Trib vet O'Shea will supply N.Y. Times content for Chicago section

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Posted by on October 22, 2009 at 15:33:00:

Tribune, L.A. Times veteran James O'Shea launching news co-op, will supply N.Y. Times Chicago content

The New York Times, which plans to give readers here two pages dedicated to Chicago news and ads twice a week beginning next month, is poised to announce that it has reached an agreement with a newly established non-profit cooperative led by former Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times newsroom leader James O'Shea to provide its local content.

The Chicago News Cooperative intends to provide news and commentary to the Chicago region on the Web, in print and on the air, beginning Nov. 20.

Although the New York Times is its first client, the CNC plans to staff and operate a stand-alone newsroom, collaborating with other media in Chicago to share resources and eventually jointly produce content. A CNC Web site, to be called Chicago Scoop, is expected to launch in early 2010.

James Warren, a former Tribune managing editor, will write a regular CNC column that will appear in the New York Times Chicago pages.

Window to the World Communication, the tax-exempt educational organization and the parent of Chicago public television outlet WTTW-Ch. 11, will be a founding CNC partner and will serve as the co-op's non-profit 501(c)3 base of operation initially. CNC contributors will appear on WTTW news programs and the organization is in discussion with other potential partners, including Chicago Public Radio's WBEZ-FM 91.5.

A major funding source is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and CNC is looking for additional support from other foundations and individuals. The New York Times will pay CNC for the content it provides, as it does other news services.

The goal of CNC is to generate enough revenue from multiple streams, such as membership fees, advertising and service, to be self-sustaining within five years.

Peter Osnos, founder of PublicAffairs books, will chair the CNC's advisory board. In addition to him and O'Shea, a former Tribune managing editor and editor of parent Tribune Co.'s Los Angeles Times, the board will include WTTW President and Chief Executive Dan Schmidt, Sidley & Austin Senior Counsel Newton Minow, Former WTTW Chairman Martin Koldyke, AlphaZeta Interactive President and CEO Michael Davies and former Chicago Tribune Editor Ann Marie Lipinski, who's now vice president of Civic Engagement at the University of Chicago.

Legal and logistical support will be provided by Winston & Strawn, a major Chicago-based international law firm.

The New York Times last week launched a similar operation in Northern California's San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose market, introducing a two-page Bay Area report on Fridays and Sundays.

The local-oriented pages with content from an outside source in the CNC comes as the entire newspaper industry braces itself for the latest circulation figures, due Monday from the Schaumburg-based Audit Bureau of Circulations, and on the heels of an announcement earlier this week of the most recent job cuts in the paper's newsroom.

The Times, which reported it trimmed its staff by 15 to 20 positions less than a year ago and cut pay by 5 percent in the spring, on Monday said it would eliminate another 100 jobs, 8 percent of the current newsroom workforce of 1,250.

The New York Times' news staff peaked at 1,330 earlier this year, and even after the latest round of cuts, it still will have roughly 35 percent more editorial staffers than any other U.S. newspaper.

"Everybody is looking for the golden road to the future . . . and there is no golden road," Shea said upon being named editor of the Los Angeles Times in late 2006. "We're all stumbling around in shifting sands. The business model is changing under our feet. ... [But] journalists are the smartest people I know. If they put their minds to it, they can figure this out."

Born of working-class, Midwestern roots, O'Shea entered journalism while serving in the U.S. Army and for years as a journalist kept up his dues as a union electrician. A friend and colleague once recalled how on a bike trip a decade ago in western Ireland, where only Gaelic was spoken, he managed to borrow equipment from a machine shop and weld a broken bracket himself.

Posted at 11:03:56 AM by Phil Rosenthal, Chicago Tribune

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