Starting a neighborhood blog

The Davis Theater in Lincoln Square

When I worked in the PR office for a union in Columbus, I learned a lot of things, the most important of which was that working there was not nearly as fun or creatively fulfilling as reporting for a newspaper. After a few months at the union, I was immensely unhappy. My subject matter didn’t interest me the way I believed it would, my desire to write features was being ignored, and my creative ideas were being shot down. As a result, I found creative outlets outside of work. I wrote and directed a short film on the weekends over the course of a month and edited a final cut a few weeks later. It wasn’t amazing, but it was ridiculously fun and engaging. It felt good to be busy and put that finished product out there. I later wrote, directed, and edited two web series, all while at that job.

When I started my job at my current company, I was excited for a lot of reasons: I finally had a full-time job in Chicago, I was finding tons of young, interesting and intelligent people in my co-workers, and I had a job title that translated to the outside editorial world. That title changed about a year ago, and with it, my responsibilities. Over time, my job has become less about checking facts and editorial duties and more about data entry and making sure appropriate forms are filled out. I still enjoy working there with all my friends, but it does now lack that same creativity I needed almost four years ago at the PR office.

While I miss making movies, what I miss more is reporting. When I first got to Chicago, I freelanced for Patch, doing video and features for several area suburbs. They were just starting out and needed freelancers, in a time when no one anywhere needed freelancers. Then their budgets got cut, and then cut again, and by March of this year I was down to one regular assignment, covering one district’s biweekly school board meetings. When I filed my 2011 taxes and realized how much this non-taxed freelance was going to cut into my refund, and with the cost of the gas it took to get out to the suburbs, I quit altogether.

I’ve been out of the field for six months now, but I want back in.

That said, I love my new neighborhood, Lincoln Square. There are a handful local news sites and blogs that cover it to varying degrees, but I have been thinking more and more of starting my own.

I don’t take the best photos on my phone, and I no longer own a camera after my 2005 Kodac Easy Share finally bit the dust last summer. I was thinking of creating a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a cheap camera, the fee for a domain name, and enough cash to commission a graphic designer to create a logo/banner for the blog (ideally my brother, depending on his availability). Having Kickstarter’s support would give me what I need to get started as well as hold me accountable for keeping the site updated and building an early audience.

Doing this neighborhood blog would allow me to keep doing video, which I rarely get to do anymore — and that’s also a huge area in which I feel my competition may be lacking. Maybe this isn’t groundbreaking stuff, but I shot some nice footage a couple nights ago of the area:

This is the kind of thing I love doing — just slices of life. Unique features. There’s political stuff to cover here, too — my ward’s borders are going to change and some people are ticked about it. There are alderman meetings to cover. There’s a proposal to cut the service of the #11 bus, for God’s sake.

The point is, I’m excited about it. I’m not sure yet how my blog can be different enough to stick out, and I know it’s a pretty big time commitment. But I can’t wait to get started.

Any ideas for fun sections I could include? I can’t wait to hear them.

3 thoughts on “Starting a neighborhood blog

  1. This sounds awesome! And I would totally be willing to donate what I can to help out. For section ideas, obviously you’ll want to have art/entertainment stuff on goings on, and maybe you should do a restaurant profile section as well. Maybe even just business profiles in general, like we used to do at SNP when a new something or other would open. You might get some cross promotion with the business then also. if you can get yourself to local govt meetings, then you could have a govt section and a political section come election time–do candidate profiles and all that.
    all that adds up to a lot of work, but once you get going you might be able to get some additionall writers to help out.

  2. I’m a poor former fact-checker as well 🙂 but I’d be more than happy to contribute some writing to your site! Free of charge, obvi 🙂

  3. Thank you for the support, you guys! Rachel, those are ALL awesome ideas — thanks for helping me brainstorm. And Laura, I would love for you to contribute! I will be posting an update on this project really soon.

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