Newspapers, in their continual quest to stay in business, have tried just about everything. Last year, marque columnists at major papers began writing letters to subscribers, thanking them for their patronage. Someone at the Sun-Times thought it might be a fine idea if I were tapped to write such a letter. Doing my best to get into the spirit of the thing, I gave it a shot, and produced the following. I turned it in, and never heard anything more about it, which is usually how these things go. Honestly, I don't know whether it was ever sent out. I sure hope not. That said, it is, I hope, not without wit, and I thought I would share it here.
For many years, the Sun-Times has brought you everything you expect in a newspaper; specifically the "Love is..." comic strip, with its two naked sweethearts expounding on the vast complexities of their affection.
I swear, half the readers I talk to, when they hear I work for the Sun-Times, start rhapsodizing about "Love is..." They do that for a while, then eventually look at me, as if seeing me for the first time, and ask, "And what it is you do? Write a column? What sort of column?"
Not that I'm complaining. It's a cute little panel. Very sweet and ... umm ... sugary.
But a newspaper that merely presented a two-inch tall panel, no matter how popular, well, it would look a little thin. So we on the staff of the Chicago Sun-Times work hard, every day to build a dynamic newspaper around the "Love is..." cartoon, so that after you've had your essential fix of the multi-faceted ecstasies of affection, can find out what 's going on in the city, state and world.
We try to offer clarity and consistency in a changing world. Every day for the past 70 years—since Feb. 2, 1948, to be exact—when the Chicago Sun joined the Chicago Times, the combined product has landed on the doorsteps of the city.
For almost exactly half that time—34 years—I've been in the paper, first as a freelancer, then a reporter, then a regular columnist. The powers-that-be asked me to write a note to thank you for subscribing. Without you we truly wouldn't be here, and while we provide you with a portal into Chicago and the world you cannot get anywhere else, you do one better: you pay our salaries, and we are grateful for that, as well as for the other kind of support you show—the news tips, the letters (well, most of the letters. Some people, well, geez, get a hobby...)
But most of all, your loyalty.
Why are you loyal? Beyond an inexplicable addiction to "Love is..."
I like to think it is because you trust the Sun-Times. You know what you get in the paper. A thorough sports section anchored by seasoned pros such as Rick Morrisey and Rick Telander. Investigative stories broken by Tim Novak, Bob Herguth and the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Frank Main. Movie reviews by Richard Roeper. Columns by Mary Mitchell and Mark Brown and, if I may, me.
Plus podcasts and videos and all that modern stuff we're obligated to put out because everyone else does.
You trust us, and we trust you, to stick with us, through thick and thin, to keep reading, and forgive our occasional lapses: those newspapers that get tossed into a bush, for instance.
Part of news writing is being brief, so I won't belabor the point. The Chicago Sun-Times offers a steady platform from which to view our ever-evolving city and world. We try to both maintain a comforting stability while adapting to stay current. We always keep our audience in mind, maintaining your high standards as well as our own, and want you to know how important you are to us, as both readers and a subscribers. We will always be on the lookout for ways to improve our paper, to make it both familiar and fresh, every day, to make what changes are necessary—except, I am quick to add, "Love is..." That stays, forever.
So that after you enjoy "Love is..." there will be important, valuable information, as well as a certain quirky column written by a blowsy curmudgeon, to keep you occupied until the next installment comes around. Thank you for your support in the past, and to come.