Monday, February 10, 2020

Some covering fire in defense of the Tribune

News boy 1948, by Irving Penn
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)
      One does not often get beseeched, appealed to or entreated. I can’t remember seeing the word “rally” used, not as a noun referring to a gathering, but as a verb, demanding we come together and fight. But there it was, in a posting headlined, “NINA STATEMENT ON ALDEN GLOBAL PURCHASE OF THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.” Right in the opening sentence:
“The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association today calls for journalists, news organizations, units of government and the general public to rally around Tribune Company employee efforts to maintain the integrity of one of our nation’s great news organizations. This statement follows reports that Alden Global, a New York hedge fund, has bought a 32 percent stake in Tribune Publishing.”
     “Journalists?” Hey, that’s me!
     My first thought — God, this is embarrassing — was, “Is the Sun-Times even a member of NINA?” We tend not to join that sort of thing. Save the $250. I checked NINA’s membership. The Hinsdalean. The Woodstock Independent. The Rock Island Argus. Thirteen publications and three individuals. The heart breaks. 

    Whew! I thought. Off the hook.
     Such a petty reaction made me reconsider. What did it even mean to “rally” around the Tribune? Send thoughts and prayers? Lash out at Alden? That loathsome vivisectionist of newspapers, buying them up, selling off assets, hacking away expenses, leaving behind a stripped corpse. Tribune writers are lining up to do that already, ignoring that Alden exists in a gold-plated empyrean of wealth far above the influence of public image. “What matters infamy if the cash be kept?” Juvenal writes.
     What hasn’t been said? There’s the Michael Ferro angle. Ferro sold out to Alden, a petty act of vindictiveness that hasn’t gotten enough scorn. I knew him, slightly, had lunch with him. He had his own wacky notions of where the paper should go — reporters would wear Google glasses and livestream news events that algorithms would automatically chop into videos. Maybe that’s still coming.

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  1. Briefly a Tribune subscriber during the Murdoch era, i havent visited the old relic's pages in a long while. With that said, it would still be a horrible sign to see the end of the challenge of that "other" side.

  2. I agree that having two papers is a boon for readers and for the papers themselves. Also wanted to mention that I’ve thought the accompanying artwork on your blog very strong this past week or so.

  3. Fortunately, Chicago has many sources of information other than the Tribune. NPR's "On the Media" discussed the small towns in New Hampshire that used to vote at midnight and whose electorate had dwindled to zero. The newspapers in such burgs don't have the staff to even report the weather and traffic; all they get is national coverage, press releases run as is. Pretty soon such papers will be as reliable as Pravda.


  4. One assumes the Tribune, like Daniel in the lion's den, will survive but fears that the editorial content will become more Foxlike. I do read it and, although the editorial stance continues to tend right wing, the opinion writers, the Greek guy excepted, seen pretty middle of the road.


  5. At the moment, Chicago is still a two-newspaper town.Be happy the mighty Tribune is still breathing, at least for the time being. Even the Twin Cities still has two newspapers. Here in Cleveland, we have been a one-newspaper town since 1982.

    In the Nineties, and even for most of the Two-Thousandsies, the Cleveland Plain Dealer was still a decent paper that cared about its city and its readers, who had nowhere else to turn. I used to call it the Pain Healer or the Pain Feeler. But as time passed, it became more like the Cleveland Daily Birdcage Liner.

    Good writers got the axe, or took buyouts. Whole sections disappeared. Now, like the Incredible Shrinking City, the PeeDee is probably the same size, most days, as a suburban weekly--or those NINAs in Hinsdale and Woodstock. I imagine the same thing is also happening in Chicago now.

    Print journalism itself appears to be going the way of so many of the very tools that journalists employed daily, things like phone booths and cameras with film, and tape recorders. How many folks on planes, trains, and buses read newspapers anymore? Will they even care, in the age of Orange Julius, if newspapers finally go away? Not so much. They have their bread, and their circuses, and their ubiquitous "devices."

    I had a recent phone conversation with a J-school student (Yes, they still exist). She graduates in June. She also majored in rehabilitation counseling. Which makes her a helluva lot more intelligent and pragmatic, especially about the vicissitudes of Real Life, than I ever was at 23.


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