Chicago golf publication takes on a new/old name

You might notice there’s a new, old golf publication making its debut at the 30th Chicago Golf Show. Sound confusing? Let me explain.

Chicago Area Golf was the publication that provided coverage of the Chicago golf scene the last three years. Starting with this issue the publication that will do the same job will be called Chicagoland Golf.

It’s not a big name change, but it’s a meaningful one. Publisher Val Russell, who started Chicago Area Golf in May of 2010, thinks the name change will eliminate some confusion.

“It’s pretty simple,’’ said Russell. “Chicagoland Golf is a name that’s been around for quite some period of time because Phil Kosin published under that name for 20 years.’’

When Kosin succumbed to cancer in 2009 Chicagoland Golf ceased publication.

“When Phil passed I wanted to continue something similar to it,’’ said Russell. “Phil’s wife wasn’t interested in selling the name, so I started a new product. The long and short of it is that I still get checks and emails referring to us as Chicagoland Golf. It’s the name people refer to as our product. It just made sense to use a name that people recognized.’’

The confusion carried over to the Chicago Area Golf website.

“Somebody had that website name, so we had to go with www.chicagogolfonline, which didn’t match our publishing name,’’ said Russell. “We were able to pick as our website name. That’s important from a business standpoint as we go into 2013.’’

Russell doesn’t expect resistance to the name change.

“It’s really not a trademark or copyright,’’ he said. “Chicagoland Golf’s name is too common. In the publishing world you either use it or lose it. Part of my decision to use it is that I wanted to do it before someone else does.’’

Kosin started his publication in 1989, but it had a predecessor with a very similar name. Charles Chudek, who died in December, published Chicagoland Golfer in the 1960s.

“Some might be offended,’’ said Russell, “but the name has been around a long time in the Chicago marketplace. We’re not trying to undermine what Phil had done, but rather align our publication with what people related to. And our corporate name has always been Chicagoland Golf Media Inc.’’

Russell’s first issue came out in May, 2010. It was the first of six issues published that year. There were seven in both 2011 and 2012. The first each year is published to coincide with the Chicago Golf Show, then there are issues on a monthly basis from May through September and a fall issue that comes out in late October.

Coinciding with the name change is Russell’s decision to finally run his own picture in the publication.

“I’ve been asked why my picture isn’t in the paper,’’ he said, “but I’ve always been in the background side of publishing and didn’t feel the need to see a picture of me. Now there’s no reason not to.’’

Russell’s professional background has been in publishing. He grew up in Wyoming, where his father worked for a variety of small newspapers.

“I grew up in publishing, and I followed in his footsteps,’’ Russell said.

Eventually he took a job with the Audit Bureau of Circulation, where his focus was magazines. During his 17-year stint in that role he settled in Chicago. A Hampshire resident, he’s lived in the area since 1983.

From 2000-2010 he had his own consulting practice and he also taught a course called The Magazine Project at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism for eight years.

“My name has been printed in the mastheads of 200 million magazines over the years – and that number might be conservative,’’ said Russell. “I’ve worked for a lot of publishers over the years.’’

He opted for his own publication when his consulting practice was winding down, the result of the magazine industry declining to about one-third of what it was in its heyday. His first venture was Rockford Life, which was published in 2006 and 2007.

“It died a miserable death. We weren’t welcomed by the local newspaper,’’ said Russell.

Chicago Area Golf came next, a venture spurred in part by his interest in the game. He has been a member of the Northern Illinois Men’s Amateur Golf Assn. since 1988 and was on that group’s board from 19996-2007. Now he plays in a group called the Cog Hill 18. His handicap, once a 5, is now an 11.

“I like to play tournament golf, and I like to play social golf when I can,’’ he said. “Once you’re in this industry you don’t have as much time.’’

In addition to Chicagoland Golf Russell works as client services director for Omeda, a Northbrook-based firm that manages subscriber files for publishers.

He entered the golf publishing world at a difficult economic time, with both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times in bankruptcy. Chicago Area Golf, though, withstood the struggles. With the name change the new Chicagoland Golf will sport a spiffy new logo and Jason Clary, who had been at Century Publishing in Evanston, has come aboard as art director.

“We’ll have a new name, but be the same great paper,’’ said Russell. “We’ll continue what we’ve been doing. Our focus has always been golf in Chicago – be it a professional tournament or the junior game. That’s all we’re about. You won’t see articles on event the Masters or U.S. Open unless someone from Chicago does something spectacular.’’