Straight Dope Chicago

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What is Straight Dope Chicago?

It's a Chicago version of the Straight Dope, the legendary Q&A column by Cecil Adams. This is not that hard to figure out.

Yes, but why Chicago? Why the Straight Dope? Why now?

(1) Because Chicago is where we live. (2) The Straight Dope's job is fighting ignorance. We've been whaling away at it mightily for 35 years. However, if you look around Chicago today, you see that considerable ignorance remains. It's time to open a second front. (3) We agree that, from a macroeconomic standpoint, the timing is not ideal. However, when we see a sign on a store that says, "Established 1933," we think: Now that took balls. We figure that, by setting up shop now, we'll throw the competition off the track.

No, really.

Because our experience with the Straight Dope persuades us it's the obvious next step. Since opening the Straight Dope Web site in 1999, we've attracted an avid online following. Each month nearly 1 million people ("unique visitors," in trade parlance) read a Straight Dope column via the Internet. Another 100,000 peruse the Straight Dope Message Board. All told, the site generates close to 11 million pageviews per month. Two thoughts occur to us: First,  if we could create an equally vibrant online community in Chicago, that would take us a long way toward this Journalism 2.0 thing that some in the news media think we should be heading toward. Second, seeing as Chicago is where our advertising base is, we could make a big pile of dough.

So how is this going to work?

The concept will undoubtedly evolve, but right now here's what's in the mix:

  • A weekly Straight Dope Chicago column by Cecil Adams on a Chicago-centric topic. In a way, this is a return to the Straight Dope's roots 35 years ago, when the column appeared only in Chicago and the questions were largely topical and local.

  • A Straight Dope Chicago Message Board, which will operate as a division of the current Straight Dope Message Board. Clicking on the "Message Boards" button on an SDC page will take you to an SDCMB landing page; from there you can navigate to the SDMB if desired.

  • A Straight Dope Chicago home page, which you've already found. This page will feature links to Cecil's Chicago column (which will be posted on Thursdays), his regular column (which will be posted on Fridays), interesting threads from the SDCMB, Chicago Reader blogs, and whatever else we think is pertinent.

How will the SDCMB be different from the SDMB?

We expect the conversation on the SDCMB will center around Chicago-related topics – you'll notice we've set up forums for neighborhoods, Chicago politics, nightlife, and so on. We don't plan to enforce a rigid division between the SDMB and the SDCMB. If somebody wants to start an SDCMB thread on a general-interest topic with implications for Chicago – the Obama presidency, for example – that's fine.  Threads on topics specific to some other part of the cosmos we may move to the SDMB.

Do I have to live in Chicago to participate on the SDCMB?

No.  We assume SDCMB users will be self-sorting and will have some connection to or interest in the city. That's good enough for us.

The Chicago Reader is part of the Creative Loafing chain of alternative newspapers. Will you be launching local Straight Dope columns in Washington, Atlanta, and so on?

If Straight Dope Chicago flies, and the publishers of CL's other papers are interested, we might. What a local Straight Dope presence in another city would look like, and in particular whether it would feature a local Straight column, remain to be seen. We note, however, that Cecil comes from a large family, many of whose members are currently out of work, and if we can get these mopes out of the basement and into gainful employment, well, we might as well kill two birds with one stone.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to or post them on the Straight Dope Chicago Message Board.

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