A reader’s observations about the Alden-owned Tribune

I kept my daily subscription after the Chicago Tribune was acquired in late May by hedge fund Alden Global Capital, known for decimating newsrooms. Here’s what I’ve noticed about the paper since then:

• There are more op-eds from outside contributors, filling space previously taken by Tribune writers. Longtime columnists like Eric Zorn and Mary Schmich, who were among more than 40 staffers to accept buyouts, are irreplaceable — and indeed, they won’t be replaced, according to Robert Feder, who covers Chicago media on his website, robertfeder.com. Op-eds often come from people who represent organizations whose positions they espouse. Such contributors are not as uninvolved as staff writers, but they know their subjects.

• Rex Huppke has been writing fewer humorous columns (a plus, to my taste) and is holding up the progressive end well now that his liberal colleagues have left. Heidi Stevens and Steve Chapman, among those who departed, are picked up from syndicated services but appear less frequently.

• A lot of stories are imported from Tribune Publishing’s suburban newspapers. Few of them interest me.

• The paper seems thinner even though a letter to readers about a reorganization said, “We’ll still have roughly the same amount of news space dedicated to our journalism.” Feder reported that all of Alden’s newspapers were ordered to trim their local and feature space by 20 percent. The weekday Tribune now has three sections after features vanished as a freestanding section.

• It takes me less time to read the daily paper, maybe because I’m skipping those suburban stories.

I might have dropped my daily subscription of 36 years but for Zorn’s urging readers to stay with the paper to support the journalists who remain. Also, I’d have to figure out what to substitute. I subscribed to the Sun-Times for a while and found it lacking in nonlocal news. PBS NewsHour and WTTW’s Chicago Tonight are excellent, but I’m not sure I want to give them two hours every day. My concentration drifts listening to radio news. With Block Club Chicago, I’d have to find other sources for nonlocal news. Truth is, I’m an old-school newspaper person, liking my news in one place every day, preferably to read rather than listen to.

The exodus of Tribune journalists who feared they’d be pushed out the door if they didn’t quit was tragic, and maybe it’s not over. I miss their consistently solid work but think that the Tribune’s news coverage is still worth a subscription. I may have to look elsewhere for more opinion.

*****

MARKING MY 300TH POST

Almost four years ago, I wrote, “This is my 100th post.” Today I can say that this is my 300th post. Retired in Chicago has been a pleasure to keep up, though I wish that I had chosen a name that better describes its anything-goes content.

Much that I wrote for the 100th post link still applies, so I won’t repeat myself. What might be added is the surprise that finding topics has not been a problem. They seem to spring up on their own. Whatever is on mind becomes fodder for a post.

Judging by the scarcity of comments, I might not think enough about whether what’s on my mind interests others. But in all honesty, after a lifetime of producing words for pay, I’m not thinking much about an audience anymore. This is a self-indulgent affair, helping me to sort out my thoughts, feelings, and opinions. My journal does the same thing, so why use a public forum? It commits me to writing regularly and to composing instead of spewing out words. Also, it must be admitted, I like hearing that someone enjoyed a post.

Looking for a retirement angle for the 100th post, I wrote that retirement advisers say that it’s okay to try out activities and drop them if you find they don’t interest you. I hadn’t been sure when I started blogging whether it would seem like a pleasure or an assignment. “If there’s a message in this post, it’s that sometimes you have to stick with something for a while before you realize it’s going to stick,” I wrote. Three hundred posts over 5½ years is a while — but not so long a while that I don’t want to continue.

Comments

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  • Here's a reader who says don't stop.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    Thank you. Don't intend to.

  • Love reading your blog!

  • Congratulations on no. 300! I had someone e-mail me recently about not understanding the commenting process, so maybe that's happened to some of your readers, too. Please keep them coming, or keep going, whichever direction appeals to you.

    By the way, I get the same feeling -- whatever's on my mind has a little click to it to say "Here's your post!"

  • PS I am with you about your observations. I picked up Sunday's paper and thought it felt like an old-time daily one. Big photos are beginning to worry me; when I worked on three little (eight-page) papers for a few years, we'd fill the papers with bigger photos when we didn't have stories that were long enough.

    I miss some of the retired columnists, and I've noticed bylines with web sites or other papers in them which refer to "us" in another city or mention "links below" in print copies. That is disheartening. But the fun of finding a story about something I didn't specify in a search engine is still valuable to me... and the per-issue price is going up worse than subscription prices.

  • Thank you again to my most faithful reader, judging from comments.

    I've noticed, too, that editing has declined at the Tribune, but that was happening before Alden.

  • I like the Suntimes. I like their columnists. But the real concern is that one of the roles of newspapers is to be the watchdog of the community. Online news sources often lack credibility. But it's always been about the money. That part has not changed.

  • In reply to Al Hip:

    You're so right, Al. And Chicago really needs watchdogs.

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