Streetwise On the Skids

Financial crisis moves magazine to "perfect storm"

Chicago's highly respected publication that provides jobs for many of the city's homeless people, Streetwise, may be going under, The Chicagoist reported Tuesday.

The publication, which has been around in Chicago for the past 17 years, depends on an unusual mixture of advertising, grants and vendor fees to support itself.

It's mission: 

StreetWise is a social enterprise designed to help severely impoverished men and women out of poverty. We publish weekly StreetWise, a general interest magazine with a gritty "from the streets perspective" to give insight to its readers on what is really going on in Chicago. By using vendors as the distribution mechanism, we are able to personalize the face of poverty and create income for the vendor.

The magazine's executive director, Bruce Crane, told the Chicagoist that his magazine has been hit in every single revenue stream.

"It's been a perfect storm, and we're in a dire financial situation," Crane said. "The loss of grants, the advertisers cutting budget, the vendors having a hard time selling the magazines, and the increase in vendors asking for papers to sell," all spell doom for the newspaper. 

Asked whether or not he thought the advent of Internet journalism was having a significant impact on circulation, the Chicagoist says  Crane stated that Streetwise has no Internet version -- and that online journalism was probably hurting his organization just as much as anyone else's.

The magazine could be shut down within 45 days if it doesn't find funding, StreetWise board vice chairman Pete Kaden told the Tribune.

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