Lisa White – Associate Editor, Chicagoist
With the polar vortex blowing through this week, winter in the Midwest has been even more miserable than usual. With Cision being based in Chicago, we’re very familiar with the local pastime of complaining about the frigid weather and wondering why we still live here. Thankfully, since 2004 hometown blog Chicagoist has been reminding us all what we love about this city.
New associate editor Lisa White, as of January 2014, is a natural fit for the site. Not only has she contributed to Chicago-based websites Gapers Block, Heave Media and the now-defunct Chi Guide, but she’s also a longtime Chicagoist reader, having discovered the website upon her move to the city in 2004. “It’s really exciting to be a part of something that I’ve always really cared about as a reader,” she said.
Her new position is a change of pace. “I’m constantly helping to run the site. It’s a lot different than being a freelance writer, where you’re doing sporadic work. So I like the structure around it.” The shift to an editorial role also suits her. “I like writing, but it’s kind of fun to mix it up a little bit and be able to edit other people’s work and give them feedback,” she added.
White’s interest in journalism began young. “I used to sit in my Midwest town reading music magazines, dreaming of writing for them,” she recalled. Upon her graduation from Columbia College Chicago with a magazine publication minor, she started writing for a friend’s newly launched music website and branched out into other publications.
In the process, she has been inspired by Gapers Block editor Andrew Huff, who she described as “the type of person that really encourages the writers to run with stuff and gives really great feedback.” Additionally, White finds freelancer Jessica Hopper’s Twitter list of fellow female music journalists to be helpful. “It’s a really great resource to see other voices in a very male-dominated industry.”
Social media also plays an important role in her position. Since Chicagoist is an online outlet with a 24/7 news cycle and a local coverage area, there’s always a sense of immediacy. “If I’m not currently working on the site and I see something on Twitter, I’m going to either favorite it or remember it for later because you’re constantly looking for sources.”
While she noted the difficulty of balancing urgency with quality when breaking stories online, she pointed out an advantage of the medium. “It’s great with our site because we are able to post stuff and then if we do find out more information about a story, or we call and get a comment from someone, we have the ability to update it,” she said. “It’s not like print, where we’d have to wait a whole 24-hour cycle to print an update for a story.”
Twitter and Facebook have also provided an easy way for Chicagoist to connect and share resources with other local media outlets. “I think social media’s really important in building a strong Chicago community.”
Unsurprisingly, her plans going forward with Chicagoist are based in a similar mindset. In the short-term, she looks to build “a stronger sense of community within the staff.” She also hopes to expand Chicagoist’s social media offerings and plan events “to directly connect with our readership.” Here’s hoping the weather cooperates.
Given her history in PR, White is quick to offer advice for those looking to pitch her.
She emphasized that pitches should be Chicago-specific; while they do occasionally cover national topics, Chicagoist is first and foremost a local blog.
She gave an example of a recent pitch gone awry. “I’ve already gotten a pitch for a dog fashion show in California, which isn’t at all what we do.” She recommended organizing media lists by region to avoid this pitfall.
White also made a point of personalizing emails as a publicist, and appreciates the same as an editor. “A little personal tweak – that always kind of catches the writer’s eye because you get so many pitches,” she said.
She is particularly interested in pitches on music, food and drink, but is open to all of the beats Chicagoist covers, “as long as it has some kind of slant on Chicago.”
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