Friday, August 06, 2010

Forgottonia: Forgotten Land, Forgotten Newspaper

Forgottonia is the name claimed by 14 western Illinois counties in the 1970s to protest government under-funding of their region. A major catalyst for this was the delay of Interstate 72's extension westward from Springfield toward Kansas City (it seemed like everyone was getting an interstate in those days except the region between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers). Since I-72 was extended to Hannibal, MO and other transportation improvements have been made, the moniker has been fading away.

I learned about Forgottonia in a recent book titled Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It (a fascinating book, though it could be meatier). If I had known about it sooner, there would probably be a Forgottonia Ride in Biking Illinois. This week Forgottonia graces the cover of New City, a Chicago alternative weekly. It's an odd choice for a local newspaper's cover story. By its very nature Forgottonia means little to Chicagoans.

These days, New City itself could be called Forgottonia judging by the thin volume (16 pages) I picked up yesterday. Whether a victim of the newspaper crisis or the recession, this paper doesn't look like it will last much longer. Its demise would be a shame. I used to read it every week when I was young, almost hip, and new to Chicago 15 years ago. Although New City never matched The Reader in size or influence (a tall order since The Reader, even in its current state, is one of the top alternative weeklies in the nation), at least it was much thicker back in the day, and there was always something worth reading within. My favorite feature is the "Chicago Hype Exchange," a brief column picking five local gainers and losers for the past week. I hope that New City, locally owned with 22 years under its belt, can weather the current business cycle and recover.


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Hugh Iglarsh said...

I'm the writer of the New City article referred to here. I think a Forgottonia Bike Tour would be fantastic -- a way of bringing that neglected region exactly what it needs: some positive attention. If I can help in terms of connections, etc., let me know. -- Hugh Iglarsh