Media Lab Program Delivers Resources, Expertise and Labor to Support Independent Local News


CHICAGO — Over the past year, the Metro Media Lab program at Northwestern University’s Medill School has provided invaluable support to Chicago’s McKinley Park News publication through audience surveys, professional consulting and expert labor.

“We’re realizing significant advantages from taking part in the Metro Media Lab,” said Justin Kerr, publisher of the McKinley Park News. “The Metro Media Lab has given us tools and information we’ve already put to use to support our publication and build our business.”

As part of the 2022-2023 cohort, the McKinley Park News joined The TriiBE, Evanston RoundTable and Wednesday Journal in the multi-phase program, funded in part by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation to help bolster local news in Chicago.

Medill School graduate student Ryan KimMedill School graduate student Ryan Kim Kerr highlighted the detailed audience focus groups and surveys the Metro Media Lab conducted on behalf of the McKinley Park News, which helped the publication better understand its current and potential audience, Kerr said.

“We also received immense help with our business and revenue planning,” Kerr said, “especially thanks to the labor of Ryan Kim, a grad student fellow engaged to help us through the program.”

Kim, who is seeking his Master’s degree in the Media Innovation and Content Strategy specialization at Medill, became directly engaged in researching, assessing and compiling advertising market analysis for the McKinley Park News, Kerr said. Kim was also a leading analyst and author of audience survey data.

“As a student journalist, I am always reminded of how concentrated the media landscape is,” Kim said. “I truly believe in the power of local news outlets to diversify this scene.”

Moving forward, the Metro Media Lab will continue to work to support local news outlets, said Tim Franklin, senior associate dean at Medill and the head of both the Metro Media Lab and the Medill Local News Initiative.

“Local news is an essential element of our media landscape, and we’re working to support it,” Franklin said.

“Local digital publications often don’t have the expertise or time to focus on audience and business issues,” said Richelle “Rich” Gordon, who leads the Media Innovation and Content Strategy master’s specialization at Medill and is a core team member of the Metro Media Lab.

“Through the Metro Media Lab, we can help a publisher do original original audience research, and we can make a graduate student fellow available to work on projects the publication doesn’t have time for,” she said.

Kim, who will be continuing his graduate studies this spring at the Medill School’s facilities in San Francisco, said he wants “to explore how publishers can best reach their audience. I hope to leverage my traditional journalism education for more strategic or product-based groups in the media world.”

“We wish the best to Ryan in his career,” Kerr said. “We also give our deepest thanks to the Metro Media Lab for the game-changing resources and expertise this program has delivered to the McKinley Park News.”

The McKinley Park News is a micro-local online publication covering the McKinley Park Community Area and Central Manufacturing District of Chicago from its website at Its features include original news reporting, a comprehensive calendar of neighborhood events and an interactive membership and subscription system. Online as a neighborhood resource since 2012, the McKinley Park News launched its commercial operations in 2019 as a publication of Local News LLC. It is a member of the Local Independent Online News (LION) media association, the Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA) and the 36Squared Business Incubator.



Justin Kerr
(312) 560-1115
P.O. Box 9136
Chicago, IL 60609


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