Friday, February 5, 2016

Should “We Are Family” now be the unofficial theme for our newspapers?

I’m not sure what Col. Robert McCormick, the long-time Chicago Tribune publisher famed for imposing his rigid thought process on the newspaper, would think of the latest actions regarding the management of his publication.

On the one hand, it seems that when the great Chicago newspaper war comes to an end in the future, it will be the Chicago Tribune as the “last man standing,” so to speak.

BUT THE TRIBUNE Publishing company that now controls the newspaper has a new majority shareholder – and it’s the guy whose management of the Chicago Sun-Times has turned that publication into the skimpy, scrawny sorry excuse of a newspaper that it has become.

Tribune officials announced Thursday that Michael Ferro will become the new nonexecutive chairman of Tribune Publishing’s governing board. His Merrick Media company now owns nearly 17 percent of Tribune Publishing, and Ferro himself will maintain an ownership share of Wrapports, Inc., the company that operates the Chicago Sun-Times.

Of course, some would argue that since the Tribune already is printing the physical copies of the Sun-Times, there is a tie between the two publications that makes them one.

How long will it become before the kind of copy-sharing that the Sun-Times brought to the suburban publications it used to own (and which it sold to the Tribune late in 2014) comes about between the two major metro dailies.

I REMEMBER THE Tribune’s efforts to create a tabloid format version of itself. Will we eventually get a Sun-Times consisting of Tribune copy, but put together in the smaller page format that always was a plus to people riding on commuter trails.

What would the colonel think?
At least until they figured out that those freebie papers the Tribune publishes cost less out of their pockets!

Now it should be acknowledged that such a merger is speculation on my part. Nobody is talking such talk right now. And Ferro did publicly say his purchase of the stock in Tribune publishing will cause him to cut back on the amount of control he exerts over the Sun-Times.

In theory, it’s not going to be one man running both newspapers. Which is what Col. McCormick himself would have done had he ever had circumstance to buy into the opposition newspaper.

ALTHOUGH IF YOU study your history, you’d realize the reason Marshall Field created the Chicago Sun (and later merged it with the Daily Times) was to create an alternative to the isolationist nonsense that was being spewed on a regular basis by McCormick’s Chicago Tribune.

How much times have changed. What with it now being routine for the idea of competing voices to be considered unnecessary in a city. And don’t give me the nonsense of the Internet creating all kinds of new journalism.

What it often does is merely reapportion the content that’s already out there. People who claim they “Never read a newspaper!” all too often are merely reading the stuff that was originally intended to be read on top of a girdle ad before it gets wrapped around fine china or other precious items before being stuffed into a box prior to Moving Day.

Perhaps we should hear it for Ferro – the guy whose many innovations meant to revive the Sun-Times have failed and has turned it into the shell of the newspaper I once actually used to fantasize about writing for someday.

How long will Tower be company focal point?
BECAUSE NOW HE could claim to be a part-owner of both of the daily newspapers that remain in the Second City proper. And also now has a say over the newspapers throughout the suburban areas that he sold off more than a year ago to come up with some cash to keep the Sun-Times alive for a while longer.

We’re definitely a long way away from the days when the newspapers hired thugs to harass the opposition’s newsboys and, on occasion, drive the competition’s delivery trucks into the Chicago River.

I don’t know how this all will shake out in the end between the two publications.

Although I must admit the thought of seeing the Tribune and Sun-Times turn into the equivalent of step-sisters was an outcome I wouldn’t have dreamed of back when I got into the newsgathering business in the days of Harold Washington.


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