Monday, August 13, 2012

The Death of Windy Citizen (and, I am the "citizen journalist" success you've been looking for)

I know, I know, I am months late.

The Windy Citizen shut down in June 18, and it is now what... August?

 This post will be worthless to some of you, as "the Windy Citizen" means nothing. But to Chicagoland techies, newsies, journalists, bloggers, media-types and aspiring media-types? The Windy Citizen was one of the hottest places to be on the Web (well, from 2009 - 2011ish). The Windy Citizen was the center of Chicago's (small) tech start-up scene, too.

Maybe I am exaggerating about how cool the Windy Citizen was, because maybe my nostalgia glasses are rosier than I am aware of.  I owe a good portion of my current successful writing career to the Windy Citizen, though, that is a fact and no exaggeration.

Twitter, Tumblr, and Chicago's subreddit were no where near as active as they are now (as Flora noted in his closing post), and EveryBlock was just an automated data site back then. When ChicagoNow launched, editors and journalists sounded off on what this meant for Chicago news and the future of journalism.

Remember all of Geoff Dougherty's flops, from Chicago Current, to Chi-Town Daily News (which posted in April 2012)!? Chicago's media types mocked and scoffed in comment threads, with media kerfuffles drawing the liveliest debates on the social news sharing site.   

WBEZ tried out a lunch time talk show in part because of how popular Windy Citizen was around lunch time. (It didn't work out.)

Anna Tarkov made a name for herself with her Daily Daley blog (as CBS dutifully pointed out)... and so did I with my Albany Park Post blog.

At its height, the Albany Park Post blog on Windy Citizen had "guest reporters" from Medill, Northwestern's Graduate School of Journalism (you can read one of those posts here).

CBS once sent a reporter to this side of the river because of the posts I did on Bodyworxs, that gym which took 3 years to build... (The owner was charging people monthly gym fees despite no place to work out or any construction?! He stole the logo and name from a vitamin and health supplement web store!?)

Aldermen Mell once came up to me at a police event, to let me know he enjoyed my APP post about him. I would complain about street lamps or some other problem, and within days, it would be fixed. A blog commenter, responding to my astonishment, called it "the squeaky wheel" treatment.

An artist included my post about her exhibit on her resume! Urbanophile mentioned the APP in a blog post! Curbed Chicago cited, or linked to me occasionally! 

I still know some of my neighborhood leaders by name, and they still know me. I got to ask Rahm Emanuel a single question during his mayoral race in 2011. I used to talk about his looks on the WC with Samantha Abernethy, and the Huffington Post (and then Gawker, seperate story!) ran a photo of our experience under the title "Why Ladies Love Rahm."

My success at the Albany Park Post helped me in part get jobs at other web publications, and I even worked at various Patches in the north suburbs of Chicago. I've spoken at both University of Chicago and North Park about hyperlocal blogging and the Albany Park Post.

All these things I did without a degree in Journalism. I just went out there into the street, and reported on neighborhood issues. I tried to be a good neighbor, and attend clean-ups, community meetups, and festivals.  The whole thing was a learning experience, and I had a shit ton of fun doing it.


I didn't hear of the Windy Citizen closing announcement until weeks later, and by then it was too late. (I blame the AV Club announcement, stealing all the thunder, but in reality, I had abandoned the site once I got a salaried full-time job at a start-up.) My posts on the Albany Park Post, over a roughly two year period, are all gone.

Thank goodness for Google cache, saving at least a choice few (and my best) posts.

 While I can replicate the success of the Albany Park Post again, (I now work freelance and have more time for things I enjoy), what I cannot  recreate is that "virtual newsroom"...

Where do I go now to read Frank Sennett's pompous opinions or Mike Doyle's bitching about Chicago Now? Where can I read Chuck Sudo and Andrew Huff's online debate about whatever random topic? What does WBEZ hiring Marcus Gilmer as a blogger means for the radio station?

I miss hanging out with all those people, digitally.

There is no message board for Chicagoland journalists or media professionals any more. 

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