This paper is for the South Sider.
A few months ago, when the South Side Weekly was still called the Chicago Weekly and our publishing situation was still in flux, that name was tossed around. “The South Sider”: true to our audience and our content, what we’ve been for the past ten years and what we’re recommitting ourselves to for the decades ahead—long-form journalism that covers arts, culture, and politics on our side of the city.
In the end we decided against that name, partly because it’s so hard to say exactly who a “South Sider” is, let alone what the “South Side” is. In the months of reporting that went into last week’s Best of the South Side issue, for example, many people we talked to had different thoughts on what the South Side was, and on who could rightfully claim this place as home.
The city has used Madison Street in the Loop as a north–south dividing line since 1908, though Roosevelt Road, which caps the southern end of Grant Park, has been a traditional marker; today, many who claim to live in the “South Loop” make their homes north of Roosevelt along Printers’ Row, occupying a part of the city that could reasonably be called part of the South Side or part of the Loop itself. Twenty blocks south, some in Bronzeville claim that their neighborhood is synonymous with “South Side,” that most any other place claiming that label is, to a certain extent, “inauthentic.” A few administrators at the University of Chicago shy away from the regional “South Side” label altogether, preferring to think of the university’s Hyde Park–Kenwood home as an independent, free-floating community.
Such an idea is, of course, untenable. There are no “independent” neighborhoods on the South Side—there may be pockets of relative homogeneity, sure, but cross a street, a park, or a rail yard and there’s another neighborhood, another pocket. Each is almost certainly more complicated than the standard storylines would have it, and each is tied together to all the others surrounding it, populated by South Siders like all the rest.
Over the past few months, and to a lesser extent over the past decade as the Chicago Weekly, this subject matter—the South Side and South Siders—has been said to be something different from the staff of this paper. Our editors, writers, and photographers are UofC students. Many of us are originally from other states; some are from other countries. We are “outsiders,” it has been said. We are “not from here.” As a geographic fact, this much is true. True as well is the fact that we are now, as residents of the South Side, produce a publication for the South Side as a whole.
We do this not as an “activist publication,” though in the past few weeks that term has been applied to us. Some have asked as well if we’re a “labor paper,” a “paper for the black community,” or a voice for the UofC. At bottom, we are simply a South Side publication, a news magazine, specifically, activist only insofar as we believe that the South Side is home to stories that deserve to be told and deserve to be read. These stories we tell are not simple news reports, but aim to say something more about the people and places we cover. Call it long-form, magazine style, or new journalism, if you will; all are labels for a type of journalism that strives to cover its subject matter with thoughtfulness, honesty, and—ultimately—compassion.
LeRoy Bach, a musician profiled in one of this issue’s stories, recently asked, “How can you sneak into another person’s reality and have them be glad for it?” In so many words, this is the basic problem of journalism, and one that the Weekly in particular faces consistently.
We hold, however, to the fact that the reality of the South Side is one shared by all South Siders, journalists and students included, and that this reality may be captured through reporting, in words and in images. Those that fill these pages are only the first sign of things to come. In these stories, as in all others, we strive to be honest. We hope you hold us to it.