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Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

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Looks as if news/talk WGN-AM (720) is taking a Web-centric approach in naming its new news director Charlie Meyerson, who comes to the radio station from its sibling newspaper operation, the Chicago Tribune. At the Trib, Meyerson most recently was a senior producer for the paper's Web site. chicagotribune.com. He also has been a frequent contributor to WGN radio news programming. "This has been a quest for a rare individual who can lead our accomplished news professionals forward in gathering and delivering news through traditional, emerging and as-yet-undeveloped technologies," said WGN Program Director Kevin Metheny. Unlike many who are in the news business and Web-focused, Meyerson has been around in the business a few years. Some 30 years ago, Meyerson joined the news team at WXRT-FM (93.1), before leaving there in 1989 to serve as WNUA-FM's (95.5) news and public affairs director.

PX178_5F16_7.JPGThursday May 21st, promises to be an interesting day for media-watchers in Chicago. That is when IFC is bringing together some of the city's top newspaper, television and Web news executives to discuss the sustainability and future of journalism in the Windy City.

The panel is comprised of: Don Hayner, editor-in-chief, Chicago Sun-Times; Gerould Kern, editor-in-chief, Chicago Tribune; Carol Marin, political correspondent, NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and Sun-Times columnist; Jeff Kiernan, news director, CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2/Chicago; Marcus Gilmer, editor, Chicagoist.com, and Tran Ha, editor, Red Eye and TheMash. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will make opening remarks. Also added to the panel at the last minute is noted former Washington Post investigative reporter and Vanity Fair contributing editor Carl Bernstein.

The event is being held in conjunction with "The IFC Media Project," a documentary airing on IFC that aims to draw back the curtain on news coverage. The Thursday panel discussion is slated to begin at noon at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton.

The Chicago Sun-Times significantly outperformed the industry average during the six-month circulation reporting period that ended March 31, 2009.

While most major American dailies reported paid circulation declines, the Sun-Times remained flat at 312,141 Monday through Friday, per the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The S-T Sunday edition reported a 2.8 percent increase for the reporting period for a total average circulation of 254,379, while the Saturday circulation grew .9 percent to 227,311. The Sun-Times now ranks as the nation's 15th largest daily newspaper based on Monday through Friday circulation. That's up from 21st place a year ago. Sun-Times executives attributed the circulation results to several factors, including targeted home delivery, aggressive single copy sales promotion and an increase in retail sales outlets.

The Chicago Tribune reported a 5.7 percent decline in its weekday circulation to 501,203, while the paper's Sunday edition dropped 4.5 percent to 858,256.

Jeez. As if working in the newspaper business wasn't already difficult enough for the rapidly dwindling number of souls left in the trenches, the bankrupt Chicago Tribune has gone and established a whole new set of rather over-the-top staff performance review standards that will take effect immediately. In a memo to Trib staff sent out on Jan. 19, Associate Editor Jocelyn Winnecke was kind enough to lay out the new guidelines and goals that apparently will be a factor in every staffer's performance reviews going forward.

The first item on Winnecke's list is "digital first." By that Winnecke means every Trib employee will be expected to "think and act first as a member of a digital newsroom that also publishes newspapers." Guess that tells us pretty clearly how -- and how dramatically -- the Trib's priorities have shifted. But there's more. Winnecke told the staff they will be expected to "deliver on mission," meaning each staffer's daily goals will now be local relevance, watchdog reporting, personal utility (whatever that is?), consumer guidance, visual drama and compelling storytelling.

On top of those requirements, employees also will be judged on how well they "embrace change by seeking out new and innovative ideas that serve key audiences and move the Chicago Tribune forward." Whew! Winnecke also informed staff that "urgency" now matters. By that, of course, she means "managing time effectively to achieve highest-possible efficiency." In other words, Tribsters, you better learn to do more work faster.

And last, but surely not least, Winnecke in her memo suggested that if staff hope to receive a positive performance review, they better make sure they have a good attitude because, as Winnecke put it, "positive attitude is crucial to our changing culture and all that must be accomplished for our company to be successful."

So get cracking -- with a smile -- Tribsters. That first performance review with the new guidelines is set for July.

The Tribune Co.'s flagship Chicago Tribune introduced a new newsstand product Monday, launching the Trib To-Go Edition in tabloid format. The paper was given out free, but will normally cost 75 cents daily and will not be available to home delivery subscribers.

So what do people think? Hard to say since they've disabled comments on Gerould Kern's letter to readers explaining the new edition.

What's also hard to figure out is to whom this new edition is for as it makes the third tab paper in Chicago after the Sun-Times, still only 50 cents, and44522208-19035831.jpg the Trib's own Red Eye, which distributes free Monday through Saturday. Clearly this is a dagger aimed at the heart of the Sun-Times, which has a 60-year history of being Chicago's commuter-friendly paper, but is it more of a death knell for the Red Eye? How much longer can the Trib prop up its, entertainment- and youth-oriented step-sister, itself touted as a full edition of the mothership?

At best it seems market confusion is the plan for single-copy sales, hoping a two-prong assault from the minimally circulated Tribune newsstand edition and the Red Eye can envelop the Sun-Times. But for a paper few people bought before, a new edition with a 25-cent price increase hardly seems like an incentive for readers to try something new.

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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