Illustration: Jeremy Sorese
By Brian Hieggelke
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
—Flannery O’Connor quote chiseled into Tribune Tower inner wall, as quoted, twice, in “The Deal From Hell”
What would it mean if history lost its first rough draft?
The inevitable doom of the great American newspaper seemed imminent just a couple years ago, as company after company tumbled into bankruptcy, or worse, turned out their lights for good, many with legacies longer than a hundred years. Even the mighty New York Times was teetering, grasping at a quickie loan from a wealthy Mexican billionaire, and finding itself the source of speculation that its lifespan was measured in months, rather than years.
Here in Chicago, the bloodbath was a flood, with the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Reader and, most astonishingly, the Chicago Tribune all filing for bankruptcy within a six-month period straddling the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. With the entire economy teetering on the brink of depression, it was a surreal time.
An interesting confluence of events this month brings the recent past and uncertain future of journalism back into the spotlight, with the release of the acclaimed documentary film, “Page One: Inside the New York Times” and, most notably in these parts, the release of James O’Shea’s “The Deal From Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers.” As if on cue, the Chicago Tribune graciously launched a major redesign on June 15, undoing many of the most egregious affronts to its audience perpetrated under the regime of its notorious former CEO Randy Michaels. Michaels himself even jumped back into the news hole last week, resurrecting what seemed to be an already decomposing career with a buyout of local radio stalwarts The Loop and Q101. Read the rest of this entry »