Category Archives: Friend Jake

My friend Jake reads the newspapers, tales of the ’90s . . .

A look at the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest:

* The headline story begins, “Despite low voter turnout” the school referendum was passed, etc.  But low turnout is supposed to help pass referendums.  Did WJ mean to undercut this conventional wisdom?  Or did the copy editor go to bed early that night?

* The gang task force story looked familiar, down to the wholly acceptable quote, “Our whole goal is not to have gangs get a foothold in this community.”  “An update” on task force activity is coming in late April.  Nothing yet, however. Well, better no news than bad, says my friend Jake (no relation).

A look at the Sun-Times:

Even Homer nods . . . . . . said Horace — the Roman lyric poet speaking of the Greek epic poet — adding, “but I do not approve.”  So when the esteemed Sun-Times, that journalistic survivor of survivors, does something odd, we take notice.

It happened last January, 1/31/96 to be exact, in a small story, “West Side Man Gets 90 Yrs. in Oak Park Rape” — one of the naked city’s million stories.  The rapist had left his work hat at the crime scene, and that did him in.  It’s an awful story, brutal and repulsive.

But some flowers bloom unseen in the desert air, so the careful reader noticed that the man’s work identified him as an employee of the city’s “Department of Road and Control.”

That’s how it sounded on the telephone, I’m sure, when the reporter called it in from the courthouse. “Hello Baby, give me rewrite,” is an old line from “Front Page.”  Baby gave him rewrite, who was in a hurry and distracted, or never heard of rodent control, and out came “road and control.”  Truly one of the near-great moments of Chicago journalism.

Campaign trail in the newspapers . . . On the Monday after The Week That Was for those lousy Republicans, Sun-Times has a picture of the Clintons and his birthday cake, Hillary beaming while Bill and the kid blow candles. 8 by 5-inch pic, in color, a campaign photo.  The foto-op was given, graciously, by the White House, and there it is, page one, with your coffee.

Next page, there’s Ross Perot and wife, in black and white, 6 by 5, top right, you can’t miss it.  He’d just been nominated, so give him that much, whatthehell archie whatthehell.

One more page and there’s a Republican, black and white, upper right, 4 by 2, his hands raised over his head as if signaling touchdown.  It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s . . . Jack Kemp.  What, no Dole?

And the headline?  “Clinton returns to politics,” subhead “Dole, Kemp fire up backers in Buffalo.” Clinton is campaigning?  I thought he was blowing out birthday candles.

(From the yellowing pages of Blithe Spirit, weekly newsletter of the ’90s and later.)

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