Welcome back, readers: A newsletter bonanza for a ‘new’ Chicago news site

July 3, 2018
Category: Newsletters

Deal gives back former Chicago DNAinfo editors the 100,000-strong newsletter email list they built

Block Club Chicago isn’t yet three weeks on from its formal launch, but the local news site already has gotten a gift that other local news sites would die for: the emails of 100,000 Chicago-area readers who had signed up for a newsletter for the staff’s previous site.

The owner of that previous site, DNAinfo, abruptly pulled the plug on it in November. That move prompted the idea of Block Club and a wildly successful Kickstarter drive in February. Last week, through a gift, Block Club got the DNAinfo email list as well as the old DNAinfo social accounts and archives for five years of neighborhood coverage in Chicago.

“These are years of history for these neighborhoods,” Stephanie Lulay, co-founder and managing editor, said in an interview.

In a world where more news sites are leaning on email newsletters to cultivate loyal readers and possible subscribers/donors, it’s hard to overestimate how valuable the email addresses are for Block Club founders Lulay, Jen Sabella, Shamus Toomey and their six reporters.

"It's huge for us to get our old readers back," Lulay said. 

Editor-in-chief Toomey thanked WNYC for the gift. The New York public station, which has relaunched the DNAinfo sister site Gothamist in New York, said it had had no plans for the archives and accounts it had purchased as part of the deal.

The nonprofit Block Club will depend upon donations and subscriptions, $6 per month or $59 a year, and will expand its number of reporters and neighborhood clusters covered if funding rises. Non-subscribers will get to see a few stories a month before they hit a paywall.

Quick hits

NJ TO GIVE $5 MILLION TO LOCAL NEWS FUND: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy says he’ll dedicate $5 million to the Civic Information Consortium, a first-of-its-kind nonprofit with a mission to revive, strengthen and transform local media in the state. The measure was approved by state lawmakers after a series of meetings throughout the state. “I’m speechless,” tweeted Josh Stearns of the Democracy Fund. Organizers have talked about an "AmeriCorps for Journalists," to cover underserved New Jersey residents.

THE LINE: Forbes and Entrepreneur contributor Jayson DeMers has been getting paid by companies the writer promotes in his work, BuzzFeed’s Jon Christian reports. Both Forbes and Entrepreneur have dropped him. Entrepreneur removed “offending articles” among the 300-some DeMers had written for it, and Forbes removed eight of its 700-plus articles by DeMers, who also has written for Business Insider, NBC News, Fox News, Inc., HuffPost, Mashable, Time, TechCrunch and The Wall Street Journal.

CHANGED HIS MIND: A day after the mayor of Annapolis disclosed that President Trump declined his request to lower flags on federal buildings in memory of the five people slain in a newsroom by a mass shooter, Trump's press secretary told CNN on Tuesday that the president has decided to do so. Trump had ordered flags lowered after mass shootings in Santa Fe, Texas, and Parkland, Florida, and the report that he'd initially rejected the same for slain journalists raised an outcry.

The Capital Gazette, meanwhile, has made a humble request:

Moment of silence for jounralist's shootings

THE MORNING MEETING, OPEN TO ALL: The Globe and Mail doesn’t keep its three daily news meeting behind a closed door anymore — and it’s led to more people leading and participating at the meetings, writes Meena Thiruvengadam for Poynter.

IS TRONC NEXT?: After selling the Los Angeles Times, buyers are circling several papers at Tronc, which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel and the Baltimore Sun (and the Capital Gazette). Bloomberg’s Gerry Smith notes that Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn, who does not have a background in media, stands to make a big payday if the company is sold.

GETTY PAYS MELANIA: In an unusual arrangement for a sitting first lady, Melania Trump got at least $100,000 last year from a photo agency for use in "positive stories only," NBC News reports.

LISTENING TO (INTERNATIONAL) READERS: About 15 percent of The New York Times’ digital subscribers are from abroad. Nieman Lab’s Shan Wang looks at the ways the Times is trying to grow that, including allowing an Asian-Australian literary magazine to take over its Australian Facebook page for a week.

MUSEUM TO DISPLAY SPIKED CARTOONS: The owner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette may not have liked Rob Rogers’ editorial cartoons, but 18 of the spiked illustrations will be displayed at a Washington museum, which calls them necessary for discussion of America in 2018. They include this cartoon (below) on the Trump family separation policy for asylum-seekers and immigrants. Story by Michael Cavna.

JOURNALIST ON CALL: Rod Hicks, an Associated Press and newspaper veteran, has been appointed the Society of Professional Journalists' Journalist on Call, a sort of free-range ombudsman/consultant for journalists and community members. He will seek to promote trust on both sides, explaining to the public the important role ethical journalism plays in society and also best practices to journalists. A focus, SPJ says, is on how the media and public can work together in crisis situations. 

HIRED: Todd S. Purdum, formerly of Vanity Fair, The New York Times and Politico, is joining The Atlantic as a staff writer and correspondent in Los Angeles, covering politics and culture.

What we’re reading

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS: Inside the billion-dollar industry of detaining immigrants and asylum-seekers. By Eileen Truax for LitHub.

A PIONEER: In 1952, Dale Jennings declared to a California court that he was a homosexual. His contrarian life story, by Peyton Thomas for The Atavist magazine.

UNACCOMPANIED MINOR: The complicated immigration story of Donald Trump’s grandfather. By Kristine Phillips.

What we're seeing

NIXON'S RETURN: As the Los Angeles Times packs to leave its gothic downtown headquarters, a long-lost bronze caricature of Richard Nixon by Paul Conrad is rediscovered.

Nixon caricature rediscovered at LAT

On Poynter.org

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Got a tip, a link, a suggestion, a rediscovered bronze caricature? We’re trying to make this roundup better every day. Please email me at dbeard@poynter.org.

Many thanks to Ren LaForme for editing this.

Have a Happy Fourth and see you on Thursday morning.

Editors' note: This story has been updated to reflect President Trump's later decision to lower flags to commemorate victims of the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper offices in Annapolis, Maryland.