Friday, July 8, 2022

Averting his gaze from the wreckage

Robert Feder

     "Did you ever give interviews?" Eric Zorn asked our lunch guest. "Did you ever appear on panel shows?"
     No, of course not.
     "So this is an opportunity..."
     An opportunity, to the former Chicago Tribune columnist. Me, I thought we were going to lunch with our old friend, Robert Feder, to celebrate his retirement after 42 years as the unblinking eye chronicling Chicago media. After being the rare journalist to have worked, at various points in his career, for the Sun-Times, the Tribune, the Daily Herald, Crain's Chicago Business, and WBEZ. If anything significant happened in TV, radio or print, Feder typically had it first. “Hustle, tenacity and humility,” said the Daily Herald’s editor, summing him up well.
     But Zorn, a keener judge of news than I, suggested we should record it, as a kind of exit interview. That sounded like work, but okay. I turned on my digital recorder as we three settled in a booth at L. Woods Tap in Lincolnwood on Tuesday.
     Rob always avoided the spotlight, and it did make sense to shine it on him now that we had the chance. He certainly has a newsman's way of capturing a moment.
      "We are all working in isolation, we're all working at home," he began. "The newsroom is all a myth. It's an idea in the past. And so you decide how long can you keep your sanity and keep pretending you're part of a larger thing."
     Sounds right. Why retire now?
     "For every reason. Everything came together at once," he said. "Within the last five or six years, I lost both my parents and my wife, if that doesn't start you to think about how short life is, what happens when the last day comes, and there's no tomorrow."
     He has nothing lined up. No plans.

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  1. A nice column. For a guy who avoided the spotlight, Mr. Feder is certainly getting a bit of a splash since he retired. Remarkable that the first weekday after his announcement would bring such a big, tragic local story.

    Neil, might I affably suggest that EGD readers would enjoy seeing the swell photo of the 3 of you at L. Woods that Zorn posted?

    I love L. Woods, and it seems like a pretty, pretty good choice for that lunch for 3 gentlemen of a certain age. ; )

  2. The Zorn post recounts the touching story of how Mr. Feder was widowed and then reconnected with his first wife, after 40 years. Which vastly exceeds my 21 years, back when I was 45 (30 years ago this summer...and we are still married).

    At the tender age of 66, Mr. Feder is still relatively young. He's now free to enjoy his life with his former partner, and to travel--something he intends to do. I know I certainly would.

    And I'm betting he's secretly relieved to have retired just three days before Highland Park, where he used to reside. He knew it was finally time to hang it up, and to pass the baton to someone else.

  3. Great interview with a exceptionally smart man. "I learned what to do and what not to do". Those are words to live by and great advice to anyone starting their career. He was the "Go to Guy" everyday for media information. I will miss him. Robert was like one of five people I hoped would never retire because I enjoyed his work every day. He turned me on to this blog. Well, we still have Neil don't you retire any time soon.

  4. 1. L Woods has really great brisket.
    2. So is there anyone to cover the local media now?

    1. Maybe you didn't read to the end of the column: No.


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