Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Marooning the Herald

posted by chicago pop

The Hyde Park Herald has been around for a while -- "Loco Since 1882," you know -- but there's another long-standing paper in the neighborhood, only ten years younger than the Herald. It's called the Chicago Maroon. It's been around since 1892, it's published by students, it's free, and it frequently displays the traits of a real newspaper, like exploring more than one side to any given issue.

A few things give this away. We'll begin with the most self-serving of them. A front-page Maroon headline (Friday, September 28, 2007) on the activist cause célèbre of Harper Court cites this blog in reference to the existence of neighborhood opinion in favor of Harper Court's redevelopment. While it's nice to get some exposure in the Main Stream Media, it's also reassuring that the reporters at the Maroon have the instinct to go look for opinions contrary to those of "community leaders."

"Advocates of sale argue Harper Court's mission statement is outdated, impractical," reads the second headline on the page 10 continuation of the piece.

Some Hyde Park residents now argue that the original mission of Harper Court is outdated. Hyde Park Progress, a blog created by an anonymous resident of the neighborhood and employee of the University, provides a forum for residents hoping to encourage economic development.

“[Harper Court] is as much a product—in the very design and layout of the buildings—of a ’60s worldview as the urban renewal programs against which it was a response. Those who are attached to Harper Court are in love with its mission and blind to the empirical fact that the site and the institution have not met their own goals nor met the pressing and changing needs of the community,” said the author, adding that it looks more like a “ski lodge in Aspen” than a part of Hyde Park’s distinctive architecture.

In response to a different entry on the same blog, a reader wrote, “I am thinking of opening a buggy whip & typewriter repair shop in Harper Court myself,” implying that the shops in Harper Court are outdated and not worth saving.

The Main Stream Media knows that the blogosphere is something they have to keep an eye on, because it's where ideas and opinions show up before they hit the radar of a given cultural establishment. The Maroon figured this out; we'll tip you off in advance and let you know that the Tribune has as well. But alas, the Herald is left quoting the same cadre of folks, over and over again, sort of like the reporters that kept going to Libby and Cheney and Perle in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

In another refreshing piece, we learn a few things about student preferences for grocery shopping, such as "Hyde Park Produce's popularity," demonstrated by the fact that "it was consistently cited as a favorite by every student interviewed." A few students like the Co-op for the reasons you're supposed to have for liking the Co-op, like that community feeling thing. But a few others rave about Peapod, and some even talk about shopping in the South Loop. Has the Herald ever gone out and plumbed opinion like this?

The same is true of the headline article on one of our favorite topics, Doctors Hospital, the creepy place that neighborhood antiquarians think would make a charming veneer for a modern hotel, because, to quote Jack Spicer, the building "served the community for a long time." (For a sharp statement of the contrary position, see the Maroon op-ed here.)

But is Jack Spicer the end of the story? Not quite, and none less than the owner of Powell's, Brad Jones, sees the obstructionist position on Doctors Hospital as emblematic of the Post-Point resistance to all change whatsoever:
This is the problem of Hyde Park -- things don't get done. It's important to look at peripheral issues, but sometimes we look at those to the detriment of the whole project. A hotel would be a great economic engine for Hyde Park.
Of course it would. In fact, it would mean more business for Powell's, one of Hyde Park's most famous independent businesses. Who doesn't want that? Somehow or another, Powell's -- which has consumed a good portion of my life's savings over the years -- didn't make it onto our original list of Good Things. It's there now. And so is the Chicago Maroon.


Elizabeth Fama said...

Yay, Powell's!

I feel sheepish that I didn't suggest Powell's for the Good Things side-bar.

Powell's is da bomb.

Alec Brandon said...

The extent to which the Herald has become (perhaps it has always been so, I don't know) a rag for the small group of activists in Hyde Park is ridiculous.

My favorite example was from this summer. They gave an article on the U of C meeting with the community about the hotel the headline (and I'm paraphrasing here b/c they have no online archives) "Community rejects U of C hotel plans."

Then, if you go onto read the actual article, the only people they quote are union members who don't even unnecessarily live in Hyde Park and people from the Hyde Park preservation society, which I wouldn't necessarily say speaks for Hyde Park.

It gets even worse. I wasn't at the meeting, but Ethan Frenchman was. He is an ex-News editor for the Maroon and was reporting it for the U of C Magazine (obviously a little bit biased, but he's a great reporter).

Anyways, his synopsis of the meeting is that there was a presentation and a little bit of discontent from some. It doesn't even begin to line up with the Herald's account.

They are a disgrace to journalism.

chicago pop said...

On the Doctors Hospital piece from this summer, we had the same reaction. One of our first posts, actually: http://hydeparkprogress.blogspot.com/2007/07/heralds-chicken-doctors-hospital-update.html

Go Maroons!

Peter Rossi said...

alec- you are absolutely right. Chicago Pop made the same point you have in our regular feature "Herald's Chicken."

Why is the Herald so consistently off the mark? Good reporting takes a lot of hard work. If you can write a story about a non-news event, and call a couple of cranks who are always willing to oppose anything you can start drinking coffee earlier in the day.

The Herald could be a great community asset by fact-finding and doing serious work. It's easier to sit back and snipe.

You will notice that the NIMBY's like don't actually come up with their own initiatives for improving retail and housing in the community. They simply exist to block progress because that is easy to do.

HP is not the Vietnam war-- just saying no is not enough

Peter Rossi said...

There is an absolutely charming mailbox on the corner of 57th and Kimbark that has "served the community for a long time." This mailbox is also a classic example of Federal Goverment design circa 1960. We need to preserve this. Petitions to follow shortly!

Alec Brandon said...

Ahh, I see that now.

curtsy said...

"HP is not the Vietnam war-- just saying no is not enough"??? Is this in keeping with your perception that all neighborhood activists are still fighting "lost" causes from the '60's? Furthermore, it is clear with the current war in Iraq that simply saying "NO!" is not nearly enough to stop it. Just as with excess parking capacity, once it is created or built it becomes self-justifying or perpetuating.

Peter Rossi said...


It is incumbent on those who oppose development to provide an alternative. If you listen you will only hear "no we don't want this." But no viable alternatives are offered.

Here is what i was trying to say about the Vietnam war. Many of us marched on Washington and opposed that war. But that was a simple issue -- just say no and GET OUT. You can say the same about the Iraq war. However, the future of our neighborhood is not about saying "hell no, we won't go" it's about finding ways of encouraging development. Hyde Park is virtually dead with no new development and a net decline in retail. This stands in stark contrast to the rest of Chicago (including many formerly "poor" neighborhoods). The knee-jerk NIMBY's are directly responsible for this decline of Hyde Park.

Does this make sense?

James said...

Rossi, you're wrong again and again.

Rossi:"It is incumbent on those who oppose development to provide an alternative."

It's not incumbent on arch-preservationists to argue anything of the kind. They can say they like HP as it is, for instance. That's a reasonable argument. Shoot, I like HP as it is, too. I'd like it better if there were more retail and we had el-like rail service, but this is a great neighborhood as it stands.

Rossi: "However, the future of our neighborhood is not about saying "hell no, we won't go" it's about finding ways of encouraging development."

No, it's not. Development here shouldn't be seen as an end in itself. It's not good, per se. The argument for it is that it will lead to better retail, maybe, but it's not some kind of Holy Grail.

Rossi: "Hyde Park is virtually dead with no new development and a net decline in retail."

How can you possibly assert that? There are several projects in the works right now. The 53rd at Harper (Univ) project looks like it will break ground soon. There's a new Arts Center and the University is building plenty of stuff, especially near the Hospital.

What would you like to provide as evidence that there's a net decline in retail. It might be true, but you've been so demonstrably wrong so often that there's no way I'm going to take that assertion on faith.

Your neighbors don't owe you new development or new retail or anything else you imply you're entitled to. If you fundamentally disagree with the character of the neighborhood, why don't you move? As you yourself state, "the rest of Chicago" does such a much better job of meeting your standards. Why stick around here unless you enjoy being grumpy?

Peter Rossi said...

Chicago Pop-

Maroon has a circualtion of 7500 and Herald of around 5400 (last I checked).

curtsy said...

As for suggestions to the Good Things sidebar, I would nominate Cedars.