Blue Sky takes innovative approach to new ideas

Andrea Hanis

Andrea Hanis

Think of it as a startup about startups.

The Chicago Tribune has fielded a seasoned team of editors and reporters to launch a business news enterprise dedicated to covering the city's entrepreneurs and innovators.

Blue Sky Innovation debuted Monday in the newspaper's business section, offering highlights of content from the new free-standing digital hub at A premium website and newsletter focusing on the innovation, high-tech and entrepreneurial scene kicked off last Wednesday.

Although aimed at a niche audience — “from startup entrepreneurs to innovative executives in established companies” — Monday's sampler featured an interview with Dyson CEO Max Conze of vacuum cleaner fame, an entry in the list of top Chicago innovations (No. 18: the zipper), and a calendar of upcoming events.

The Blue Sky initiative comes despite a mandate for across-the-board cutbacks at Tribune Co. print properties. CEO Peter Liguori last month ordered the company's seven daily newspapers to come up with $100 million in budget cuts in preparation for spinoff of the publishing side of the business. But plans for Blue Sky had been in the works for months, having grown out of market research on the topic of innovation last year.

“There are great things happening all over Chicago, and we see a need and opportunity to capture and chronicle it,” Tribune editor Gerry Kern said in announcing the launch. “We intend Blue Sky's news and information, events, profiles and case studies to provide both data and inspiration for the next set of big ideas.”

Leading the Blue Sky team is editor Andrea Hanis, a veteran of Crain's Chicago Business, who came to the Tribune as planning editor for the business section in 2011. At Crain’s, she launched Business of Life, a weekly section focusing on the workplace culture, and added popular columns by Shia Kapos and Mary Frey. Before joining Crain’s in 2004, Hanis spent 11 years at the Sun-Times, where she worked as travel editor and lifestyles editor.

Working with her are deputy editor Pete Reinwald, who spearheaded the Tribune e-book project, and veteran reporters James Janega, former manager of the audience engagement unit Trib Nation, and John Carpenter, former Sun-Times reporter who edited Homicide Watch Chicago. Contributors include business writers Melissa Harris and Wailin Wong.