Enough already! Please, make the bloodletting stop. Over the last couple of weeks, it’s been heartbreak after heartbreak as yet another writer exits the Chicago Tribune.
As most of you know by now, among the horde of talented notables who took buyout offers from the Trib’s new owner, Alden Global Capital, are columnists Dahleen Glanton, Heidi Stevens, Eric Zorn, John Kass and Mary Schmich.
In full disclosure, many of the greats had already left the building, including Barbara Brotman, Mark Caro, Monica Eng, Jimmy Greenfield, food critic Phil Vettel and architecture critic Blair Kamin.
No matter what happens next, the Chicago Tribune, which once billed itself as the “world’s greatest newspaper,” will be, well, lacking.
The paper will never be the same. Chicago will never be the same. Neither will journalism. Neither will I.
When I was growing up in the 1950s, the oldest of three siblings, we lived on the first floor of a three-flat in South Shore. We were, in retrospect, middle class–although it didn’t always feel that way after returning from our yearly Mother’s Day trek to Glencoe, hometown of our distant cousins.
At that point, we may not have achieved the American dream of owning a single-family home, but one thing we never did without was newspapers.
It was the glory days for newspapers, each one fat with advertisements, which helped pay the papers’ bills. We got four, count ’em, four newspapers delivered to our door. The Tribune and Sun-Times in the morning, the Daily News and the American in the afternoon.
I started reading newspapers for the comics, but by the time I was nine, I began devouring the rest of the paper. For me, newspapers became a connection to the world outside of our insulated neighborhood.
I must admit, I always searched out Ann Landers advice column first and even sent away for her brochure about how to overcome shyness, which, sadly, didn’t work.
Later, as a young advertising copywriter, I didn’t need a cup of java in the morning, but the day didn’t start out right if I didn’t get a chance to glance at my Trib. I loved the various feature sections–food, health, women– sections that came and went.
Although I liked writing print ads and TV commercials, coming up with, hopefully, bright ideas to market hair care products, food products, the Illinois State Lottery and more, I dreamed of being a journalist. Of writing for the Trib.
My bachelor’s degree was in education (another story for another time), but I had no formal training in journalism. That’s zero. Zilch. Nada.
What I did do was read the Tribune news stories and opinion columns assiduously.
I studied the work of the news reporters, the feature writers, the columnists, especially, especially, Mary Schmich, whose column had long since replaced Ann Landers, as my go-to-first in the paper.
I learned from her. I was inspired by her. Her wisdom, wit, insight, humility, her ability to tell a story simply, graciously, intelligently, unpretentiously.
Her raw honesty, especially when it came to her family. I was awestruck that she could hit it out of the park most every day.
Some 25 years ago, I got to see my dream realized. When my first feature story appeared in the paper– “By Judy Marcus, Special to the Tribune,” my freelancer byline read back then, I literally jumped up and down for joy.
Thanks to studying the work of the Tribune greats (including Rick Kogan. Please don’t go, Rick!), I went on to write Trib stories about everything from recumbent bicycle riders to bakeries to families affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
My goal was always to write opinion pieces, and eventually, I got my wish (although there were many rejections in between). I have had the privilege to express my thoughts on an array of topics and see them printed in the op-ed pages of the Chicago Tribune.
To those staffers who have already left or are in the processing of saying sayonara to the the Trib, I want you to know this: You’ve informed me. Entertained me. Moved me to tears. You’ve influenced my life.
You taught me how to interview. How to write (in my own style, of course).
I thank you all, with a special shout-out to the unsung heroes, the former Trib editors: Marcia Lythcott, Maria Mooshil, Denise Joyce, Mary Jane Grandinetti, Lara Weber and others, for being my private mentors, who in spite of often being on deadline, were never too busy to help guide this freelancer.
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