Tribune closing Chicago’s City News Service, saying it subsidizes competition |

Tribune closing Chicago’s City News Service, saying it subsidizes competition

CHICAGO – City News was bringing breaking news to Chicago in the days of streetcar messengers and Al Capone, and it evolved through the teletype era and into the computer age. But it couldn’t survive the lightning speed of the Internet, its owner said Thursday.The Chicago Tribune announced it is shutting down City News Service, the Tribune-owned successor of the cooperative news service that had been feeding newspaper and broadcast subscribers for over a century, and replacing it with a 24-hour news desk to serve Tribune Web sites alone.By continuing to run City News, the Tribune was effectively subsidizing its competition because subscribers could put Tribune stories on their Web sites, Tribune Managing Editor James O’Shea said.”In this new day and age when breaking news and our Web site are becoming more important, by helping our competitors who have Web sites we were helping them get the news,” O’Shea said. “We’re going to continue to provide that news, but we’re going to do it for ourselves.”The 19 City News jobs will be eliminated as part of 28 job cuts in the Chicago Tribune’s 670-person newsroom, the company said. They are part of cuts that the Tribune warned of two weeks ago amid declining circulation and revenue. The Tribune is also eliminating some special features sections, scaling back business features sections, and reducing research and support staff.”The familiar gale winds that buffet the American economy in general and our industry in particular are at our door,” Chicago Tribune Editor Ann Marie Lipinski wrote in a memo to employees detailing the new cuts. “I am sorry I could not stave them off.”City News has had a long history in Chicago, starting in 1890 as the City News Bureau where Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mike Royko, author Kurt Vonnegut and investigative reporter Seymour Hersh cut their teeth. It was jointly owned by Chicago’s major daily newspapers until the Tribune became the sole owner and in 1999 renamed it the New City News Service.Because City News paid rock-bottom wages, it recruited young and usually untrained reporters and let them prove themselves – if they could. Many quit or were fired within their first weeks, but others went on to fame.One alum, playwright Charles MacArthur, used turned his City News experiences into “The Front Page,” which he co-wrote with Ben Hecht.Broadcasters in particular still use the service to get early word of emerging news stories.”This isn’t going to shut down any broadcast newsrooms in town, but it will make us work a little bit harder,” said Steve Scott, news director at WLS-AM radio. “It’s just unfortunate that cutbacks are costing journalists their jobs.”Vail, Colorado

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