Monthly Archives: July 2004

Buy Chi Trib this morning even if Eric Zorn isn’t …

Buy Chi Trib this morning even if Eric Zorn isn’t in it, for the guest cartoons, specifically two out of Atlanta, one by Luckovich of the Journal-Constitution showing Edwards being commended at the recent political meeting: “Great speech! A jury just awarded Kerry $25 million.” Edwards being a first-rate ambulance-chaser. (And I understand Kerry served in Viet Nam. Is that right?)

The other, by Robert Ariall of the Columbia SC The State, has Kerry at podium in front of big sign, “Tell Bush to SHOVE IT,” and one donkey telling another, “I feel better now that we have a unifying message that clearly states our vision.”

Meanwhile, it’s Saturday at Sun-Times, where circulation is up or down, whatever, and Thomas Roeser expatiates knowledgeably about this week’s resolution of the state budget impasse, telling how House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego led horses to the drink and got them to swallow, with House Speaker Mike (Big Daddy) Madigan ending “wiser but sadder.” Typical informed analysis by one of the city’s best.

THE ZORN-TRICE REPLY Chi Trib’s Eric Zorn comes t…


Chi Trib‘s Eric Zorn comes
to the rescue in his blog of his colleague Dawn Turner Trice, who says it wasn’t she who tried to kill a Royko column for using “monkey” as applied by bad-guy LA cops to blacks, as I posted here 5/19. The word she objected to was the N-word, she says.

I still can’t bring myself to say the word, because as Trice argued in her 5/3 column, it’s unbearably hurtful even when the writer distances himself from it, as she admits Royko did — which was mighty wide of her, to use an expression from my youth. (I thought that’s what it was, at any rate, never seeing it in writing and thinking it was wide as in wide- or broad-minded. Actually it was white! As soon as I realized that, I stopped saying it. I swear!) Trice, however, uses it with abandon, defiantly, in Zorn’s blog (twice!), accusing me and Steinberg of lacking the courage to do so.

Never mind. The key point made by Trice is that she’s not the one former Chi Trib managing editor Dick Ciccone wrote about in his Royko: a Life in Print. It was someone else, says Trice. So Ciccone missed the time she tried to get a column killed! It’s all clear now. Dawn T. Trice has been wronged and has my deepest apologies!

And Ciccone will be stunned to hear it. He did a book in which he recalled in detail, down to his stopping presses and making the paper come out late so as to restore the column killed by an editor whom he names, demonstrating attention to detail. He was there. He restored it. But he misses the one about Dawn T. Trice. There were two such cases, and he got only one! Maybe there were three or four others, and he missed them! There goes Ciccone, hanging his head in shame.

In any case, Trice admits, yea, boasts, that she tried to get a Royko column killed to protect readers’ imagined sensibilities — but no reader complained, Ciccone noted. The pigmy went for the giant and almost pulled it off.

[Zorn replied, quoting my above “deepest apologies,” said my apology is “grudging,” which seems a willful misreading of an ironical comment. It’s not an apology at all, of course; and the need to point it out is not something one expects to encounter in urbane intercourse. In a debate with sophomore, yes. Or a sophist. Or a brat.]

STORY DEMANDS CONFLICT: Chi Trib today has p-1 sto…

STORY DEMANDS CONFLICT: Chi Trib today has p-1 story, left column, by Neikirk about a runaway special-interest-oriented tax package on its way to passing, condemned by t-tanks of left and right.

Sun-Times has Wolinsky story about Motorola losing a top exec, apparently because of bad performance under relatively new CEO.

Trib‘s is very long, S-T‘s pithy, which right off makes the latter more a newspaper story. Still, that’s also broadsheet vs. tabloid style, and Neikirk’s story gives play to notion that taxation can hurt business, and you can’t blame a guy for trying, with his quoting of Brookings and American Enterprise institutes in same story.

But apart from the Trib story’s length, something nagged me about it. As a reader I could not get excited, because of the what-else-is-new element. Lobbyists get what they want, and picnics get rained on, so?

But reading Wolinsky, on the business page, I got analysts’ comment on the departure of the exec. They saw it as man leaving because he did poorly and the new CEO said get out of here. Then I got a claim of being “floored” by the very idea from Motorola’s #2 man, and in length readable over coffee. Now there I was with at least a bit of conflict.

But there was none in Neikirk’s story of 1100 words, just everybody saying what a bad thing this is, unless you count the downstate Illinois Republican seeking small-business tax relief. But no contact with the bad guys, legislative leaders approving the padding or lobbyists. No attempt to reach them is mentioned.

So no conflict, and the reader has an essay before him, or even a column, not a news story. And Neikirk sounds committed to the side he reports, whereas Wolinsky, following the rules, does not tip his hand. This is very important to the reader, who finds 1100 words of no-conflict boring compared to 550 of clear conflict and would rather not be preached to.

The dog ate Chi Trib’s homework.  The computer did…

The dog ate Chi Trib‘s homework.  The computer did it to yesterday’s paper, the publisher explains today

“[A] computer system failure caused by a software coding error (italics added) significantly delayed production and delivery of Monday’s print edition,”

the publisher tells readers.  This is standard blame-taking.  Nothing personal, you know. 


“The source of the problem has been identified,” never mind by whom.  This is Modern Times in the Charley Chaplin mode.  They (editorial, monarchic “we”) “sincerely apologize . . . and are committed to improving safeguards.  . . .  We thank you . .. for your commitment” to Chi Trib.


That’s really nice, especially the sincerely part. 


Meanwhile, the story is covered, and not impersonally, by newsgatherer professionals, and computer expert James Coates puts it in technological perspective in “A story we never thought we’d print,” which is a good way to put it and with the news story shows us how good journalistic writing differs from the corporate variety.  Coates even mentions people in the first sentence:

“Nothing built by humans can go wrong in as many ways or with as nasty an outcome as a computer system.”

In fact, his whole account is a tale of derring-do, including hour-by-hour retelling.  Maybe it will enter the lore.

Chi Trib has page one story 7/19 about Iraq rebels…

Chi Trib has page one story 7/19 about Iraq rebels gaining force, expanding power, citing (regretfully, to be sure) a U.S. colonel a year ago talking about Saddam’s henchmen’s last gasp.  Gotcha!


This is part of the drumbeat of negativism appearing not in its editorials but in its so-called news coverage.


Meanwhile, you can easily find reports from the ground on the web that tell you we are winning.  Who’s right?  I have my opinion, but so what?  Point is, why is Chi Trib so consarned one-sided in its so-called news reporting?  It’s getting ridiculous.  Really. 


GRAZIE . .. Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg rec…

GRAZIE . .. Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg recommends Chicago Newspapers today, with special attn. to the 5/15 “As the Trib turned” item. He calls it a “keel-hauling of the . . . painfully shallow and criminally dull Dawn Turner Trice” and refers to “the funhouse mirror of Trice’s mind” that led her to get things so confused. Read it all here.

STYLE MAKES THE WOMAN Chi Trib’s huge "special re…


Chi Trib‘s huge “special report” 7/18/04 is about “one girl’s struggle to find a future.” It opens this way:

Rayola Victoria Carwell sits quietly on a wooden bench in the principal’s office and folds her arms across her stomach to calm the whirling butterflies.

Now. What would Strunk & White say? Elements of Style, you know. Omit needless words (Rule 13) and all that. Try this:

Rayola Victoria Carwell sits on a bench in the principal’s office and folds her arms across her stomach to calm the butterflies.

Gone are quietly, wooden, and whirling, which clutter the copy. Ms. Banchero might feel put upon at the excisions, but the copy editor should do it anyhow, because purple is for king’s garments and sunsets, not for prose.

Equally cluttered is paragraph 2:

She straightens the leg of her favorite jeans, the ones with the embroidered purple daisies, the ones she creased to perfection at 6 this morning. She grabs a braid cascading from the ponytail atop her head and slips it into her mouth.

Which should be:

She straightens her freshly creased jeans and reaches for a braid from her ponytail and slips it into her mouth.

Enough already of purple daisies and 6 in the morning and cascading things. The ‘graph is overloaded. We are newspaper readers in a hurry, for one thing. Banchero is introducing us to 4,400 words, for God’s sake. Our coffee is getting cold.

She may have a story here, but it’s off to a soppy start. And it’s a three-parter. Oh boy.

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