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"Advocates of sale argue Harper Court's mission statement is outdated, impractical," reads the second headline on the page 10 continuation of the piece.
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.
Some Hyde Park residents now argue that the original mission of Harper Court is outdated.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.
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.