"They're not going to sell for a big price or anything, but we do hope they'll continue in hands that will sustain them. I'm confident we have a shot at doing that. But we're just at the starting point."
If the papers survive, Haley expects them to survive separately. He doesn't expect a new owner to acquire both of them.
Wednesday Journal Inc. launched the Chicago Journal a dozen years ago as a peach-colored broadsheet covering the South Loop, the West Loop, and Little Italy. Its look distinguished it, and so did some remarkably graceful writing. "Sporadically, it made a few bucks," said Haley. When times were better, he launched a Wicker Park-Bucktown edition, and it limped along for a few years. "I don't know why we could never get traction in those neighborhoods," Haley told me. "It seemed like it should have worked."
That edition of the Journal died when Wednesday Journal Inc. retrenched in early 2009, also dropping the Booster and the News-Star, a couple of north-side community weeklies it had picked up from the Sun-Times Media Group a year earlier. Skyline, another Sun-Times Media Group title—and like the others originally parts of the once mighty Lerner chain of neighborhood weeklies—survived, now sharing an editor with the original Chicago Journal.
"I give a big shout-out to Ben Meyerson, who's edited both those papers," said Haley. "He's staying on for the interim, while we sort things out. After that, I don't know."
The Chicago Journal changed over the years, shrinking in size to a tabloid published on white newsprint, its staff also diminishing. ""We worked and worked and worked on that paper," Haley reflected. "It's a darned good paper. But these are challenging times. The economy has been god-awful and technology is changing everything." He'll be left with four weeklies—the Wednesday Journal, covering Oak Park and River Forest; the Forest Park Review; the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark; and the Austin Weekly News; and also Chicago Parent magazine. "They're doing OK," he said. "We're going to refocus on the strong points and continue the digital evolution of each of these products as well as the print versions. It's not much fun but that's where we are."
The staffs of the Journal and Skyline got the word Monday, even though Haley couldn't tell them yet if their titles would survive under new owners. "Our way of doing things internally is to be open and straightforward with people, so we don't keep secrets around here," Haley said. December 13 is tentatively the last publication date, but depending on how talks go, it's possible Wednesday Journal Inc. would bring out another issue or two.
"By the end of the year we'll be done," Haley said.