Chicago for decades had enjoyed the honorific of being America's "best newspaper town." That was until foreigners and out-of-towners gained control of the Chicago Sun-Times. Now, with the new ownership, not a Brit, Australian or Canadian is in sight, and glory be to God for that.
A parade of foreign owners, publishers and editors has trooped through the Sun-Times newsroom since Marshall Field V knifed it in 1984 by selling it to Rupert Murdoch. Some of them were quite good, and some were truly atrocious. All had to be educated in the ways of Chicago journalism and the Chicago Way. Too many thought they knew what Chicagoans "really" wanted in their newspaper, and ended up ruing the day.
The worst, of course, were convicted felon Conrad Black and his nasty henchman, David Radler, who never came to understand Chicago, ran the paper into the ground, and stripped it as bare as an abandoned Chicago bungalow to enrich the boss. And brought in two editors from Vancouver, of all places, to run the paper.
But take a close look at the newspaper's new owners, and it is very heavily weighted with Chicagoans. Investors, business executives, technology innovators and entrepreneurs. The first thing I hope they do is retain the veteran Chicago journalists who run the paper--Don Hayner (editor-in-chief), Andrew Herrmann (managing editor) and Tom McNamee, editorial page editor. I've worked with them all during my days at the Sun-Times and they're all first-class newsmen, solidly planted in the Chicago tradition of quality journalism.
Another hopeful sign for the newspaper is the new owners' determination to bring the newspaper into the digital age in big and creative ways. The company owns more than 40 newspaper titles in the Chicago area, giving readers perhaps the biggest source of Chicago-area content available anywhere. Time will be needed for the new owners to marshal all that content in new and better ways to serve readers and advertisers.
The conventional wisdom is that Chicago can't sustain two major dailies. Maybe not in printed form, but I dare predict that there always will be a Sun-Times and Tribune. And that Chicago will proudly recapture the accolade as America's best news(paper) town.