At least not yet
The massive exodus of talent from the Chicago Tribune is, according to former editor Ann Marie Lipinski, indeed “staggering.”
An estimated 40 journalists are taking the buyouts being offered by the paper’s new owners, the Alden Global Capital hedge fund. The slaughter has generated an impressive number of readers who, in protest, are cancelling their subscriptions. Especially impressive is the stampede of regular readers of conservative columnist John Kass (see https://johnkassnews.com)
As upset as this crass demolition of a great newspaper makes me, I’m not cancelling my subscription. Because I don’t want this important voice in Chicago journalism to fail.
This isn’t new. I was a reporter (science and technology writer) for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1984 when Rupert Murdoch bought it from the Field brothers. Murdoch was widely despised in the business and, as some observers confidently predicted, would trash and eventually kill the Sun-Times. Popular columnist Mike Royko, the entire editorial board and other top-notch journalists fled to the Tribune and elsewhere.
Leaving the rest of us behind. Some of us didn’t have the opportunity to leave and a few, like investigative door-kicker Charles Nicodemus* stayed. (Disclosure: A few months later I was offered and took a great job in corporate public relations. About two years later, the corporation was consumed in a take-over and my job was eliminated. The Sun-Times asked me to return as a columnist and editorial writer, and I did,.)
It didn’t get much attention at the time, but the people who stayed at the paper were heroic. They fought like hell to keep the paper going, doing great journalism with a depleted staff. In the face of ridicule and censure.
Yet they persevered. The paper went through several ownership changes, innumerable management purges and a bankruptcy. Yet, the Sun-Times still is plugging away, defying the doomsayers and doing great journalism with a small staff. They deserve high praise for keeping Chicago a two-newspaper town.
So, I likewise admire the Tribune journalists who stay to keep the fight going despite the immense odds against them. They will be working for a newspaper whose reputation will be relentlessly trashed. They will work in the shadows of the the departed writers and editors who get all the attention. The challenges will be huge.
So, don’t blame them if the newspaper doesn’t succeed. Honor them and support them.
*Nico, as he was called in the newsroom, exemplified the gritty determination to keep the Sun-Times a strong voice. Read Michael Miner’s Nico’s obit in the Reader to get a feel for Nico’s courage and his achievements. Chief among them was his nearly single-handed investigation that kept Chicago from making the huge mistake of constructing the new central library in an old Goldblatt’s department store building. Thank Nico for the Harold Washington Library.To subscribe to the Barbershop and be notified when I post, type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.