City News Bureau of Chicago, or City Press, was a news bureau that served as one of the first cooperative news agencies in the United States. It was founded in the late 19th century by the newspapers of Chicago to provide a common source of local and breaking news and also used by them as a training ground for new reporters. Hundreds of reporters have "graduated" from the City News Bureau into newspaper dailies - both local and national - or other avenues of writing.
The City News Bureau had reporters in all important news sites, courthouses, City Hall, the County Building, Criminal Courts, as well as having as many as ten police reporters on duty. It operated around the clock and all year round. The reporters, though young, worked in competition with some of the best reporters in the country, working on the same stories as all the others, questioning politicians and police, and fighting for scoops.
They covered every single death reported to the coroner's office, every important meeting, every news conference, every court case that had once been a news story, even if the trial wasn't newsworthy.
The training was rigorousrewrite men were professionals, accustomed to teaching in a hard school.
. The reporters were all amateurs when they came to work, but the
One graduate was Kurt Vonnegut. He described his work there in the late 1940s in terms that could have been used by almost any other City Press reporter of any era:
A legendary story held that a young reporter who called in a story of the slaying of an infant was sent back to get the answer to the question, "What color were the dead baby's eyes?" Certainly, all the young reporters were sent back to get more information so that they would learn to get it in the first place. Another watchword: "If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out with two independent sources."
The City News Bureau had special operations for covering elections in Chicago and Cook County, providing regular updates precinct by precinct years before such coverage was common. A similar service reported on the scores of most high-school games in Chicago, but otherwise there was no sports coverage.
The film Call Northside 777, in which James Stewart plays a reporter whose articles free an innocent man from prison, was based on a story that originated at the City News Bureau.
The City News Bureau broke the story of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, but, for once, didn't quite believe its reporter, Walter Spirko, and sent the following bulletin:
Spirko continued as a Chicago reporter for many years, breaking a story of thieving policemen known as the Summerdale police scandal.
Playwright Charles MacArthur, co-author of the play The Front Page was a former City Press reporter; several of the characters in the play were based on City Press personalities, notably the skittish managing editor Larry Mulay. Other well-known alumni: syndicated columnist Roger Simon, reclusive media mogul Fred Eychaner, environmental journalist William Allen, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, New York Times columnist David Brooks, author of Bobos in Paradise, pop artist Claes Oldenburg, consumer advocate David Horowitz, columnist Mike Royko, and Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Herbert Lawrence Block, commonly known as Herblock.
Full article ▸