Chicago has an illustrious newspaper history. Many early papers, including the Chicago Tribune, made their early profits as printing companies. News reportage was a secondary add-on to the printing business.
Prior to the Civil War, Chicago had 11 daily papers and 23 weekly publications. Most of the papers did not last long. Many papers were partisan, being Democrat or Republican.
By 1900, Chicago had nine newspapers.
During the 20th Century, the dominant papers in the city were the Tribune, Sun-Times, Daily News, and the weekly Defender, described as the most powerful African-American newspaper. There was also the Daily Racing Form, a national newspaper devoted to horse racing. It was started in 1894 and continues today.
William Randolph Hearst tried to infiltrate Chicago news causing violent and brutal circulation wars between the Tribune and Hearst's papers. Things got so bad, gangster Al Capone, was asked to step in. Hearst lost and shut down his operations.
The Chicago Sun-Times is the oldest continuing newspaper in the city. It was established in 1844 as the Chicago Daily Journal. The Chicago Fire did not damage the Journal building. They gave the Tribune a temporary home until they could find a new building.
The paper went through various name changes until it was acquired by Field Enterprises, who owned the Chicago Sun. The Sun-Times eventually bought the afternoon Chicago Daily News. When that paper ceased operations, the Times took on many of their reporters.
Through the decades the Times was bought and sold to various investors. Like the Tribune, the Times suffered from harsh economic realities cursing the newspaper business and investors looking to cash in.
The newspaper business is now a billionaire's and hedge fund operator's game. Witness the sale of the venerable Washington Post to Amazon's Jeff Bezos. For awhile, hedge fund operators were major investors in the Chicago Tribune.
The news business changed over the past quarter century. With the rise of the internet and cable news, speed dominates. The days of deadlines are gone. The deadline is reporting the news as it happens in real-time.
The internet destroyed most long-form journalism. People do not want to read anything longer than 500-700 words. A thousand, if the piece is compelling.
Attention spans are shrinking as fast as newspaper profits. We want to read more stories quickly.
Advertising, the financial lifeblood of news, changed too. Rates dropped. On the internet, there is more advertising for less money. Another turnoff for the reader and belt tightener for the publishers.
The Chicago Sun-Times is in trouble. Big trouble.
The Times owner, Wrapports, wants to sell. tronc, the owner of the Chicago Tribune offered to buy the financially ailing paper's assets. From reports, Wrapports wants tronc to buy the Sun-Times. Federal regulations require bids from other buyers.
Another investment group led by former Alderman Edward Eiesendrath is looking to buy. There is no word if the money is there or an official bid has been made. There is also no word if other groups are looking to bid for the paper.
If no deal comes through by Monday and the feds block the sale to tronc, the Sun-Times said will fold. The death knell will be struck. It will be the end of one of the finest newspapers in America. A paper with a rich history and list of great reporters and columnists too long to put here.
Chicago will be a one newspaper town. Important voices will be silenced. The Sun-times is the paper that rides the L and buses. Yes, it is a mere shadow of its former scrappy self. But, the paper is still a fighter for those with no voice.
The Sun-Times should be rescued by people who love newspapers. People who can run a newspaper business and provide compelling reportage. There has to be a way for the newspaper business to figure out a method to provide real journalism and profit from it.
Since the business end is changing, maybe it is time for universities and J-schools to offer classes on the business end of journalism. Offer the equivalent of an MBA for journalism.
Consumers need to lengthen their attention spans or the dumbing down of America will continue.
It would be a great stain on this city of the Times were to fold and be relegated to the trash heap of history. The losers will be the people of Chicago. A newspaper is a living breathing being.
Murder is a crime. It would be a heinous crime to let the Sun-Times fold.
Filed under: Uncategorized