In Mike Royko's town it's been a while since you boarded a bus or train at rush hour and met the "newsprint curtain." In its day, the wall of newspapers spread eagled in front of intent readers was such an institution, poet Allen Ginsberg satirized it by poking a hole in his paper and peering through.
Nor do most Chicagoans wake up anymore to the Chicago Tribune or Chicago Sun-Times with their cornflakes. Or end the day with the Chicago Daily News and a martini in their easy chair. (Who remembers easy chairs? Martinis?)
With its tail between its legs, the Tribune Company which own the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, other newspapers, WGN television and the Chicago Cubs, just went private under a $8.2 billion buyout engineered by local real estate tycoon Sam Zell.
Not that anyone's happy. This month the Los Angeles Times lost its third editor since the sale, James O'Shea, a Tribune Company lifer. It also lost publisher Jeffrey Johnson and two editorial page editors since the Tribune takeover.
And why was outgoing Tribune Chairman and Chief Officer Dennis FitzSimons rewarded with a $17.7 million dollar severance package, many are asking? Not just $10.7 million but $4 million to cover his tax liabilities from the $10.7 million? What would he get if he left the paper profitable--his own island?
In a perverse twist, the Chicago Sun-Times actually had to pay $17.4 million of Black's legal fees--thank you Director & Officers insurance!--on top of losing $60 million of its shareholders' money.
This month, Chicago's "other" newspaper terminated 17 reporters, editors and newsroom staff after merging its suburban Daily Southtown and Star papers, shutting down three weeklies and farming out newspaper delivery to the Chicago Tribune failed to total the $50 million it is seeking to trim off its operating budget
The Chicago Reader, considered the granddaddy of free weeklies, is even struggling after three decades of seeming imperviousness to newspaper vicissitudes.
In July the four-section quarter fold paper known for its long format articles was purchased by Florida based Creative Loafing, rapidly becoming a standard flat tabloid with one page articles that no longer jump and half the number of pages.
Asked about the shrinking size and staff--four top reporters were let go--editor Alison True and Publisher Mike Crystal both replied the pub had no choice.
Two free monthlies that were formerly newsprint, Today's Chicago Woman and Conscious Choice, an environmental magazine, have survived by adopting a glossy look and generic content and reducing local focus and staff.
And while the Chicago Tribune's five-year-old tabloid daily, Red Eye, passed out free at city "el" train stops, has found a readership, it had to dumb down content to two paragraph stories and celebrity "cellulite news" to do so.
Even Northwestern University's Medill school of journalism is caving.
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