Thursday, October 26, 2006

Personal Asides: The “Sun-Times” Endorsements…and “The Poetry Hour Continued” with Frank Nofsinger.


Un-Baffling and Baffling.

The Chicago “Sun-Times” was once a very good newspaper when it was edited by Milburn (Pete) Akers with the editorial page run by a worldly-wise scholar of Chicago with a droll sense of humor and writing-style, Emmett Dedmon. Owned by Marshall Field, it was a liberal newspaper…trended to a fashionable kind of left…but had a depth to it that transcended its tabloid size. The editorial endorsements were almost always a surprise. When I moved back here, having spent eleven years in politics in Minnesota, I saw at once that the tenor of the old “Sun-Times” had changed. Then it was a totally Democratic newspaper. Now it was a liberal one but had had the guts to endorse Robert Merriam the liberal reform Republican for mayor over Richard J. Daley in 1955. Charles Percy was a close associate of both Akers and Dedmon as well as the man he called “Marsh”—Field himself. Yet the paper endorsed Otto Kerner for reelection as governor, pointing out that Percy was too timid to support a federal fair employment practices law because he would alienate Barry Goldwater and thus they would go with Kerner.

That leisurely independence changed as the newspaper business did itself. Field died; he was succeeded by his son who strove earnestly to build a good paper. He did—but at the end his brother who liked to run around with Hollywood girls wanted to cash in his piece of the paper and parlay it on film production. It seemed to break Marshall Field’s heart but he had to sell. I remember Mike Royko attacking the brother and laying out exactly what the brother wanted—to use his inherited portion to chase starlets. It was the single-most time I admired Royko. (His was an acquired taste. I always thought the best thing he ever did was the Christmas piece on Joe and Mary looking for a place to flop on a snowy night).

Akers and Dedmon are dead and the paper has passed through a number of hands, not all of them kind ones—but never worse than when the Two Crooks ran it along with the watchdog head of the board audit committee who didn’t bark because he was so superficially entranced with clinking cocktail glasses with Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle. Now a decision has been made to have it become four-square the Democratic newspaper of record…and insofar as they can (although they cannot control the indomitable Fran Spielman) make the news interpretation agree with the editorials. That was a sound decision. Not so sound a decision—in fact catastrophic—was the decision to follow the no-class, no-taste Michael Cooke who is turning a very good paper into a kind of harlot: playing up breasts, front-page screamers on “The Vagina Monologue” and all that stuff.

A unified paper both editorially and news-wise is not insupportable. The “New York Times” with which I vehemently disagree is an excellent product if you don’t mind a little treason with your morning coffee. The “Wall Street Journal” could, for my two cents, imitate the “Times” by presenting one unified newspaper—not two…a newspaper that presents the Washington news with a lefty slant but the editorials with brilliant conservative philosophy and rhetoric. But I’ll stake the “Wall Street” as the best overall newspaper today in my lifetime.

As I say, I can salute the “Sun-Times” for being the Democratic newspaper of record—which means endorsing Blagojevich-- but Jeeze God does it have to so go down the line…and into the toilet…by endorsing Todd Stroger of all people who is a laughingstock incompetent…and Alexi Giannoulias, a bum of bums and a charlatan at that for State Treasurer? Especially the latter? This is a very rare political year. The Democratic party has offered at least two abominable candidates—Stroger and Giannoulias…awful! I take it that with Cruickshank and Cooke, they’re a no-class duo, but do they have to send the paper out with a cigarette dangling from its painted lips to lean against the light-post and hustle Democrat readers who themselves are sickened by the choices? Dear God is there no subtlety? Well, just look at what they’ve done with the front page and you have the answer.

You can say yes but there’s the “Tribune” endorsing Duckworth and Bean. Yes, but this is a newspaper that is going through the equivalent of a nervous breakdown with the exception of the very best columnist it has had in my long life, John Kass.

The Poetry Hour.

Contributor Frank Nofsinger, a good friend, sent over a poem that is brilliant in its majesty: “The Land of Sandra Dee.” It’s obvious it’s written by a witty woman. I ran a few stanzas of it the other day and promised to complete it—only to be sidetracked yesterday. To get the cadence, similar to “Puff the Magic Dragon,” scroll back and read the beginning stanzas by the glowing portrait of Sandra Dee. Now here I ask Jake Parrillo, webmeister extraordinaire, to place another portrait of Sandra Dee in this place while we complete this great literary work of art.

We’d never heard of Microwaves/ or telephones in cars/ And babies might be bottle-fed but they weren’t grown in jars/ And pumping iron got the wrinkles out, and gay meant fancy free/ And dorms were never coed in the land of Sandra Dee.

We hadn’t seen enough of jets to talk about the lag/ And microchips were what was left at the bottom of the bag/ And Hardware was a box of nails and bytes came from a flea/ And rocket ships were fiction in the land of Sandra Dee.

Buicks came with portholes and sideshows came with freaks/ And bathing suits came big enough to cover both your cheeks/ And Coke came just in bottles and skirts came to the knee/ And Castro came to power in the land of Sandra Dee.


  1. Mr. Roeser,

    Here's hoping that your pounding of Mr. Cooke and 'time on task' you have dedicated to righting the sinking boat of the Chicago Sun Times takes hold of 'someone.'

    The paper gets more clownish each day.

    The other day I posted a musing that in a Capra movie 'SOME' good-hearted plutocrat would correct things - them's the movies. Mr. Fredrich March took my osting as belittling your fine work - on the contrary.

    BTW - I would not cast Fredrick March in the role of the plutocrat who save journalism -that spot would go to the estimable Edward Arnold - the man had gravitas by the bucketful.

  2. Pat, I'm sorry I misunderstood your post. However, I must disagree about bumping Fredrick March for Arnold. C'mon, March in Best Years of Our Lives? Death Takes A Holiday? The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit? He had gravitas coming out his ears!

  3. In the interest of peace and harmony, Pick one of these:

    a. Franchot Tone
    b. Adolphe Menjou
    c. Harry Carey , Sr.
    d. Walter Wuston

  4. Adolphe Menjou, only if there's enough moustache-wax available.

  5. Phone Re-Write; we have our GiGi!

    Mr. March, it was a business doing pleasure with you!

  6. Tom, give Maureen Murphy three cheers for her response (appearing 10/27) to the Tribune's endorsement of her opponent. "I agree that the increasing number of successful tax appeals is a 'sign of failure,' as your editorial suggests, But failure by whom? It's a failure for the many assessment mistakes by Assessor James Houlihan, not the Board of Review. The Tribune seems to think the real problem in Cook County government centers around too many tax appeals -- a taxpayer's right."