Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Personal Aside: The Trivia Quiz—Pat Hickey Wins…The Paper that Doesn’t Know What it Is Doesn’t Know What to Think



Congratulations to Pat Hickey who again wins the quiz with the answer Bishop Fulton J. Sheen (of El Paso, Illinois). Again, no search engine:

“Someone asked me, as I came in, down on the street, how I felt and I was reminded of a story that a fellow townsman of ours used to tell—Abraham Lincoln. They asked him how he felt once after an unsuccessful election. He said he felt like a little boy who stubbed his toe in the dark. He said he was too old to cry but it hurt too much to laugh.”

Who said it and on what occasion?


The Chicago Tribune has been going through a self-examination since April 1, 1955 when the Colonel died—and to some, it’s time it has decided what it will be: a conservative paper with a generally conservative news format, based on the view that there is objective truth and wrong views deserve some expression but error has no rights. Or a liberal paper with a left-wing editorial policy and the general news reporting it already has, leaning just slightly to the left. Or continuation of the split personality it has now—a generally, just slightly, moderate-to-conservative editorial policy and continuation of news reporting shaded to the left. But what the Tribune doesn’t understand is that an editorial should take a position. Few do—because the Trib is so indecisive in just about everything…which is why the paper cannot hire an editorial cartoonist. It rents out its cartoon presentations first to the left, then to the right.

That saves it from hiring a cartoonist of its own. A cartoonist is required to draw situations bluntly. That is not the Tribune’s style. It is truly a newspaper that does not know what it is—and having a cartoonist who will make decisions embarrasses the entire editorial board which is so often torn about decisions. The Sun-Times has Jack Higgins who doesn’t wait to be told what the editorial policy is: he draws what he wants to draw. But that isn’t the queasy, indecisive Tribune’s style.

Take a look at recent editorials and even here you will rarely get a fully enunciated point of view. A lead editorial the other day pointed out that for more than a year a state law has mandated police to electronically record interviews with murder and sex-crime suspects. No one can say precisely, says the editorial, how well the new law works of how police departments will apply it. So what does the Tribune editorial conclude? Nothing. Maybe Illinois legislators should decide whether or not to broaden the taping requirements beyond homicide and sex-crimes to all felony investigations. Maybe they should. And what would that prove? The Tribune editorial doesn’t say.

Another editorial asks whether or not it is detrimental for physicians to tell fat kids that they are obese? By telling them, does it ruin a kid’s inner view of himself…or does it cause him to want to correct it? “A doctor’s intervention may or may not help a child lose weight,” says the editorial. Oh, I see. After re-reading it, one gets the slight impression the paper may favor the doctor’s telling the kid. But then there could be seriously consequences. On the other hand. Oh stop.

After the UN-ordered cease-fire, the paper goes into a lengthy pro and con as to what was accomplished, concluding: “From here, it looks like everybody lose.” Not a word about what should happen in the future or what went wrong in the past.

On one issue it’s firm: it is against pitt bulls. That was a tough one. Agonizing indecision and balancing of views to reach no conclusion at all is the worst thing an editorial can do—and yet the Tribune, once proud, once confident enough to have opinions, has been so shaky for a generation that it cannot stomach taking positions. For that reason alone, notwithstanding all its other faults, it is a vapid, cowardly newspaper, saved only by the fact that John Kass who has opinions on issues the editorial page should cover and is unafraid to express them writes a column for it.


  1. Mr. Ladd of Highland, Indiana has established the Fulton J. Sheen Foundation in honor of this great Catholic American.

    Would that Holy Mother Church had room for men of his heart, courage, intellect, and wit.

  2. If it were not for its Sports Coverage and Sports editing ( BTW Dan McGrath is one of the finest prose crafters in American journalism - his 350 word reports on the 2005 White Sox should be anthologized.), The Chicago Tribune has been run by an editorial board that fauns on the good opinion of Leftist University Centers for How The Unwashed ( People who do not live in Lake County, Evanston, or Hyde Park) Should be Told to Live.

    Your report of the farming out of labor to hillbilly Studs Terkle cartoonists is a great photo of the Emperor of Mediums sans Threads.

  3. The quote was from Adlai Stevenson when he lost the presidental election to the team of Eisenhower and Nixon.

  4. John Thomas MCGeeanAugust 23, 2006 at 9:34 AM

    I am 67 years old and I can recall some of the cartoons of the Tribune and they were great. In those days they took stands and they were right on the Front Page. That lasted for a good while after the Colonel died.

    I think the Trib changed about the time they took the title World's Greatest Newspaper off the front page.
    It also had an American Flag on the front page and called itself the "American Newspaper for Americans."