly interested in celebrities is like assuming that Hispanic readers are mostly interested in the Chupacabra. RedEye tends to make the first mistake, but Trib Co.'s own Hoy wouldn't dare make the second.

Both are handy tab publications aimed at a specific market and try to focus intensely on the perceived concerns of that market with a variety of hard news and entertainment news. The difference is that Hoy really seems to empathize with its readers, focusing on the hard-news issues that affect them, treating them like citizens of America and the world. Red treats readers like citizens of MySpace.

Let's start with the front pages. Red: Too many clunky wire photos filling up the front page, too many gaudy blaring all-caps headlines trying to milk trivial stories for urgency. Hoy: Sweet, sweet white space, a bright but tasteful logo, readable teasers, and just in general a front page that buzzes with news and helps a reader get interested in several stories without feeling overwhlemed. The photos aren't played out of proportion.

When you look inside, the differences in news values are insanely obvious. Red: General categories like Breaking News, Chicago, Nation, World, etc. Hoy: Issue-specific categories like Immigration, Education, Health, etc. And of course Latin America. Not to mention local stories that fit into the broader categories. Red would do well to think up some categories specific to its market, like, say, Transportation, Working, (also) Health, etc. Also, Hoy has an opinion section worthy of the name. Red just has a desultory page that usually contains a rather large ad, one lame column and an even lamer Reader Powerpoint.

Then the Web sites. This may be where Hoy really stomps its evil twin, if only because it shows that Trib is so much more committed to investing in Hoy. Red: A couple of the day's columns, a .jpg of the cover, a ridiculously truncated version of the cover story, links to Metromix. Metromix is a separate site, and Red's print edition has all this other stuff in full, so this site just isn't that useful. And those background colors--a horrible black-and-grey goulash. Hoy: Sections that correspond to the paper's sections, full and free content plus live news updates in Spanish. Nice photos, white space, bright but mild colors. A site that can earn loyal visitors.

This is just a really cursory look at both publications, but I think that's all it takes to show that Hoy just gets it and should be considered a model for youth mini-dailies to follow. I bet if Hoy were printed in English, it would draw in a ton of non-Hispanic readers. If Red had Hoy's vision, it could satisfy the youth market and draw in some older commuters as well.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Red carpet-bomb

Sorry I haven't posted in a while... I had to deal with my own publication. But the Oscars have me seeing Red all over again.

Scott, one of my partners in crime, turned to me last night and said, "You know, Red Eye will probably run that whole speech by Reese Witherspoon." Well, no, that would be an awful lot of text for Red, but there Reese is, reliably on the cover, with the completely meaningless headline "Oscar Queen."

I'm not sure what this cover is meant to convey, other than the fact that Red has access to wire photos. And don't give me that "the only angle on the Oscars is pretty faces" crap. There are at least two angles that Red's cover could have taken that would have drawn in their target audience as much as Reese's mug. The first would have been to put Three 6 Mafia on the cover, or at least mention them somewhere. Half the away messages in my Buddy List last night were some variation on "It's Hard To Be a Pimp." The song's win and the reaction to it were one of the most interesting things that happened last night -- why not come up with some cover line that uses these fine young gents to describe the mood of the whole evening?

The other option, of course, would be to use some cover angle that reflected the results as a whole. That's what the Orange County Register did, in a story pointing out that no one film dominated (in fact, six different films won the six major categories). This would have been far more useful than just providing a souped-up list of winners or funny highlights, which Red's readers probably already know from TV and the Internet anyway.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006



In a publication, there are few things more annoying than a confusion over what's supposed to go where. Today, there is an AP story in what I thought was supposed to be the "Reader Powerpoint" space on page 4. On page 7, there's a Jimmy Greenfield column labeled "Powerpoint" accompanying a story about smokers. Buh? I guess the label fits, because the column is just as trite and annoying as the "Reader Powerpoint" usually is. It's the typical "non smoker resenting smokers" column, which, whether you sympathize with it or not, merely repeats a particular side of a rather stagnant debate. Some people think cigarette smoking is a nuisance, some people don't mind it--and some people, like Greenfield, have to go off on gung-ho badass gloating sessions, which is really the only point of this piece of crap column. Go get 'em, Bald Avenger! Next time on Bald Avenger: Jimmy browbeats the Littering Leprechaun and gives the Town Drunk a stern talking-to!

Yep, it appears that Greenfield is becoming RedEye's Eric Zorn, only without a usually pretty good blog to show for it.

MY ONGOING OBSESSION WITH THE "GOING PUBLIC" COLUMN: Good CTA stories abounded this past week, with Brown Line renovations beginning and a new plan for the Blue Line, not to mention Ben Joravsky's Reader story about the long-awaited extension of the Red Line. Red's Kyra Kyles again goes, er, around the news to deliver yet another treatise on rider manners. She recounts the stories of pregnant women who emailed her about being unable to get a seat. Kyles asks: "Is this the way you would have wanted [your mother] to be treated on public transit?" Answer: I wouldn't have wanted her to be on a fucking CTA train, what with the car jerking back and forth and the steep stairs at most of the stations. And even if she did get a seat, it would probably be next to some inconsiderate fat guy who'd crowd her in, leaving me with hardly enough room to kick. My God. Of course some pregnant women have no choice but to use public transit, but I seriously would not be surprised if the CTA's lurching vehicles haven't induced a miscarriage or two. Luckily, my mother carried all three of her children in Florida, where public transit hardly figures in.

Friday, February 17, 2006


The anti-TRE

Farhad Manjoo of Salon.com has a great story on the rise of mini-dailies. It leads with, hey presto, a 20-year-old Northwestern University student who digs RedEye and isn't much into daily news. She's a near-reverse of all four TRE writers--we like to read newspapers and are skeptical of Red.

What this student says is pretty irritating. She says that the Tribune is "repetitive," but I'm not sure what that means. Certainly a decent daily has to cover ongoing/developing stories and return frequently to certain subjects. Some repetition is justified.

The comment just seems unqualified, like when someone says that a book has no plot or that members of a band don't know how to play their instruments, even if it's not true, just so they can sound intelligent. What this sort of comment really means is that they don't like it and don't quite get it and don't quite know how to explain it. Leave it to us young people to blatantly confuse dumb for bold, just like religious fanatics and American Idol, which apparently is Red's favorite TV show.

And what about Red's frequent inanity? A fluffy entertainment cover story almost every day--that's repetitive.

The student's comments, like many in this story, are symptomatic of this terrible idea that newspapers should lure people with things people already like and know about, instead of providing them with new things to know about. If selling shit is a necessity, maybe media companies should spare their newspapers and diversify. Who wouldn't like a nice cold Tribune Lager or some Gannett Co. Processed Cheese Food?

"After spending time reading some of the new niche papers, I can only regard their impending ubiquity with something like sheer fright," Manjoo writes. Though I sympathize, I at first found this story a little too acquiescent to the "newspapers are dying and only silly crap can save us" mentality, if only because so many of Manjoo's sources subscribe to it.

But Manjoo did talk to Rob Curley (of the Naples Daily News and formerly the Lawrence Journal-World), who says, basically, that newspapers can revive circulation by doing a better job of serving their specific markets through as many popular formats as possible. It's good to hear this, because we think a commuter/youth publication like RedEye should make itself useful, not just take-it-or-leave-it hip. Red doesn't run much content on its rather dismal Web site (hint, folks--tons of black and grey make for depressing Web sludge), unless you count Metromix, which isn't really coverage and would probably be just fine without Red.

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