Chicago Sun Times: The Sybil of Newspapers

Chicago Sun Times: The Sybil of Newspapers

Though the Tribune extends gracious hospitality to me here, I cheat on them.

I am a newspaper junkie.  I also receive the Sun Times and USA Today, as well as my local weekly paper and the Sunday New York Times.  I quit the Wall Street Journal when Murdoch bought it, but I only miss the Weekend sections.  I’m lowbrow. Each paper fills a place in my heart and a niche in my brain.

The Sun Times asks the most for my fidelity. Not financially, but emotionally.

The CST has a split personality, a serious fissure.  There is a core of news/features/sports surrounded by spongy load of junk:  gossip, society pictures, goofy headlines, tabloid style pictures. Sex sells, blood sells, celebrity sells. It is a new business model.

At first I was  annoyed by it.  Now I am sensing that the Wrapports scheme is working for me. There are unintended consequences to delegating 30% of your paper to the great nothingness.

The Jenny McCarthy/Pulse/society slobbering sections are so awful and pandering that the journalists  still in residence are working their asses off to counter-program the pap. They will not be disrespected.

They will stack their diplomas and credentials up against Jenny’s ….centerfold….any day.

They are counting upon us, the readers, to edit what they would love to delete.

I can do that.

The writers are bringing it.  The most recent investigative work concerned the Hispanic Charter School organization, UNO. It seems that this group is applying the same structure to serving their public that the city does: reward insiders, support candidates that can direct money to you, hire politically connected companies to say thank you.  You can read it here.  And Mark Brown comments upon the work in a non-inflammatory and precise way here. Do the ends justify the means?  Should  millions of state grant money be directed through the funnel of political influence? I thought about this story long after my paper hit the recycling bin.

The Sun Times lacks the heft of former years.  Still,  the effort that goes into producing it should not be taken for granted.  I grudgingly choose to forgive the owners for bringing me Jenny McCarthy in a bathtub on Sunday.  If it takes the cross promotion of their “digital columnist” to ensnare other readers, so be it.  (Who are these people that wish to get into the mind of Jenny?  Who would ever entrust a decision to her advice column? Sorry, I digress..) Pulse/Smash/Whatever Else…that is why Evelyn Wood made skimming. When the reportage is submerged by the Playboy models and gossip mongers, I will jump off the Titanic.  Not yet.

I grew up in a town with a morning newspaper (Detroit Free Press) and an afternoon one. (Detroit News)  We subscribed to both, and so there is a basis to my fidelity to news. The Free Press had the personality, and the News had the serious cred.

In the ’90’s there was a terrible strike by the unions, forcing the writers to choose: to write or support the mechanical side of production.  Calico Cat and Gingham Dog type fighting took place every day among the staff. There were no winners, just lost readers, jobs, friendships.

Both are melded into one paper today, and they only deliver on Thursday, Friday and Sunday.  Subscribers access online content. There is no thud on the porch.  Times change. People adapted. It makes me sad.

That is why I support both dailies while I can. There are writers I scoff at, opinions I reject, pages I never linger upon.  The two papers here are fighting for their lives;  it is a gallant battle.  It is essential for the citizens of this country to have a free press.  How else can we be informed, not just programmed?

I hope for both papers to survive and prosper.  Jenny Mac is not for me.  Neither are horoscopes. If the economics of publishing are enhanced by these offerings, fine.

In the meantime, I appreciate the overcompensation by the writers and reporters at the Sun Times. I also honor the Trib staff, for laboring under ridiculous uncertainties and financial havoc.  So much great work is done here.  Chicago is a newspaper town. Long may she be.

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