Editor Elder quits DNAInfo Chicago on eve of launch

With the launch of DNAInfo.com Chicago just around the corner, Robert K. Elder suddenly resigned this week as managing editor of the hyperlocal digital news service.

Elder, who recruited most of the 20 or so reporters and editors to the startup operation, said he’s leaving to work on a number of television projects. Included among them is a development deal with Chicago-based Towers Productions, negotiated by his agents at William Morris Endeavor.

Although he acknowledged a culture clash with his bosses in New York, Elder insisted that he fully believes in the mission of DNAInfo.com, which is expected to launch sometime next month online and over a variety of mobile platforms.

“The timing could not have been better for me, but I do regret the timing for the staff,” Elder told me. “That’s the most painful part of it — leaving the talented, award-winning staff I adore. Many are also my personal friends. But in terms of the product, it is still the right idea at the right time. I’ll be reading it with rapt attention.”

A spokesman for the company said Elder "has helped us build an amazing staff of award-winning journalists who are ready to hit the ground running in Chicago and we wish him the best." A successor for him is expected to be named.

Elder, 36, a veteran of the Chicago Tribune and AOL Huffington Media Group’s Patch.com, joined DNAInfo.com last April to lead the rollout of the neighborhood news organization. Since then, he assembled a lineup of seasoned journalists, including two senior editors — Justin Breen from the Times of Northwest Indiana, and Jen Sabella, from the Huffington Post and the Sun-Times. Among reporters are Sun-Times Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Konkol.

With offices at 233 North Michigan Avenue, the operation is modeled after DNAInfo.com/New York, which began in 2010. The enterprise is headed and funded by Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade Inc. and father of Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts. The name is short for Digital News and Information.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)