Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Sun-Times As Theme Park: Showing Us How to Be Hip

Let me point out what I think I said before: the Sun-Times is a very good newspaper in its news reportage of the Chicago area. What bothers me is that it is being edited like a theme park. A theme park recreates a time that is supposed to be fun:. “Wild West Town,” “Nineteenth Century Town.” The Sun-Times has decided that it will be the “hip” newspaper and so has sprinkled various columns throughout written, often, by semi-literate youth to build up the hip image. That has played hob with its regular coverage. As I’ve mentioned before, Cathleen (with a “C”) Falsani is the Religion Editor who knows nothing about religion, which she demonstrates frequently. But she’s hip. One column purportedly on religion blasted Bush on the war without the slightest theological reference (understandable since the lady doesn’t know theology). Last week Ms. Falsani’s column informed us that she is edified because her mother and father smooth in restaurants.

Ms. Falsani’s picture is of a youngster who looks for all the world like one who has barely stopped popping her gum. This is a reporter the paper sends to Rome when the conclave elects a Pope? About Lynn Sweet I have no more complaint because the paper recently decided to be a harshly partisan one in the mode of the early 20th century. Being liberal is hip and Sweet, the Washington correspondent, is admirably equipped to cover liberaldom. Neil Steinberg, now that he is back with us, is obviously supposed to be the hipster feature-writer who shows us how young men think. Richard Roeper is supposed to show us how young bachelors think, although he’s pretty long in the tooth. Father Greeley is supposed to instruct us on how a priest can be hip. Carol Marin carries the title political columnist, but she’s not that: she’s the middle-aged hip Common Cause-style outraged moralist, writing an attack on Bush because one Arab she knows feels he has been wrongly suspected (and she agrees). Laura Washington is the hip black woman who can’t help being a Democrat because it’s not hip for blacks to be anything else. Mary Mitchell is another hip woman who equates black aspirations with the Democratic party. No independence for them. They’re crafted to fit a hip stereotype.

Debra Pickett is the hip young married and she presides over the “Smart Girls’ Book Club.” A few conservative syndicated columnists are sprinkled and there you have it! How to be hip. Despite all that, the overworked, underpaid news staff is neither hip nor non-hip but very good and deserves a Pulitzer for investigatory journalism. It’s there if you can get around the hip.


  1. As circulations and network news viewing decline while web readership climbs, one value on which the traditional print and broadcast outlets take pride is "objectivity".

    I'd like to see these outlets attempt to attract a broader audience by requesting those reporting on the political beats -- both locally and nationally -- and filling editorial & op-ed space to state their political preferences. Some do. Many don't. The form of these disclosures need not be restrictive or complicated. Print them quarterly or post it on organizational sites. Even encourage editorial, op-ed writers, and news staff to state their voting records, if they believe it will help clarify their beliefs for their audience. Perhaps more importantly, state sources of household income beyond the news organization.

    Quality work transcends political preferences, but why deny members of news organizations an opportunity to present their preferences to their audience?

  2. ..some interesting reading. How much of the turmoil in MSM is attributable to declining revenue, and how much to the crisis in liberalism over using American power to advance Democracy vs Isolationism; and between extreme secularism vs a respect (and comfort) with religion?

  3. Roger Ebert was given space in the Op Ed page a few times. It was during the time that Michael Moore's anti-Bush movie was out. Ebert felt justified in expressing his political bent as a matter of honesty while rating Farenheit 911 very favorably.

    I can see his point and I appreciated him doing so.

  4. Found out from Zorn's blog. I used to read the Saturday columns and think "what a wacko." At least you're not bitter about it.