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Can Chicago Actually Improve Its Own Media?

Thomas F. Roeser 30 October 2009 8 Comments

Can Tyree Make the Shift?

Jim Tyree who heads the group that just bought the Sun-Times says he won’t change anything in its editorial content. God, what a shame. The question remains is Tyree stating this for public consumption while quietly making fixes, or is he sticking to an editorial strategy that has failed the Sun-Times in the past.

The problem is that the Sun-Times has a lot of great assets as a newspaper-and lamentably some huge defects. The assets are a great news-staff with a number of super-stars including Fran Spielman and Abdon Pallasch. The paper really and truly does cover Chicago news better than the Tribune…more scoops certainly. It has toned down its more flamboyant coverage. The front-page design has improved and is slightly more demure: i.e. the flaming era where a 4-column photo showed two lesbians swabbing spit has passed. Jack Higgins, its Pulitzer prize-winner still continues to be great.

The things wrong with the paper are almost all of its rabidly left-wing columnists starting with Steinberg and moving through the aging bachelor boy who is getting up there but is supposed to appeal to kids: Roeper. Mercifully Falsani has moved to California but I give her credit for adopting a very ill child and I could read her if she didn’t comment on religion. Huntley, a vestige of the past, is a much better national-international issues columnist than I had supposed when he took over that beat.

But I must say again: I’m smart enough to know there should be at least two liberal columnists but there is no conservative columnist that covers Chicago with astute reasoning to match Dennis Byrne. There appears to be a definite bias at the Sun-Times against anyone who has what is now the majority opinion on abortion (check the latest Rasmussen: a majority is seriously questioning the old liberal nostrums: abortion, same-sex marriage). Stella is all right and Sneed, while cotton candy, for some reason always catches my eye with something I didn’t know.

Now if Tyree wants to truly save the paper, wouldn’t he start with the editorial content? The tone of the paper should move to the Right simply because its present stance-knee-jerk and roughly equivalent to being the uptown edition of the old Daily Worker-doesn’t make it. It’s a lefty publication in an attempt to appeal to blacks but frankly the unpalatable but undeniable truth is this: not that many blacks read this newspaper, nor do they come close to the Leftist opinion on matters of eduction and abortion. Their own historic newspaper The Defender which flourished in the less-modern past has gone kaput.

But the fact is that Lefties publish a good number of newspapers not because they’re too dumb to recognize that leftism doesn’t pay-but for personal reasons: to appeal to their friends. Just like Hollywood. They make leftwing films to appeal to their port-side soul-mates. The Tyree era could be just another milestone on the path to permanent insolvency if he doesn’t influence the editorial-commentary content right-ward. That means ousting Marin and the rest, kicking out the editorial page editor and moving the thing not SO far right but definitely TO THE RIGHT.

The Tribune.

The Tribune’s superstar is John Kass. Do I like him because he’s a Republican? No-because he’s not a Republican: he has heaped scorn on the Republican half of the Combine. He’s conservative. I ask you: where is it written in the stars or elsewhere that a newspaper can’t have a conservative as a columnist? Kass is everlasting proof that someone with a moderately conservative view can be successful. Why is he the only one in the whole damned paper full-time who is?

The news staff over there, though, is distinctly second rate compared to the Sun-Times. Their best Chicago writer who covered City Hall has departed. David Greising who wrote business…albeit a Lefty…was excellent on his beat. Well he’s gone. The new cartoonist is acceptable: not Higgins’ quality but is getting better.

But the important thing is this: the paper has moved perceptibly away from looking like USA TODAY-but has become more of a magazine rather than a newspaper. Why is that? Who’s great idea was this? In the old days…and remember I am old enough to be approaching the Prophet Abraham in years…in the old days when there were four papers-The Tribune, The Daily News, The Chicago American, the old tabloid Times-it was the Tribune that covered Chicago news including politics like a blanket. The Daily News had the outstanding foreign staff and some very good columnists: Howard Vincent O’Brien incomparable. The American was the flashy sensationalist. Nowadays the Trib has Kass, Denny Byrne As an Op Ed and pfffffft that’s it.

The Chicago News Cooperative.

Last week it was announced that a creature called The Chicago News Cooperative was formed. It’s funded by the MacArthur Foundation and looks to me like an out-of-retirement project for old liberal journalists who’ve been bounced…to take them off the street. There’s irony in the fact that the head man will be Jim O’Shea, former managing editor of The Tribune who was eased out of there and made editor of its Los Angeles Times where he either was canned or walked out. In any case, looking at the roster, it seems very like Resurrection Day for old liberal journalists-which God knows we don’t need any more of. It looked for awhile like Jim Warren would go over there…probably the most liberal of the bunch…who was the Washington editor of the Tribune, known for his crusade against journalists who speak at special functions for big honoraria.

Warren kept writing about them for a purpose that seemed obvious to me: nobody asked him to speak for fancy prices. And why would they? Have you ever read anything by him or heard him say on WGN anything remotely fresh and apart from conventional wisdom? But no, he thought about it but has become a Top Dog at that sprightly journal of superior culture and taste, The Reader…which features a truly colorful column by a homosexual who advises on both straight and gay relationships…also a column labeled “Free S-t.” Isn’t that lovely?

Speaking of which, none other than our Big Jimbo…you know who I mean…the ex-Republican governor Jim Thompson who breathes in unison with Daley…is going to have his law firm Winston & Strawn do pro-bono legal for them. Just as he did for bulbous-nosed old George Ryan.

And huzza! CNC has just signed a contract with the premier leftist newspaper in the nation-The New York Times-to produce two pages of “exclusive editorial content” twice a week-Friday and Sunday. Gawd a revival of the last 20 years of failed journalism, now recycled for our reading pleasure. Can hardly wait.


Tom Roeser is the Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Chicago Daily Observer.


  • Rick Kogan said:

    Dear 90-year-old, irrelevant, bitter, mean-spirited, genius:

    Before you launch into the same tirade you’ve done a hundred times before—“I never had a career, I’m jealous, I’m racist, I’m anti-Semitic, I hate Roeper, blah blah blah”–it might help to learn basic grammar. Your headline should be “Its,” not “It’s.” That’s the first of 14 errors in grammar in your piece. Do you even know what the other ones are?

  • John Powers said:

    Headline is all mine. Thanks for the tip Rich! Keep up the good work.

  • Dan Kelley said:

    Mister Kogan,

    I hope that your prediction is accurate and TR continues writing columns after reaching his ninetieth birthday and beyond.

    It might help you to learn how to check your facts before posting a comment criticizing others for making a grammatical error. You added nine calendar years to the age of the gentleman in question.

  • rick kogan-tribune said:

    Well, there may indeed be another rick kogan out there, but this rick kogan, who works for the tribune and has worked for the sun times and daily news and appreciates commentary of any kind, even over-heated and wrong-headed, did not send the previous message.

  • exDC said:

    Regardless of who pointed out the miserable grammatical gaffe in the headline, and who corrected it, it’s (correct usage) still showing up on Yahoo’s distillation of headlines! How embarrassing for you.

  • John Powers said:


    I wrote the headline, and am not embarrassed at all by it. I had a vomiting two year old resting on my shoulders at the time I typed it and made only a basic auto-edit.

    I am perfectly capable of spelling and typing errors without the baby vomit catalyst, but still have no shame. One of the beautiful things about the English language is that the point gets across in my pidgin just like it does in more polished prose.

    The error was fixed, and it is completely possible to move on without remorse.


  • Mary Vondrak said:

    Rick Kogan- When I first read the Rick Kogan comment, I wondered if someone else was using the name. I’m happy to read the disclaimer under rick kogan-tribune because I couldn’t believe that the son of Herman Kogan and the nephew of Bernard Kogan (my college rhetoric instructor) would stoop to the level of such snarky name-calling and put-down. The second reply has more of the style and class that I have long read and listened to, even though my thoughts and age are more closely aligned with Mr. Roeser’s. But then, I also appreciate commentary, even over-heated and wrong-headed.

  • Pat Hickey said:

    Indeed Ms. Vondrack! Rick Kogan and Tom Roeser are gentlemen of the 1st Cloth and the gutless commenter would not be found in the company of Ladies, or gentlemen.

    We generally find such mules drinking bottom-slimes ( the spiders, or last gulps of an unfinished, or declined beverage) in bust-out joints out here in the neighborhoods.

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