October 30, 2002
Red Handed

In a striking display of media one-upmanship, the Tribune and the Sun-Times have both premiered "young people's newspapers" today.

The Tribune struck first, with plans for a newspaper for the 18-34 crowd, Red Eye. Shortly afterward, the Sun-Times announced its own plan to launch the similarly positioned Red Streak.

The plan is to provide a newspaper for the youngsters so that they can become the Trib and S-T subscribers of the future. Seems like it's likely to produce is a posse of subscriibers who won't read anything longer than 500 words. Well, you can't blame them for trying, can you? Or maybe you can.

The Tribune's Eye attempts to give the top headlines, with mini-articles about the election, the Wellstone memorial, and so on. But it's still "news lite" and there's plenty of room for those all-important and so challenging restaurant and club listings. (Here's one Eye view.)

The S-T's Streak doesn't really give much attention to the news of the day. Even more curious is the editorial which tries to define the mission of the publication. The author, who purports to be one of those grumpy old men who doesn't understand the kids, sounds and probably feels uncomfortable. "We have been given the task of trying to put together a newspaper for people your age who don't read. Kind of like McDonald's coming out with a vegetarian menu, I say," he begins.

Reaction was mixed around my desk this afternoon, where several members of the intended demographic had coughed up a quarter each for the papers. One thought they both looked like high school papers. Our resident 23-year-old sniffed: "I already read the 'grown-up's' newspaper; I don't need a dumbed-down version of the news."

It's unlikely that publishers of the local alt weeklies, like the Reader or New City, are staying up nights worrying about the Eye and the Streak. Heck, if I was an 18-34-year-old, I'd be more inclined to read The Onion.

But much as I'd dislike having my intelligence insulted and my news dumbed-down, what I'd really resent is the slick corporate voice of both publications. It makes me miss the better college newspapers, like the one I worked on. College papers are places to learn; they're also places to take risks. And while there are some howling mistakes, ax grinders, and flakes, there are often fresh and original voices.

I don't hear any of those voices in the corporate-speak of these papers. We'll keep watching.

Posted at October 30, 2002 09:50 PM

what? no Red Front or Big Red?

I, for one, will respond to this outrage with massive server problems!

Posted by: mike on October 31, 2002 09:18 PM
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