Robert Feder abruptly announced his retirement in early July after covering the Chicago media beat for 42 years.
Feder later lamented the future of media coverage in town. “All the businesses I was covering are in decline,” he told former Tribune columnist and current Picayune Sentinel newsletter author Eric Zorn. “The business models are broken for television, radio and newspapers.”
Why it matters: With national corporations gobbling up local outlets, the city needs watchdogs to keep tabs on who’s keeping us informed.
Flashback: Feder didn’t just report on ratings and staffing changes.
He dug into Tribune and Sun-Times management scandals involving Conrad Black, Sam Zell and Michael Ferro, plus the most recent Tribune sale to Alden Global Capital.
And he explored WGN TV and radio’s sale to Sinclair broadcasting, which was undone by the FCC, and the recent merger between WBEZ and the Sun-Times.
State of play: The Tribune’s Robert Channick and Crain’s Ally Marotti are full-time reporters dedicated to the business of media, but they also cover other topics.
Chicago Public Media (Sun-Times and WBEZ) has no one covering the beat and tells Axios it has no plans to.
And leaders at the Chicago Reader, which published Michael Miner’s media column for decades, say the paper’s yet-unnamed culture editor will decide on media coverage.
What they’re saying: “It’s a different world of coverage than when Feder first started,” Chicago Reader managing editor Salem Collo-Julin tells Axios.
“We see the importance of thriving local and community-based media. A varied media landscape helps us gain an understanding of all the different kinds of communities that make up a city like ours.”
💭 Justin’s thought bubble: I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where a manager was yelling at us about something Feder reported. He didn’t just inform Chicago, he also kept management in check.
I fear his departure may change that.