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CTA Tattler

By Katie Buitrago

The Tribune introduced its new beta platform for local blogs this week. Here at the Beachwood's Chicago Blog Review desk, we'll be taking a look at some of the new - and familiar - faces you can find there.


Blog: CTA Tattler

Description: "Seen and Heard on the Chicago Transit Authority"

Substance: Kevin O'Neil has been chronicling stuff about the CTA for five years and, as of Tuesday, is now part of the Tribune's stable of local blogs at Chicago Now (stay away from the Trib, man! It's a sinking goddamned ship! The desk chairs, they are being rearranged!). The use of "chronicle" to describe his work is O'Neil's own designation, and it is entirely, though not quite positively, apt. A handy search of Merriam-Webster defines "chronicle" as "an historical account of events arranged in order of time usually without analysis or interpretation." O'Neil gathers CTA-related news and collects stories about wild and wacky sightings on our trains and buses, as well as posts service advisories and news updates from the CTA itself. It's fun for its entertainment value, but usually I've already read all the news he references by the time he gets to it - sometimes days before. If you're not a news junkie like me, it's a useful place to read up on transportation news. But I'm disappointed that he linked to a CBS2 investigation of the CTA failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act that was published a full week after a ChicagoTalks investigation (posted partially on The Beachwood Reporter) of the exact same thing that, for some reason, didn't merit a mention at all.

Screen Shot:


Style: The Tattler is basically an aggregator of CTA news, from news outlets and the agency itself, as well as people's CTA tales. Its biggest flaw is that lacks analysis of transit issues almost completely, aside from a pointed question after a link or two. For someone who says he worked as a journalist and has been following the CTA for five years, O'Neil could step it up a notch in terms of providing context and questioning CTA policies. My go-to spot for transportation analysis, while not a Chicago blog, is The Transport Politic. It offers critical interpretations of transit developments from all over the world, including Chicago.

Tl;dr Score: Low. Posts are short and often quote- or picture-heavy.

Commenter Involvement: There are consistently a moderate number of responses with, usually, useful questions that make up for some of the analysis that the posts themselves lack. When R-Hubs was still around, O'Neil would occasionally funnel them over to Huberman at his Coffees with Ron.

Linkage: Since a lot of the content is heavily reliant on news stories and CTA press releases, posts are always sprinkled with good links.

Visual Appeal: The new look at Chicago Now is a big improvement over the original site's plainness. However, the font + drop shadow in the new logo is mildly cringeworthy, and ads take up fully 1/3 of the screen space allocated for content. And the helpful sidebar of categories of posts has inexplicably disappeared. How can I find the Best Tattler Tales of 2007 now?!

NSFW?: Definitely - just say you're planning your ride home.

Start Here: Answers to your queries: Block 37, Wilson retail space

Bottom Line: I read the news every morning (and . . . every half hour continuously throughout the day). I spend two hours of my life every day on the CTA and have witnessed my fair share of wacky hijinx. Frankly, CTA Tattler doesn't really tell me anything I don't already know. Every time I read it, I find myself wishing for a more critical or expansive view of Chicago transportation issues, but that's not really the blog's purpose - and, as a result, I've moved on to greener pastures. But if you don't read the news voraciously and enjoy service updates and tales of commuter woe, you may find something interesting here.


See the Chicago Blog Review library.


Comments and submissions welcome.


Posted on May 29, 2009

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