OUR TOP STORY OF 2022: The day the stories died

Colin Costello is our West Coast Editor of Reel 360.

Would you believe it if I told you our biggest story of 2022 was about something that couldn’t be found? In late November, Reel Chicago legit went poof. As if Hermione, from Harry Potter, waved a wand and said, “Expecto Patronum.” 

Only it wasn’t a joke.

The secure dedicated server for both Reel Chicago and Reel 360 was insidiously hacked. Why? Who knows. The motivation doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that for 3 tense weeks, Reel Chicago became a blank white page, relying solely on Reel 360 to deliver our Chicago news. And 360 was already on its own knees, gasping for air from the malware attack. 

To you, it’s news. To us, the two outlets being attacked were much more. Stressful. Anger. Emotionally beaten up are adjectives that come to mind. 

And personal. 

Understand this, Reel Chicago and Reel 360 News are passion projects for both myself and publisher Barbara Roche, who spent hours upon hours, while I slept, trying to get the beloved publication back online.

It’s an arduous task that neither of us signed up for when our founder, Ruth Ratny left the publication to Barb in 2017. It’s challenging enough running a seven-day publication, but to have a devastating hack like this-c’mon. That’s just waterboarding us and making us watch Blonde multiple times. 

Here are a few things you may not know about the Reel:

Barb and I talk five to ten times a day discussing what stories to publish that day.

Barb works through the night to publish some of the hundreds of submissions and pitches we receive weekly.

I am up at 5:30 am writing and publishing as many articles as I can before I start work.

It has just been mainly the two of us running two publications since 2020 when others, who didn’t share Barb’s vision, parted ways.

In spite of the attack we experienced another record year of visitors (968,972) and views (1.3 million.)

In its earlier years Reel Chicago was pumping out an average of 400 stories a year, in a single publication. We have grown to two publications pumping out 2000+ stories a year with a teeny, tiny, yet very dedicated team.

So, hacking us and decimating the site with malware, was a big F-U to myself and Barb. But where most people would have run, Barb stood tall. She was determined to keep Ruth’s passion, now ours, going.  

Barb’s vision is grand. It’s passionate. It’s something that I share on the Reel 360 side. It’s what keeps us publishing news until the late hours of the night. We see how much it means not only to Chicago but to the rest of the United States. 

Now, why the hell am I telling you this? Giving you this proverbial peek under our hood?

Chicago needs us. But so does LA. And Minneapolis. And New York. And Philly. And San Francisco. Detroit. Austin. Dallas. And so many more cities. We shine a spotlight on you. We publish the advertising and film stories the big guys won’t. We promote your business, your events, your workshops and festivals. We publish the union news and interviews with industry people you may not be aware of.

We go all out for you.

Now, we need you.

That need comes in the form of donations. Yes, we are back online, but on January 6 we have an enormous invoice to pay to cover the cost of accomplishing that. We need money. Your money. Your support. Please?

To donate to the Reel Chicago Fund, click here. If you don’t do it for us, do it for yourself. So you can remain informed. 

It has cost over $10,000 to get back online after a malware attack.

The invoice is due on January 6



Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at colin@reel360.com or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1