RedEye had a difficult birth, its parent company, the Tribune, having decided that the key to successfully launching a tabloid appealing to 18-to-34-year-olds who don’t read newspapers was to sound like an idiot.
It’s “our new, innovative, refreshingly different, insert-cool-buzz-word-here kinda publication talking to the up and coming in the language of the up and coming. . .” the Tribune told potential advertisers. “It will be hot off the presses five days a week and finding its way into train stations, bus stops, gyms, clubs, bars, and any other location where those rascally 18- to 34-year-olds gather to see and be seen.”
RedEye introduced coeditor Jane Hirt as a Taurus, a Renee Zellweger look-alike, and a fan of low-fat Pringles and Colin Firth (“yum”), but not as the former foreign and national news editor of the Tribune. (She went back to the Trib in 2008 and became managing editor.)
The Sun-Times‘s response to RedEye was to bring out a similar product called Red Streak. The cynical role of Red Streak, as I wrote then, was to screw up the marketplace. RedEye was “the Tribune‘s attempt to change from without in ways it can’t change from within.”
The next thing I knew, RedEye wasn’t merely rolling in the dust with Red Streak, but mired in a Goliath v. David trademark fight (instigated by Red Streak‘s Mark Konkol) with LA’s Red Eye Press, publisher of The Marijuana Grower’s Guide.
Red Streak formally disappeared December 2005. RedEye soldiered on. It dropped its 25-cent cover price and tweaked its gravitas. It got fatter, it got thinner. It added a weekend edition, then dropped it.
And now, it’s all but going away. The Tribune reported this week that “beginning in February, RedEye will be published on Thursdays only, putting its “Eat. Drink. Do.” feature at the center of what it bills as a weekend planning guide. In addition, RedEyeChicago.com will migrate to the Chicago Tribune website.”
“The move . . . will include an undisclosed number of layoffs,” Robert Channick reported.
As the Sun-Times and Reader are now sibling papers, there are reasons to anticipate a revival of the old RedEye–Red Streak rivalry. But the Reader is much more than a weekend planning guide, and the new RedEye might turn out to be something else.
“My days are at RedEye are numbered,” tweeted music reporter Josh Terry when he got the news. “There’s no space for a music reporter position as the publication transitions to a weekly format and my last day is tentatively March 3.” Terry had nothing but love for his “RedEye / Trib family,” he wrote, but that said, he needs work.