Chicago Weekly to be Renamed the South Side Weekly

The Daily Sophist

By Ben Zigterman

After 10 years with publisher Newcity, the Chicago Weekly will be an independent, student-run publication and renamed the South Side Weekly. They are launching September 25, with their annual Best of the South Side issue. Along with a new name, the South Side Weekly has a snazzy, new website and plans to publish more often and with more content.

Despite the changes, South Side Weekly Editor-in-Chief Harrison Smith hopes to retain the Weekly’s unique coverage and style. In fact, he believes the new name better represents the Weekly’s coverage, since the Weekly focuses more on the South Side than on all of Chicago. According to Smith, “The name ‘South Side Weekly’ strengthens this identity, and helps us build a better relationship with our community of readers, writers, and advertisers.”

Being independent doesn’t come without its challenges, however. The South Side Weekly needs to build “advertising and distribution networks from the ground up.” Former Weekly Editor-in-Chief Harry Backlund (A.B. ’11) is running publishing operations, and second-year Gabi Bernard is the editor of the new website.

On top of this, Smith plans to publish more frequently and with more content in each issue. Previously in the winter, the Weekly was published every other week. Now, Smith plans to publish 10 issues every quarter, along with the Best of the South Side issue.

Smith is optimistic about becoming independent. Not only has the Weekly staff been growing over the past few years, Smith believes that with the Weekly, “we’ve got a good publication, we believe we’ve got something people want to read, we believe we’ve got something people want to be a part of.”

Here’s the full Q&A from our discussion with Smith:

Why is the Chicago Weekly going independent and being renamed the South Side Weekly? What caused this change?

Well, there are a few parts to this. Long story short, Newcity’s going biweekly (every other week), and becoming an independent publication will allow us to continue publishing as a weekly newsmagazine. More broadly, though, bringing publishing and editorial under the same roof is going to help make this a better student experience and a better publication in general.

We’re blessed to have had Newcity’s support for ten years (since 2003), and wouldn’t be here without them. Now, after a decade of collaboration, they’ve put us in a position to step out on our own–and this means developing a student-led business model, one that’s focused on establishing meaningful relationships with local advertisers on the South Side and in Chicago as a whole. Over the next two years we’ll be developing this system in full. Right now, Harry Backlund, the editor-in-chief from 2010–11 (A.B. ’11), is handling publishing operations for us. Working with Harry we’ve created an ad kit for the first time [you can find this on the website, here], and are building advertising and distribution networks from the ground up. The model here is a publication like the Daily Pennsylvanian, which is entirely student-led and uses a board of current and former editors to steer the paper in the long-term.

Will the South Side Weekly’s coverage be different from the Chicago Weekly’s?

We’ll continue to cover South Side arts, culture, and politics every week, a fact that our name change should make clear. Changing the name wasn’t done to mark a break from the past–rather, it was meant to reaffirm what we have been and will continue to be: a paper that believes that the South Side is home to stories worth telling, and that these stories are best told through words and images that are honest, thoughtful, informed, and, ultimately, compassionate. The name “South Side Weekly” strengthens this identity, and helps us build a better relationship with our community of readers, writers, and advertisers.

We will be doing more coverage, though. We’re remaining a weekly, but we’re also truly becoming a weekly. In past years, the paper was published every other week in the winter; now, we’re expanding our frequency to publish thirty-one issues over the course of the academic year. That’s ten issues a quarter, plus our special Best of the South Side issue during O-Week.

We’ll also be publishing longer issues–around twenty pages a week. This goes hand in hand with the growth of our staff: four years ago we had fewer than a dozen editors, plus writers; today we’ve got eighteen editors, with close to sixty additional writers contributing over the year.

The new website has a very modern design that is quite different from the Chicago Weekly’s print design. Will the print version of the South Side Weekly also have a new design?

One word: serifs.

Did Newcity handled much of the business and logistical side of the Chicago Weekly? If so, how will the South Side Weekly handle these additional functions? In other words, how do you plan on surviving on your own?

You take it one step at a time, do the research, and make no small plans. It’s a tough time for newspapers, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. We believe we’ve got a good publication, we believe we’ve got something people want to read, we believe we’ve got something people want to be a part of. It’s certainly something our writers, photographers, designers, and filmmakers should be proud of.

Your previous website often felt neglected. Will there be more attention paid to your new website? What do you consider the purpose of the new website?

The purpose of the new website is for more people to read more of the Weekly. Gabi Bernard, our online editor, is doing a great job of making sure that happens. We don’t run a blog and probably won’t ever run a blog, but we are planning to publish multimedia content–audio and video stories, alongside other pieces that don’t fit into the print edition.