Let’s Kick a Beat with Jim Dallke of Chicago Inno

Here at 3Points, we get a lot of newsletters every day. Many we just skim, some we delete. But one we always look forward to — the one that has us checking our inbox every weekday around 3 PM — is The Beat. Produced by Chicago Inno, an excellent Chicago online news publication with a focus on the city’s tech scene, The Beat distinguishes itself by being comprehensive, yet light and readable. Each edition helps us stay up-to-date and provides plenty of laughs along the way.

Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of getting to know Chicago Inno’s crack team of reporters. Recently, we sat down with Jim Dallke, associate editor at Chicago Inno, to chat about two of our favorite things: journalism and Chicago tech. As Jim says at the start of each newsletter, “let’s kick a beat.”

Can you give our readers some background on Chicago Inno? How and when did Chicago Inno come about? What is the publication’s mission?

Now Inno is in several other cities — Austin, the Twin Cities, Rhode Island, Cincinnati, and Atlanta — all under the banner of American Inno. There will be more cities coming in 2018 as well. [What separates us is that] we cover startups and innovation locally. We’re the boots on the ground covering local startup ecosystems.

How much do you work with the Inno teams in other cities?

What is your role at Inno? How long have you been there? How did you end up there?

It was just a team of three to start — Will Flanagan [now the national director of product and strategy for American Inno], a sales coordinator, and me. The team got to six people, then we relocated some to Inno’s home base in Charlotte. The team in Chicago is four people right now.

How did you end up writing about tech?

You mentioned writing for Cincinnati sometimes — do you often write for other cities?

Does every Inno city have The Beat? Or just Chicago?

How long has The Beat newsletter been around? What’s the process for putting it together?

The fun thing is it’s different in every city. It’s anchored by the personalities in each city — it’s not just a boilerplate newsletter. Every writer and every city decides the tone, how it feels. That’s how it has grown.

The Beat does take time to put together. It’s not just throwing 10 links into an email and pressing send — it’s a labor of love. Still, The Beat is the thing we get the most feedback on. It’s what resonates the most with our audience, and it’s a product that’s really helped us grow as a company.

In terms of my role specifically, I’m kind of anchoring how it is put together, the structure of it, and what we’re covering that day. I’m the one who hits “send.” But there is a lot of back and forth, and the newsletter is often based off conversations had in the office.

The Beat is really a living beast, 24/7. We’re working on it up until I hit send. Then, after I hit send, we’re working on the next one. We’re always thinking about stories we want to put in and talk about. It’s always top-of-mind.

Does all that responsibility ever get to you?

What do you think it means to be a tech journalist today?

Our goal is to make tech coverage and news as accessible as possible. We want to get as many people in Chicago as possible learning about the tech and startup scene.

On a broader level, what do you think it means to be a journalist in general today?

If you ask journalists, whether at The New York Times or Chicago Inno, the goal is to write good, truthful, and compelling stories about the subjects you’re covering, and I believe that’s what we’re doing.

We really enjoy the “Rants & Ramblings” section of The Beat what’s your favorite “Rants & Ramblings” you’ve ever sent out?

Even if you’re not interested in what’s going on in Chicago tech that day, hopefully “Rants and Ramblings” makes you laugh, and gives you a reason to open the newsletter.

How do you think the Chicago tech scene compares to other cities’?

Are there more tech jobs in 2018 than in 2017? Was there more revenue in 2018 than in 2017? Can Chicago be a place for college grads to live? Is it possible for people who want to work in technology to get a great job, buy a house, and create a great quality of life? I think Chicago absolutely can.

Chicago is not NYC or Silicon Valley — Chicago is Chicago. It’s a big city, a great city, and people who want to work in tech and live in Chicago can do that.

We know reporters are constantly getting pitches from people like us — what makes for a pitch that you actually want to read and follow up on?

Any suggestions for opening paragraphs or subject lines?

How do you spread the word about Inno?

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