Feb. 6, 2003
Vol. 22 No. 9

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    Chicago Weekly News returns with NewCity coverage

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    The student-operated Chicago Weekly News, which was forced to close in October, 2002, because of declining advertising revenues, is back in business, thanks to a first-of-its-kind partnership with a newsweekly published by two Chicago alumni.

    Under the new arrangement, the Chicago-based alternative newsweekly Newcity, operated by Brian and Jan Hieggelke, now prints and distributes the CWN with copies of its own paper included as an arts and culture supplement.

    The Newcity-CWN deal is believed to be the first time an alternative newsweekly has partnered with a college newspaper in a co-publishing arrangement.

    “We’re thrilled to be back in business,” said David Muraskin, publisher of the CWN. The partnership was especially ideal for CWN, said Muraskin, because it enables the 8-year-old paper to avoid appealing to the University for additional financial support. “That was a top priority for us. We’ve always prided ourselves on remaining as financially independent as possible.”

    Sivani Babu, executive editor of CWN, said of the new arrangement, “The partnership combines our commitment to University and Hyde Park news with a commitment to Chicago entertainment coverage that we could not provide on our own.”

    CWN, which resumed publishing in January, also will maintain its editorial independence from Newcity. While Newcity’s editors will provide guidance to the young journalists, CWN will have exclusive control of its editorial content.

    In addition to maintaining its editorial independence, CWN will be able to continue publishing on its usual weekly schedule–10 weeks during the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters–as a result of the deal. The paper also will continue to sell and manage its own advertising, although Newcity will also sell ads to CWN.

    What has changed in the CWN is reflected in its design; its masthead now also promotes the Newcity insert. And while the paper will continue its news and commentary sections, Newcity will provide arts coverage for CWN.

    The CWN-Newcity agreement is on a “test” basis, said Muraskin, who noted it is effective through the end of Spring Quarter 2003. “But we’re very optimistic and we fully expect to renew for another year.”

    Newcity’s publisher Hieggelke also is upbeat about the arrangement. “I think it’s a mutually beneficial situation.”

    Founded by Hieggelke in 1986, shortly after his graduation from the Graduate School of Business (A.B. ’83, M.B.A., ’84), Newcity has benefited greatly from its relationship with the University. Many of Newcity’s writers, designers and interns graduated from Chicago, said Hieggelke, including Newcity’s current assistant editor Kate Zambreno.

    Hieggelke expects the partnership with CWN will allow the newsweekly to further tap the University’s talent pool.

    And perhaps even more importantly, Hieggelke believes the partnership will help the newsweekly reach its target readers. Newcity, said Hieggelke, describes its target audience as “smart, young and hip,” and, he adds, “no place lives up to the description better than the University of Chicago.”

    The partnership gives Newcity an edge for standing out in the competitive market of free newsweeklies, which grew even more competitive with the addition of the Sun-Times Red Streak and the Chicago Tribune Red Eye earlier this year. By being packaged as an insert in CWN, Hieggelke said, “we’re promoting ourselves from the inside, rather than the outside.”

    While Hieggelke is optimistic about the CWN relationship, he does not expect the deal to be financially lucrative. For Newcity, which publishes more than 65,000 copies weekly, the scale of CWN’s operation–which publishes 10,000 copies weekly–is so small that Hieggelke does not anticipate significant profits or losses.

    “Even if we have 100 percent profit, we’re not going to make a lot,” said Hieggelke, referring to CWN’s expected $1,200 weekly advertising sales, which is part of the contract between the publications.

    Overall, Hieggelke said, he’s very excited. “On a business level, it brings us to a new audience. And on a personal level, it’s fun to go back to my old school.”