I am not an idiot. I like having this blog, but I know that the Tribune does not really need old lady blabbers who do not generate mad numbers of clicks. Sports bloggers are the best, because they post up all the microscopic details that keep people revisiting. People who do surveys are also prized. Or have lists or slide shows that involve multiple journeys from slide to slide. I cannot add photos of the celebrities who frequent my kitchen, like Billy Dec, who can take the pulse of the city. This blog is a little courtesy extended to me by Bill Adee of the Tribune’s interactive division. I think he wanted to link Steve’s home page, which DOES get traffic, but Steve wanted to keep his clicks “in house”, just in case he could figure out how to monetize his site. Bill was nice enough to offer me an orbit bigger than Janet’s Planet.
Who knows how much longer I will be here? My poor husband, who LOVED writing his column for the Tribune, was pruned last Friday, en route to a funeral. They said budget, but Steve figured that despite the fact that his stretch preceded the arrival of Randy Michaels and Lee Abrams, when they left, he lost immunity. And so he left the island. He is pragmatic in the business world. I pout. I may soon be cast aside for lack of posts and clicks. I will turn up somewhere, though. I like to chat. I guess my real question is, should I quit in solidarity?
I am the news junkie out here. Every day starts with my Trib, Sun Times, USA today, and AP headlines. I ditched the Wall Street Journal, but cannot add the New York Times except on weekends. I also pop in to the Detroit Free Press to stay connected to my family. All of this information slithers through my brain like steam, but I am in love with information. I just do not have the capacity to retain a lot of it.
I am feeling disloyal when I spread the Trib out on the kitchen island. I am not sure I should still be blogging here. I will not jump on the bandwagon to castigate Lee Abrams, because he has always been a stand up guy to Steve. Sure, he is not one to be enslaved to conventions like grammar and such- and maybe he was an ill fit with the old-school model of journalism. I can tell you that for better or worse, he does not lie. He asked my son to look at a first generation version of the MTV style “news without people” that he was working on, and Matt was comfortable enough to make observations that challenged Lee’s assumptions about young consumers of news. I have not one inkling of how crazy his job performance was- I can only say that he is a curious, innovative person.
Tribune Company is facing challenges in so many fronts-circulation, reorganization, litigation, revenue- that they needed to button up, I guess. The message circulating in the publishing and broadcasting world is CHANGE OR DIE. When medical patients are given that mandate, they often cling to the bad habits that resulted in their diabetes, heart disease or chronic illnesses. When media employees hear CHANGE, they figure it means job cuts. And so it has. That is a heartbreaking, short term poultice, not a cure. It does not begin to wrestle with the giant issue of what the informational and entertainment delivery system of the future will be. That is hard work, and it is not often done well by people who fear for the loss of their livelihood.
I know that the people still laboring in newsrooms are working harder than ever, with less satisfaction. Journalism rarely means a big payday, but the brotherhood of the newsroom, and the satisfaction of doing important work provides side benefits. But fatigue and disillusionment can create a sad and disgruntled workplace. It is hard to retain good production in that climate. The Tribune is lucky that they still have a fine product, though the amalgamation of content from the affiliated papers, and the loss of local writers (Mo Ryan comes to mind) will eventually reduce our familial connection to the Trib.
So far, I still have my favorites. I have watched Phil Rosenthal masterfully cover this mess for the business section, and I really admire the tightrope he walked. I still love Eric Zorn and Mary Schmich like they are my family. I enjoy Steve Johnson, adore Rick Kogan (and miss him in his diminished role) On the other side, I will NEVER understand why John Kass cannot write a political column without ham fisted titles for politicians. There is plenty of drama in the real names and events. The fable format implies that we require a middle school delivery system. I am not a fan. (I know the Trib does not care if you like him or hate him, as long as you read him.) I like the local reviews, and of course, skim the obits daily, as befits a woman of my years. I am not ready to desert my paper, but since I am connected to Steve, and he is cosmically connected with the exiled evil empire- the Trib just may eradicate me. I cannot say that I blame them. My life lacks the drama that drives clicking. Clicks are what advertisers buy. But I am repeating myself.
I consider this a little manifesto, a palate cleansing as I refocus on whether I have enough color in my life to subject the Chicago Now audience to. Or anything worth clicking to. Stay tuned for a couple of days. Maybe I can figure this out.