Streetwise — the Medill Edition | Bleader

Streetwise — the Medill Edition



If you, like a lot of people, are on the fence about buying a copy of StreetWise from time to time, this is an interesting week to pick one up. The new issue being hawked Wednesday was created by Medill graduate students who limited themselves, by and large, to the very limited financial resources the actual StreetWise staff has to work with.

The students have also created a trial Web site for StreetWise, upgraded its use of social media, and proposed various changes in its business practices — including where it deploys the homeless vendors who support themselves by buying copies at 75 cents each and selling them for $2.

Assistant professor Jeremy Gilbert, one of three Medill professors involved in the project (Rachel Davis Mersey, whose husband, Jason Mersey, sits on the StreetWise board, and Charles Whitaker are the others), tells me that when the students researched StreetWise, they found out what most of us assume — which is that a lot of people buy it simply to help the homeless and don't really care what's in it. But they concluded that there's a younger, larger readership "specifically interested in something socially conscious and Chicago-centric" that might also buy Streetwise — if they find it worth reading. So the students set out to produce an issue that's "a little fresher and grittier."

StreetWise was launched as a monthly newspaper in 1992. It's been at death's door a time or two, but it's still kicking. If the Medill students, who were taking a course on innovation in journalism, give it a new lease on life, good for them.