Chicago Tribune reporter to lead U of C news office

By Michael Lipkin

The University of Chicago has appointed Chicago Tribune journalist Steven Kloehn as News Office director, effective May 27. Kloehn is currently a deputy metro editor at the Tribune following a two-decade-long career in the field.

The News Office is the primary media relations office of the University and is responsible for interacting with media outlets, training faculty on dealing with the media, and publishing the Chicago Chronicle, the University’s official news publication.

According to Julie Peterson, vice president of communications, the position has been vacant since 1999.

“The last director left and the position was never filled,” Peterson said, adding that other staff members under different titles took over some or all of the responsibilities over the past nine years.

When Peterson took her current position last July, one of her stipulations was that she be allowed to fill nine such vacant positions, ranging from support staff to an associate vice president of communications. Kloehn’s hiring is a part of her office’s move to repopulate these positions.

Kloehn said that he wasn’t in the market for a new job, but after suggestions from former colleagues, he began to seriously consider the University’s offer.

“As a reporter, I used to get down to campus from time to time, and I found it exhilarating,” Kloehn said. “The intellectual power is very appealing. Everywhere you go, people are making you think. That same feeling came back when I came back here to look at the job.”

According to Peterson, one of the reasons Kloehn is well-suited for the job is his experience with multimedia journalism. Kloehn was in charge of creating “Be not Afraid: The Epic Papacy of John Paul II,” an award-winning CD featuring video, audio, and interactive documents that accompanied a book by the same name.

“We’re trying to engage in more multimedia avenues so he will be very valuable,” Peterson said. She added that the University is launching a presence on iTunes University, a section of iTunes where colleges can share course content, and increasing multimedia content on the News Office’s website.

“As anybody who’s in the media and consumes media knows, things are changing fast, from the way we hear from our friends to the way we hear about the world,” Kloehn said. “I don’t think anybody’s yet fully figured out how to take advantage of all the opportunities.”

Kloehn emphasized the opportunities that the University would give him to continue exploring the emerging field of journalism. “It’s an unbeatable combination,” Kloehn said.

In addition to his experience in new forms of journalism, Kloehn’s years of writing and editing more conventional forms is crucial as well. But, Kloehn said, he still looks forward to a significant on-the-job training process.

“I have a lot to learn, and that’s fun,” Kloehn said. “In return, I can give [the News Office] some of the experience I’ve built up living and breathing newsroom air for all these years, and how that end makes decisions.”

In spite of the fact that Kloehn will have different responsibilities at the University than at the Tribune, he sees substantial similarities between the two jobs.

“My hope is that with this job, I’ll still be meeting people who are doing fascinating things, learning all I can, and then trying to explain that to other people,” Kloehn said.