Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Redesign Prompts Change in Chicago's Best Food Day

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Redesign Prompts Change in Chicago's Best Food Day

Article excerpt

Effective this week, Chicago's best food day moves from Thursday to Wednesday.

Starting Wednesday Jan. 25, virtually all Chicago-area daily newspapers will end the Windy City's long tradition of a Thursday best food day.

This remarkably rapid turnaround was engineered by the Chicago Tribune's decision to redesign and rename its Food Guide section - and begin publishing on Wednesdays.

About a week after the Tribune announced the impending debut of its new section, Good Eating, the Chicago Sun-Times announced that it, too, was redesigning its section - although keeping its current name, Food - and would henceforth publish on Wednesdays.

A couple of days later, the Daily Herald, the fast-growing 124,595-circulation paper based in Arlington Heights, joined the stampede.

"It's really just being done, obviously, for competitive reasons," said vice president and editor Douglas Ray, who said no editorial changes were planned.

For its part, the Chicago Defender, the 21,500-circulation, black-oriented daily tabloid, said it had not yet decided whether it, too, would change its Thursday best food day.

"We haven't discussed that yet," said managing editor Michael Brown. "That's a whole advertising scheme that ties into the days stores run their coupons."

Only one Chicago paper announced no change: The 55,813-circulation Daily Southtown has been running its Food section on Wednesdays ever since it converted from a weekly in 1978.

Features editor George Haas says readers of the Southtown, which circulates on the city's South Side and southern suburbs, appreciated getting the food ads a day earlier.

"It just seemed like our readership felt Wednesday was a good day for food ads," Haas said.

Also influencing the paper's thinking, Haas added, was the fact that, when the Southtown was a weekly, it came out on Wednesdays.

That explains why the Southtown published its food section on Wednesday - but what's the reason why every other Chicago paper hewed for so long to Thursday?

"I really am not sure. But it has been that way for as long as I can remember," the Daily Herald's Ray said.

Sun-Times food editor Bev Bennett offers one possible reason: "Historically, supermarkets always posted their new prices on Thursday, the idea being that people got paid on Friday and would go grocery shopping on Friday nights," Bennett said.

Tribune features editor Owen Youngman says he doesn't know the reason behind the Windy City tradition.

"That's lost in the dark, dim recesses of the past," he said.

But, after more than a year of research and planning, Youngman and the Tribune know very well why they changed best food day in Chicago.

"We did this because of advertiser requests," Youngman said. Advertisers were "greatly interested" in getting into the paper a day earlier, he said.

And the Tribune food section was facing the same problems as confronted many other papers.

"This all grew out of the fact that both readership and ad sales have been slipping over the years," Youngman said.

In addition to changing the publishing cycle, however, the Tribune is also inaugurating the new best food day with a major redesign of its food section - and a kind of interactive relationship with television.

Good Eating is not only the new name of the Tribune food section - but of a half-hour program that will run on Chicagoland Television News (CLTV), the Tribune-owned, 24-hour, local cable news channel. …

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