Troubling news — Jim Kirk, managing editor of the Chicago News Cooperative, has been named chief of editorial operations for Crain's Chicago Business.
"Two different people at the 'CNC' had told me in just the past few days that the only leadership at that place was from Kirk," e-mailed the friend who gave me a head's-up about Kirk's move.
I would like to think that's not true. But when I called over there in January — to ask about the second-generation website that is supposed to make all the difference to the CNC — Kirk did most of the talking. The CNC's editor and founder, Jim O'Shea, was on leave, working on a book. Kirk said then the website, originally promised for last year, was a few weeks off. That was more than a month ago, and it still hasn't appeared.
Kirk came to the CNC last May calling the website his "first order of business." He starts at Crain's on February 24. Will the site be up and running by then? He's making no promises.
"The list of bugs gets shorter and shorter. We’re so close," Kirk told me Monday. "The hope is over the next couple of weeks — that’s what it looks like as of today. We’d rather launch with it right than go up with a bunch of mistakes."
Kirk says general manager and deputy editor David Greising will take on some of his responsibilities. And he says O'Shea was gone only about three weeks and is back now working full-time for the CNC. "We have great management and a good core," says Kirk, who'll get no argument from me. But until we see the website, and it proves itself as transformational as Kirk has said it must be, doubts about the CNC's survivability will linger and mount.
That would be true even if Kirk were sticking around.
The Crain's announcement said Kirk "will oversee Crain's growing number of content-based businesses, which have expanded in recent years with the publication's increased emphasis on online, event and data offerings."
In short, it's a job figuring out the future, a good job, "and there's fewer of those around these days in journalism," Kirk says. "Like most media companies, Crain's is looking for opportunities beyond print, and everybody has to find ways to grow. There’s no silver bullet any more."