What's Been Going On at the McKinley Park News

Published December 13, 2022

Greetings, friends and fans of the McKinley Park News!

Happy Holidays to you and yours! No matter how or whether you celebrate, you can enjoy the many fantastic holiday events that fill the neighborhood this month: Check out our McKinley Park Christmastime Calendar, which shares all of the Christmas and holiday events for Chicago's McKinley Park neighborhood. (Or at least all we could find so far: Email neighborhood holiday events to share to info@mckinleypark.news.)

Adieu 2022

The past year has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for the McKinley Park News and its continued development. As a startup business with the challenging goal of funding a neighborhood-scale journalism enterprise, we've been investing very heavily this year in business planning, notably with the aid of the Metro Media Lab at Northwestern University's Medill School.

Thanks to all sorts of operational and business data from our past seven years as a micro-local news outlet, we now have a very specific idea of our out-of-pocket and labor costs, as well as potential reach and audience. Thanks to the Metro Media Lab, we're now assessing information from the focus groups and surveys they conducted for us earlier this year, as well as from the grad student teams picking apart our platform. (We look forward to sharing more updates soon about our involvement in the Metro Media Lab.)

Ethical Sustainability

The next business step is fine-tuning our revenue and income opportunities toward supporting a dedicated role of news publisher for the neighborhood. We'll soon be announcing more information about how we're going to build on our existing subscription, sponsorship and advertising programs, as well as exciting new opportunities for advertisers to connect with the McKinley Park community and beyond.

As always, and unlike so many others, we're building all our revenue opportunities with primacy of respect for our readers, members and subscribers — especially regarding your online privacy and autonomy — while still giving sponsors and advertisers effective ways to connect with our local audience. Advertising clearly needs to be part of our revenue mix: All our recent survey results, as well as industry-wide surveys, show that most individuals do not expect to pay for news.

Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA)

Our membership in the Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA) has been monumentally beneficial for the McKinley Park News this year. We are so grateful to the thousands of people who supported the McKinley Park News and all CIMA members through our fund-raiser this past October.

All of the proceeds from the fund-raiser are being put straight back into our business: Because of our DIY ethos — and mostly because we're not yet paying for our biggest cost of primary labor (me) — the McKinley Park News has minuscule out-of-pocket costs as compared to competitors and even most startup businesses. This is allowing us to invest the funds we've raised toward equipment and capabilities to deliver the next level of neighborhood news coverage for you.

I'm very excited to soon share a sneak peek at what we're building with our members and supporters: Thank you all so much for supporting our enterprise to bring you neighborhood news!

Ecosystem and Encouragement

CIMA is also becoming an instrumental channel for supporting Chicago's independent news ecosystem. The McKinley Park News has already enjoyed sharing word of the new Maxwell Street Market via a City of Chicago ad campaign enabled through CIMA. Now, CIMA's led the charge to get the City of Chicago to commit at least 50 percent of all city departments' annual advertising spend to community media outlets, and CIMA's taking point in helping to figure out how all this might work.

A huge step in this direction is the launch of the Chicago Independent Media Directory, a way for advertisers to easily find effective channels to reach all the communities covered by CIMA members citywide. Each media outlet is detailed in a searchable profile; click here to see the listing for the McKinley Park News.

CIMA's also developing as a fantastic venue for best practices and fellowship with other members of Chicago's independent journalism community. Publishing mostly on one's own is fantastically lonely and frustrating at times, and it's so energizing to connect with fellow professionals to talk shop and find inspiration.

Delays Upon Delays

One source of frustration has been delays caused by unfortunate personal circumstances that hit our solopreneur-driven enterprise hard, including an injury earlier this year (from which I'm now thankfully recovered).

Our latest personal distraction can succinctly be described as Home Contractor Nightmare: a tale so torrid it could likely inspire its own reality television series. This debacle required weeks of my undivided emergency attention, pulling resources away from all the great local stories we have lined up to publish (and which we still will). Of course, we're getting through this and look forward to both a stable editorial calendar and one day enjoying our "forever home" in McKinley Park.

Attacks on Your Local News

Another distraction has been ongoing content theft, a campaign of libel and attempted sabotage, and a shadow "boycott" against the McKinley Park News by those seemingly threatened by the factual information we publish and our role as an independent voice for neighborhood news.

For years, local protest group Neighbors for Environmental Justice has stolen our original news content without providing notification, receiving permission, or including attribution. They first purloined our news portrait of MAT Asphalt co-owner Michael Tadin Jr. — which was then a unique thing, even on the Internet — and used it in their promotional and protest materials in a 2020 demonstration against Tadin's home landscaping intruding into the North Side's Lincoln Park. This included copying our original news photo onto protest signs that the group marched through Lincoln Park and distributed to others, and presentation of our photo alongside their fund-raising entreaties.

Stalking the Media

When we wrote to Neighbors for Environmental Justice and asked them to stop, following our standard process that's been respected by everyone else, they not only refused, but publicly attacked us up and down social media and the web for our private request that they stop stealing from us.

Since then, the group has committed seemingly significant ongoing resources toward a stalker-like campaign that's included surveilling our private reporting correspondence, brigading against the news updates we share on social media, writing and publishing long articles and Internet posts that libel us without basis (or seek our comment), and attempting direct, back-channel sabotage of our relationships with program and business partners.

Anti-Development Council

One can only imagine the environmental good that might have been done had this organization spent its resources on environmental issues instead of attacking independent local news. Our news content certainly remains unimpeached, as detractors have never identified factual inaccuracies in our news coverage, and no other publication has covered environmental issues on the Southwest Side as thoroughly as the McKinley Park News.

However, this campaign against your local news is being pushed throughout the neighborhood. In concert with Neighbors for Environmental Justice, the McKinley Park Development Council published a libelous attack on our local small business. (It's still on their website, although edited and moved from their home page.)

No Investigation, No Reply

The development council attacked our local small business without contacting us first or attempting any outreach. And despite our repeated messages and calls to the council and to its officers asking for an explanation or an opportunity to discuss their public attack on our local business, the development council has never provided us the courtesy of a reply.

Although most neighborhood residents properly view both Neighbors for Environmental Justice and the McKinley Park Development Council as small, closed-membership groups driven by unelected individuals appointing themselves to positions of perceived authority, we've still encountered a couple others in the neighborhood who have swallowed these groups' lies and are attempting to freeze us out from reporting our local news for you.

Members-only Childrens Clubhouse

Legitimate community groups don't act this way. Given my intimacy with the neighborhood, my past personal acquaintance with all involved individuals, my coverage of Neighbors for Environmental Justice since it was first conceived and then launched by my neighbor across the street, and my role as a founder and longtime former officer and board member of the McKinley Park Development Council, I surmise that all this is coming from a handful of selfish individuals colluding for personal benefit across supposedly independent community groups (and even past political campaigns).

I certainly saw this type of unprofessional behavior throughout the years I volunteered on the development council board, despite my ongoing efforts to turn it toward a legitimate community organization and away from being run like a members-only childrens clubhouse. Even governance basics like conflict of interest statements were ignored — never even signed — while board members advocated against the affordable housing project across from the expansive, park-facing apartment building they owned. From what I understand, the council's current governance practices are no better.

Cut Off Nose, Spite Face

This animus against local news comes from self-promoting voices that can abide no others lest they wither under scrutiny. They fear questions like why a neighborhood development council is spending more time attacking local businesses than helping them. Or why a supposed environmental organization obsessively focuses on a single industrialist while ignoring both policy work and all other nearby emitters (such as Wheatland Tube, the powder coating company next to the K-12 public school, big neighborhood stinker Innova Foods and its recent industrial fire, other nearby asphalt plants including those right here in the neighborhood, the Pepsi plant and its fleet of trucks ... the list goes on).

This is a shame, too, as our McKinley Park neighborhood could benefit from both a legitimate environmental advocacy organization and a development council that truly does support local economic, cultural and social development. This lack of mutual interest and destructive behavior will continue until McKinley Park can enjoy community groups that aren't run by those willing to cut off our neighborhood's nose to spite its face.

Soccer Flopped

I've refrained from sharing the sordid details of these attacks on the McKinley Park News until now, even though I've previously touched on how our newsroom can no longer consider Neighbors for Environmental Justice to be a credible organization, for dozens of reasons we've tallied internally in addition to those above. Ultimately, all of this is a minor distraction as we build a local neighborhood news business for you. I'd prefer to spend as little attention on this type of thing as possible, but I still wanted to share with our friends and fans everything we're fighting through this year.

Telling you this of course comes at the risk of another epic soccer flop-style public tantrum of manufactured false outrage and faux injury, even though this exposition lies at the end of a long, grey, unpromoted Letter from the Editor shared only with our readers and subscribers in a publication that these critics deride as a worthless, for-profit blog that should be ignored by everyone. We'll see if our critics follow their own advice.

You Keep Us Going

So as you can see, it's been a crazy year! Even with all the exhausting labor of a local news startup, the slings and arrows of personal misfortune, and the distractions of griefers like Neighbors for Environmental Justice and the McKinley Park Development Council, we continue to find inspiration to keep striving, thanks to support from our local journalism community and especially from readers and supporters like you.

We of course deeply appreciate every current and former subscriber and sponsor, donor to the fund-raiser, T-shirt customer, and all who support our enterprise. But we also really appreciate everyone who's shared their interest in and ideas for the McKinley Park News: It's the inspiration, engagement and encouragement we get from our neighborhood that really keeps us going. Thank you for every thumbs-up, pat on the back, atta boy and notice of thanks. It's really appreciated, and it makes a big difference.

This holiday season, we all at the McKinley Park News wish all the best to you and yours, and look forward to sharing a happy, significant and prosperous 2023 with you! Cheers!

Justin Kerr
Publisher, McKinley Park News

Audrey Teabow
The only boycott I see justified here is a BOY hanging out on a COT in McKinley Park, while reading through the new and upcoming news that is going on in the neighborhood of which he lives in. I’ve learned a lot about this neighborhood since knowing following this website, along with the very important and exciting changes in the future. Thank you, local news, so much for helping me feel that I live in an active and collective space other than just another neighborhood.
Justin Kerr
Thanks as always for your support, Audrey!

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