Newspaper of the Year:
Hard to pick a winner here, since all of the local newspapers have been acting like losers this past year. With the Sun-Times becoming wafer-thin and simply waiting around to die (or be bought-out), there is no way to pick them as a winner, even though my favorite columnists still work there. As much as it has been easy to pick on Sam Zell and Lee Abrams as they continually (and sometimes, strangely) tweak the Chicago Tribune, I have to give them great credit for trying new ideas. Newspapers may be dying, but Zell & Co. are determined to go down swinging. The redesigns and the numerous changes may not be perfect, but they are at least trying to get sales back up, by doing something radical and by not being afraid to try & do whatever it takes to keep the business alive. They also have the best newspaper website around, allowing many of their journalists to have blogs on there and with a quickly updated "Breaking News" section, knowing that so much of their identity is now a web-based one. Instead of complaining about screwing around with this classic Chicago landmark, I tip my proverbial hat to them for trying all they can to save it from extinction.
Newspaper Columnist of the Year:
There was no columnist in Chicago in 2008 that was more important and more talked about than Robert Feder. Since accepting the Sun-Times' buyout and taking an early retirement from the paper, there has been no columnist more missed than him. When it came to Chicago media, there was no person more respected, talked about, quoted and admired. (...and sometimes feared.) As I've said before, he was a class act and a world-class journalist. While a return to the media beat is probably never going to happen for him (by his own choice), I am still eagerly waiting to see where life takes him next and to see what career path he will surely excel at. Still, there is a sadness knowing that he can not again be named "Newspaper Columnist of the Year."
Local Publication of the Year:
Crain's Chicago Business
This oversized publication is the best info source for local Chicago area businesses and business people. In the past year, they have also been more news-focused, giving a broader scope to all that affects businesses. They also have bettered their website, adding bloggers to it, including some former Tribune employees. Since the periodical suffers from what almost all periodicals suffer from, the delay in getting news into print & delivered, they have upgraded their website's articles, placing importance on the site, often scooping all of the local newspapers on breaking stories. Instead of reporting on something already reported on by the Tribune, Sun-Times, Herald or AP, Crain's reporting is now often mentioned as a source by those other publications. Like the Tribune, Crain's is determined to stay viable and not fade away.
Local Music Publication of the Year:
This old-school monthly magazine, printed entirely on newsprint stock paper is still the "Rolling Stone" of Chicago. Every musician in town, flips through this paper each month to see what's inside. It is still the best priced value around, as it remains a free publication. Even with it's monthly status and barely used website, it is still a great resource for finding out about local music.
Local Music Website of the Year:
What started as a simple blog site has blossomed into one of the top music news sites in the world. This "worldly" site is operated from right here in Chicago. While it is not a "local" site, it is still a top source for all that is going on in the music world.
Chicago Media Book of the Year
Clark Weber's Rock and Roll Radio by Clark Weber
This charming book is a look back at the innocent years of Chicago Top 40 radio, as seen through the eyes of one of its Top personalities, Mother Weber's Oldest Son Chuck. This book did not "read" like a typical book. Rather, it was like sitting down with Mr. Weber himself, getting comfortable in a seat and listing to him tell captivating story after story. For fans of classic radio and early rock & roll, this trip down memory lane was a joy. Especially fun were the stories that can't be found anywhere else, like The Monkees getting thrown out of the WLS studios, Sam & Dave's dislike for each other, Larry Lujack's screaming inside an airplane, the truth behind his "feud" with Ron Riley, and so much more. The book used large font -- great for aging eyes -- and some tremendous black & white photos that instantly transport the reader back in time with a smile. The icing on the cake was the inclusion of a 30 minute CD featuring some great bits and classic WLS jingles. The sub-title to this book is "The Fun Years: 1955-1975." Clark Weber helped make 2008 a fun year for the reader once again.
Chicago's WLS Radio by Scott Childers
This book is more of a photo album than anything else, but oh... what a photo album it is! A carefully constructed, caring look at one of the most important radio stations in history. Each photo is accompanied by a well written description by Scott Childers, giving a historical look at the famous station and its personalities. The photos themselves are to be complimented, too. They came from numerous sources from numerous eras, but each of them were amazingly well preserved, restored and reprinted inside this book. These are photographs taken long before digital technology and in some cases, featuring subjects long since departed, yet they were so crystal clear, it was almost as if you could reach out and touch those subjects. This book was clearly a labor of love for Scott Childers and that love is felt with every turn of the page.