ChicagoNow Part of Evolving Media Landscape

Is finding a source through Facebook unethical?

Tracy Schmidt, editorial director of ChicagoNow, doesn’t think so. Previously she was a reporter for Time Magazine, reporting on Facebook. She also covered the Virginia Tech shootings. Through Facebook she found a student who had been in one of the classrooms, and she got her interview.

“Some of the other reporters thought I was unethical,” she said. “I see Facebook as a telephone directory.”

Today she is part of ChicagoNow, a network of more than 300 local blogs. She developed its concept and managed its launch in August 2009.

She joined the Tribune in 2008 as a reporter at Triblocal, a reverse-published, hyper-local newspaper group. “We take the best online content and fact check it and then we put it in a paper and include it in the Tribune,” she explained.

Chicago Now bloggers post more than 100 entries to the site each day about local topics, Tracy said. Then Chicagoans begin commenting. “The result is a lively, authentic conversation about all things Chicago,” according to the ChicagoNow website.

Tracy sees many similarities between bloggers and journalists. “They do some of the same work,” she said. “Journalists are amazing investigators. Bloggers supplement those by commenting on the stories.”

She noted that ChicagoNow does not censor its bloggers and doesn’t worry about problems with the blogs. “Other people are going to comment and correct them,” she said. “The community really self polices on ChicagoNow.”