Wednesday, May 17, 2017

And then, there was one?

I remember as a kid my father used to send me to a local store every Sunday to pick up a newspaper. The Chicago Tribune, always the Tribune.
Unofficial newspaper war grave marker?

I can recall him complaining about other newspapers, and once I remember hearing him muttering "I hate that paper" when a television commercial touting the Chicago Sun-Times came on the air.

YET I ALSO can recall whenever we’d visit my maternal grandparents, I’d get to see copies of the Sun-Times. My grandfather subscribed; my mother throughout her life would pick up and read a copy (until the end when her eyesight became weakened to where she couldn’t read much) whenever she’d get a chance.

When she finally passed on a few years ago, it only seemed appropriate that my brother, Christopher and I, paid to put her death notice in the Sun-Times (which ticked off the editors of the newspaper I was writing for at the time – they would have preferred I paid them to publish the notice).

Now I’m sure none of this is particularly unique. Many of us can tell tales about why we chose whichever news sources we prefer for information about the screwy world in which we live.

But those sources are withering away, one by one, to the point where we may soon be down to the survivor. It seems the Chicago Tribune really will be able to declare itself “the winner!!!” of the Great Chicago Newspaper War. The Last News Rag Standing, so to speak.

NOW I KNOW the Chicago Tribune is claiming that the bid its corporate types is putting in to buy the Chicago Sun-Times is not going to result in the immediate cessation of publishing of the Sun-Times. I read that same Chicago Tribune editorial in which they said they envision publishing two separate newspapers.

They “savor the importance of preserving what metropolitan Chicago now enjoys; thriving competition between two large news organizations that know they serve readers best by trying to outdo each other.” Or so sayeth the Tribune.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the editorial writer who came up with that line, and the others in the editorial that says there will remain two publications with “independent” editorial voices. It is the wish of many a news consumer, except perhaps for some snotty kid-types who think everything rotates around the Internet and that “news” is the boring content – compared to porn and YouTube videos of kids getting into fights and cutesy kitty cats for the more sensitive amongst us.
Sun-Times tries to explain move to its readership

But I’m skeptical. I can’t help but envision the corporate types who, soon enough, will decide that there are economical efficiencies to combining editorial resources into one “super paper” of sorts – perhaps one whose content can then bolster the on-line products they think will sell better to a younger generation.

IT COULD BE one year, or five or so down the line before Chicago becomes a one-newspaper town – perhaps with a few pages set aside for local news called the “Sun-Times section” of the newspaper to pay homage to the tabloid that for most of its life took pride in being the publication of choice for city-based readers.

It wouldn’t even be a new story for Chicago. Let’s not forget that both the Tribune and Sun-Times once had sister newspapers – in the form of Chicago Today and the Chicago Daily News.

Particularly at the Sun-Times/Daily News combination there was the sense of two newspapers that tried to keep unique identities on everything – until the business-types figured they could be more profitable as one larger Sun-Times rather than two separate publications.

It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out – since corporate types have hinted they’d like to have this deal complete by June 1, and are merely waiting for federal regulators to indicate that a Chicago newspaper combo wouldn’t violate anti-trust laws.

IS ANYBODY CRAZY enough to put in a competing bid. Would the federal government in this Age of Trump decide to meddle just to show us all who “the boss” truly is!

And what would a Tribune-owned Sun-Times look like? As things stand, the Sun-Times has for several years been printed at the Tribune-owned plant, and I argue the paper hasn’t really “looked right” (the pages seem “too small”) ever since the Sun-Times gave up control of their physical product.
Will future generations wonder why city newsboxes needed more than one slot?
It leaves a lot of questions and uncertainty, that some people I’m sure won’t concern themselves with. It does make me think of a plaque erected along Michigan Avenue south of Madison Street that pays homage to the various newspapers and wire services (including my one-time employer United Press International) that have existed in Chicago.

Is that destined to be the grave marker for the Chicago newspaper casualties that have rung up throughout the years; completely ignored by the many passersby who walk along Michigan Avenue daily without giving it a moment’s notice.


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