The secret origin of Chicago Public Square

Late in January, shortly after President Trump’s inauguration, I received a Facebook note from a working mother I’ve known since she was in high school:

“Every time I looked at Facebook or Twitter today, terrible things were happening in our government. Is there any news source that is keeping track of things that are happening day by day? Just in a bullet-point form? I feel like these days might go like this and I don’t want to miss actual happenings …. I need to stay informed, but I need to work, too. If there is a resource you have found or you are doing one, please let me know.”

Coincidentally, I’d been playing with a domain name I’d bought earlier that month: ChicagoPublicSquare.com—the complement to a Twitter handle dormant since I’d created it in 2012 for a project that went another way.

My friend’s appeal—and similar conversations around the same time with others, in person and on social media—persuaded me to use Square to revive a concept I pioneered at the Chicago Tribune in the early 2000s: A text-based newscast “keeping track of things that are happening … in a bullet-point form.”

At the core of my career, I’ve always been a newscaster. And so Chicago Public Square’s designed like a midday newscast—powered by a voracious appetite for news, an expansive Facebook network, and my favorite Twitter-taming app, Nuzzel.

It’s published once a day, Monday-Friday, at 10 a.m. Central—late enough to include developments not in the morning’s papers or TV shows, fresh enough to keep you engaged through lunch and dinner, succinct enough not to overwhelm you or put you to sleep, and comprehensive enough to keep you informed about what’s important to Chicago.

Since Square’s launch Jan. 30, enough people have unsolicitedly expressed their thanks—and generated industry-leading audience analytics—to persuade me it’s delivering on that premise.

Bonus: No popup videos, no intrusive ads. Just a fast-loading page designed to reward your attention and respect your time—with supplemental updates through the day and during weekends on the Square Facebook and Twitter pages.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please give it a try.

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