Friday, October 31, 2008

Tribune Company: That Was Then, This is Now

Drive and Dish started out as a blog devoted to offering commentary on the game of basketball -- with a heavy emphasis on dishing out commentary about college basketball. But we found that when basketball was out of season, we didn't have much to write about. So after slumming through the summer of 2007, Drive and Dish's editorial staff decided that when the 2008 Final Four was in the history books and the NBA Finals' game clock hit 00:00 for the last time, Drive and Dish would expand its reach to include subjects other than basketball -- at least until basketball resumed.

We'll get back to being basketball intensive once college basketball tips off (the NBA regular season just started, but our core readership is primarily made up of college basketball fans, and as such, our NBA material goes largely unnoticed). But for now, our crack team of writers (me) is chomping on the bit to weigh in on so much non-basketball material that it would simply be an untenable position for Drive and Dish's editors (me again) to force them to remain focused exclusively on the hardwood.

Lately, Drive and Dish has been following the rapid decline of the once great Chicago Tribune (more here).

Now the Chicago Tribune's parent company, Tribune Company, is embroiled in a controversy over the Los Angeles Times' (the Los Angeles times is a Tribune Co. newspaper) refusal to release a videotape that purports to show Illinois Senator and Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama offering a toast to -- and lavishing praise on -- Rashid Khalidi, a college professor and political activist who has been both an outspoken opponent of Israel, and a supporter of Palestinian terrorist activity.

Mr. Khalidi currently serves as the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and as the Director of the Middle East Institute at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. But as the New York Sun reported in 2005, Mr. Khalidi was a director of the official Palestinian press agency, WAFA, from 1976 to 1982 and later served on the PLO "guidance committee" at the 1991 Madrid peace conference (more background on the PLO here, more background on Mr. Khalidi's involvement with the PLO here).

The videotape in question was filmed in 2003, at a Chicago going away dinner for Mr. Khalidi (who, at the time, was departing the University of Chicago to take his current post at Columbia). The event was hosted by the Arab American Action Network,* a political advocacy and community organizing group which Mr. Khalidi founded in 1995 with his wife Mona. Allegedly, the dinner featured several speakers who voiced fervent anti-Israel sentiment, as well as disapproval for America's support of Israel. One speaker is said to have compared Israeli settlers on the West Bank to Osama Bin Laden. Another speaker supposedly voiced her anger over U.S. support for Israel and warned that if Palestinians can't reclaim their own land, "you will never see a day of peace."

Although the L.A. Times refuses to release the videotape, Times staff writer Peter Wallsten did acknowledge the tape's existence in an April article in which he examined Senator Obama's position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In his account of the videotaped going away dinner for Mr. Khalidi, Mr. Wallsten did his best to pave over the assorted speakers' rough edges. But he hinted at the incendiary nature of some of their remarks by stating that Senator Obama "adopted a different tone in his comments and called for finding common ground."

Throughout his run for the Presidency, Senator Obama has done his best to ameliorate fears that he may not favor the continuation of America's longstanding support for Israel. Officially, Senator Obama has positioned himself as a pro-Israel candidate, which has helped him keep Jewish voters -- an important constituency within the Democratic party -- and other supporters of Israel more or less happy. Yet in his L.A. Times piece, Mr. Wallsten implied that Senator Obama's videotaped remarks at Mr. Khalidi's going away dinner may have left some room for doubt about the veracity of the Senator's support for Israel:

"(the) warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor's going-away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say."

What's more, the L.A. Times piece quotes Mr. Khalidi as having pointed to Mr. Obama's sympathy for the Palestinian cause when he instructed the primarily Palestinian American crowd to support Mr. Obama, then an Illinois state senator, in his bid for the U.S. Senate:

"You will not have a better senator under any circumstances."

So what does all this have to do with the Chicago Tribune?

Well, Chicago based Tribune Company is the parent company of both the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. And in the case of the L.A. Times' embargoed videotape of the Rashid Khalidi going away dinner, a Tribune Co. owned newspaper is refusing to release information -- in the form of a video that would likely go viral within minutes of its release -- that could damage Senator Obama's chances of becoming the next President of the United States. The Times cites its desire to preserve "journalistic ethics" as the basis for its decision to withhold the potentially incendiary video (the paper maintains that the anonymous source who leaked the videotape to them requested that the video not be released).

But the L.A. Times has already cited the videotape as evidence that Senator Obama's official position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict -- and by extension, his position on U.S./Israeli relations -- may be little more than political window dressing.

Thus, by refusing to release the videotape, the Tribune Company's L.A. Times gives the appearance that it is attempting to lend a hand to Senator Obama's bid for the Presidency -- a bid which the both the L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune have endorsed -- by shielding the Senator from the political fallout that the videotape's release could prompt.

But in 2004, the Tribune Company's Chicago Tribune lent Senator Obama a hand in his bid for the U.S. Senate by filing suit to gain access to the sealed divorce records of Mr. Obama's Republican opponent, Jack Ryan. Prior to the Tribune's lawsuit, Mr. Ryan had refused to answer questions about his divorce. So the Tribune hired a team of high-powered lawyers and sent them to Los Angeles to pry Mr. Ryan's divorce records open. Mr. Ryan and his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan, fought to keep their divorce records sealed, citing their concern that the records' release could have an adverse affect on the welfare of their disabled 9 year old son. But despite acknowledging that "(p)eople are desperate to prevail and are often willing to say almost anything" in divorce cases, that "(f)alse allegations may arise in as many as 80 percent of custody battles," and that "a growing body of evidence (demonstrates) that high-conflict divorces create more long-term problems for children," the Tribune argued that the Ryans' privacy and the well being of their son were less important than the "public interest."

Ultimately, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Schnider ruled that the Ryans' divorce records should be partially opened to the public. Among the contents of the Ryans' divorce files was Mrs. Ryan's allegation that Mr. Ryan had taken her to sex clubs, where he had attempted to persuade her to engage in amorous behavior in front of crowds.

Mr. Ryan denied that specific allegation, charging that it was employed as a tactic by his ex-wife in an attempt to gain the upper hand in their child custody dispute.

But the damage was done. The Tribune's headline read: “Ryan File a Bombshell; Ex-Wife Alleges GOP Candidate Took Her To Sex Clubs.”

Jack Ryan was forced to drop out of the U.S. Senate race four months and one week before the 2004 election.

And Jack Ryan wasn't the first political opponent of Barack Obama's whose sealed divorce records were uncovered by the Chicago Tribune. Indeed, the Tribune exhibited a bipartisan interest in the sealed divorce papers of Mr. Obama's political opponents: Mr. Obama's chief rival in the 2004 Democratic Senate primary, Blair Hull, saw his campaign implode after an anonymous tipster informed the Tribune that Mr. Hull’s ex-wife had filed for an order of protection during their divorce proceedings. It is widely believed that the source of the Tribune's leak in the Blair Hull's divorce proceedings was long-time Obama adviser and current chief political strategist for the Obama campaign, David Axelrod (who is, himself, a former City Hall reporter for the Chicago Tribune).

In a 2007 profile of Mr. Axelrod, the New York Times acknowledged that the Obama campaign -- and perhaps Mr. Axelrod himself -- had been responsible for leaking details of Mr. Hull's divorce proceedings to the Chicago Tribune:

"Axelrod is known for operating in (the political) gray area, part idealist, part hired muscle. It is difficult to discuss Axelrod in certain circles in Chicago without the matter of the Blair Hull divorce papers coming up. As the 2004 Senate primary neared, it was clear that it was a contest between two people: the millionaire liberal, Hull, who was leading in the polls, and Obama, who had built an impressive grass-roots campaign. About a month before the vote, The Chicago Tribune revealed, near the bottom of a long profile of Hull, that during a divorce proceeding, Hull’s second wife filed for an order of protection. In the following few days, the matter erupted into a full-fledged scandal that ended up destroying the Hull campaign and handing Obama an easy primary victory. The Tribune reporter who wrote the original piece later acknowledged in print that the Obama camp had “worked aggressively behind the scenes” to push the story. But there are those in Chicago who believe that Axelrod had an even more significant role — that he leaked the initial story. They note that before signing on with Obama, Axelrod interviewed with Hull. They also point out that Obama’s TV ad campaign started at almost the same time.
(Emphasis mine).

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines irony as:

"1a. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning. b. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning. c. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect. See synonyms at wit1. 2a. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs ..."
(Emphasis mine).

Considering the zeal with which the Chicago Tribune pursued, uncovered, and reported on the sealed divorce records of Barack Obama's opponents in his 2004 bid for the U.S. Senate, one might have expected that the Tribune owned Los Angeles Times would have adopted a similar urgency toward releasing the videotape of Rashid Khalidi's going away dinner -- especially since Peter Wallsten's April, 2008, L.A. Times article implied that the videotape opens the door to the possibility that Senator Obama's official position on American foreign policy toward Israel may not actually reflect his true feelings on the issue.

How ironic, then, that the L.A. Times refuses to release the video. When Barack Obama's opponent Jack Ryan, and his ex-wife sought to keep their divorce records sealed, a Tribune newspaper sued to have the records unsealed on the grounds than the Ryans' privacy -- and their young son's well being -- were less important than the "public interest." But now a Tribune newspaper is refusing to release a videotape that could further illuminate Senator Obama's position on American foreign policy toward Israel on the grounds that doing so would violate their "journalistic ethics."

In fairness, the Tribune Company is now under different ownership than it was under in 2004. But one thing that hasn't changed since 2004 is the Tribune's apparent imperative to lend a hand to the candidacy of Barack Obama.

* Through his service on the board of the Woods Fund, Barack Obama voted to grant more tha $70,000 to the Arab American Action Network, an organization created by Rashid Khalidi (more here, and here).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Arizona Loses Third Recruit Since Olson's Departure

In the five days since Lute Olson stepped down as head basketball coach at Arizona, three recruits have backed out of their oral commitments to play for the Wildcats. More here.

From the Pac-10 blog at the Oregonian:

"Guess the good news for the Arizona athletic department is that it won't have to put on a news conference next month to announce the basketball program's letter-of-intent signings."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Did Isiah Thomas OD on Sleeping Pills?

On Friday, The New York Post and WCBS-TV in New York reported that Isiah Thomas was hospitalized for a drug overdose. Thomas and his family have denied the reports. But Fox Sports reports:

"Harrison (NY) police said Thomas was taken to White Plains Hospital Center after police and an ambulance were summoned to his Purchase, N.Y., home after midnight following a 911 call.

Thomas denied being taken to the hospital when reached on his cell phone by The (New York) Post."

More (via Fox Sports):

"Police said a 47-year-old man was taken to the hospital and treated for an accidental overdose of sleeping pills at Thomas' home.Harrison Police Chief David Hall told the New York Daily News that the victim had consumed about 10 Lunesta sleeping pills.

'He was unconscious, but breathing on his own,' Hall said.

The Associated Press quoted Hall as saying it was not a suicide attempt: 'We're classifying it as an accidental overdose of prescription sleeping pills.'"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ESPN: Arizona's Olson to Step Down

This morning, ESPN's Dick Vitale reported that Lute Olson is set to step down as Arizona men's head basketball coach.

Thus far, no official announcement has been forthcoming:

"Nothing has changed," UA sports information official Richard Paige told the Tucson Citizen on Thursday morning. "Lute is still our coach."

Mr. Paige's non-denial denial reminds me of President Clinton's non-denial denial of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

In 1998, President Clinton was forced to testify in a sexual harassment case which had been brought against him by a former Arkansas state government worker named Paula Jones. Ms. Jones' counsel was attempting to establish that President Clinton had a history of marital infidelity. So they questioned the President about his purported sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, a former White House intern. President Clinton tried to obfuscate Ms. Jones' counsel by raising questions about the meaning of the word is (as the word's meaning pertained to his previous statements that "there is no improper relationship," and "there's nothing going on between us").

President Clinton was later impeached and disbarred for having committed perjury in the Paula Jones case (remember that although the U.S. Senate voted to impeach the President, he was allowed to remain in office). But his parsing of words gave the world the now famous phrase: "It depends on what the meaning of the word is is."

Sure, as Mr. Paige told the Tuscon newspaper, Lute Olson is still Arizona's coach. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't plan to step down in the next few days.

has a timeline of Lute Olson's recent history at Arizona (Olson took a leave of absence for the 2007/08 season, before returning -- amid a great deal of uncertainty about his future [and the future of the Arizona basketball program] -- for the 2008/09 season).

Update (10/24/08):

It's official. Lute Olson has retired after 25 years at the University of Arizona.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Basketball Season Nears; Tidbits Returns

The leaves are falling from the trees, nightfall is coming earlier every day, college basketball teams began practicing last Friday and NBA training camps have been grinding it out for two weeks. Drive and Dish has been slumming for the last few months, but with Fall in full session and basketball season on the horizon, the Drive and Dish editorial board has elected to resurrect the ever popular Drive and Dish "Tidbits" series:

1.) Tuesday night, rookie point guard Derrick Rose scored 30 points as his Chicago squad beat Dallas 109-105 in NBA preseason action.

Drive and Dish readers may ask "who the hell cares about the results of NBA preseason games?" And normally, they'd be absolutely correct to pose such a question. But last night, Derrick Rose (a 19 year old rookie point guard) served notice to the rest of the NBA that he has the (rare) ability to take games over.

Rose will likely have ups and downs over the course of his rookie campaign, but anyone who's caught as much as a glimpse of his play during the preseason should understand that the kid is the real deal. And one would suspect that opposing NBA guards will understand that in short order as well.

2.) Shawn Siegel, of, talks to New Mexico men's head basketball coach Steve Alford:

"Our goal is to win the Mountain West Conference and get into the NCAA Tournament. After that, we want to be in a position to advance as far as we can in post season play."

3.) Big East coaches have picked UConn to win the conference and have named Notre Dame's Luke Harangody Big East preseason Player of the Year.

4.) UNC Asheville's 7'7" center Kenny George, the tallest player in college basketball, will be sidelined for the 2008/09 season -- and likely for good -- amid reports part of his right foot was amputated.

5.) Georgia Tech senior D'Andre Bell is out for the year too, due to the discovery that he suffers from the congenital condition spinal stenosis. Bell plans to undergo surgery to correct the disorder.

6.) Santa Clara center John Bryant has returned to the court after having been stabbed three times at the beginning of the school year (Bryant was stabbed three times during one altercation, not stabbed in three separate altercations).

Bryant figures to be an NBA prospect, but, nonetheless, one wonders if Bryant has ever considered pursuing a career as a hip hop artist. After all, 50 Cent's hip hop career took off largely because he had the street cred of having been shot nine times (it certainly didn't take off because of his superior lyrical flow). I don't know if Bryant can rap, but now that he's been stabbed, he's definitely got his street bona fides.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Utah Guard Deron Williams Sprains Ankle

Utah point guard Deron Williams sprained his ankle during a pre season game in Chicago on Saturday night. Williams injured his ankle when he landed awkwardly -- after having launched a jump shot -- on the foot of Chicago rookie guard Derrick Rose. Williams was carried off the court by teammates and was placed in a wheelchair.

Remarkably, the Deseret News Deseret News reports that Williams escaped serious injury (Williams' ankle appeared to contort in an unnatural manner):

"A statement from the team said Williams sustained an inversion sprain, but that X-rays on the ankle — which appeared to bend quite awkwardly — were negative for any sort of bone fractures.

Inversion is the most common form of ankle sprain, occurring when the foot is turned or rolled inward."


Williams underwent an MRI which revealed no damage to the bone or tendons around the ankle. But due to the severity of the sprain, Williams will miss at least two weeks of the NBA regular season.

'Stache Bash '08

The American Mustache Institute is set to host 'Stache Bash 2008. Make no mistake, it will undoubtedly turn out to be the party of the year. 'Stache Bash 2008 will be held on October 25, at the Lumiere Casino in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. Doors open at 8:00 PM Central Time.

Video of AMI's 'Stache Bash 2008 announcement here.

The American Mustache Institute describes itself as:
"(T)he only facial hair think tank and advocacy organization in the world which has fought against a long pattern of discrimination against the Mustached American community since its secret formation in the 1960s. In the 1990s, AMI went public and began putting on events known as ‘Stache Bash in St. Louis, home of the world's largest mustache - the Gateway Arch."

The event will benefit Challenger baseball, a league for children with disabilities.

Sounds like a great time will be had by all. I'm not sure if I'll make it to St. Louis on October 25, but Drive and Dish readers who live in (or near) the "Lou" (St. Louis) should do everything within their power to get there.

And grow mustaches. Fake mustaches are recommended for female attendees (unless, of course, a female attendee sports a natural female mustache).


Mustaches fell from favor sometime in the late 80's. Goatees were all the rage in the 1990's, but the decade that gave us grunge rock and the tech bubble was inhospitable to mustaches. Mustaches remained out of favor through most of the 2000's, but they've recently mounted a strong comeback -- albeit as an irony-drenched fashion statement. Sure, clean-shavenness remains a cornerstone of the young professional man's uniform. But the hipsters are starting to "rock" mustaches, much as they grew out shabby beards two years ago. And since trends filter down from the hipsters before ultimately making their way into the mainstream, I give it two or three years (max) before every young man in America is proudly wearing a mustache.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pitt's Fields to Miss Start of Practice

Pittsburgh senior guard Levance Fields will miss the start of basketball practice -- and possibly part of the season -- after undergoing surgery on his left foot.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

NCAA Tries to Dispel "Dumb Jock" Myth

The NCAA is trying to dispel the myth of the "dumb jock." Via Inside Higher Ed:

Myles Brand, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, wants to cease the propagation of "the so-called ‘dumb jock’ myth," as he puts it. Trumpeting new data showing that NCAA Division I athletes are graduating at the highest rates ever — even as players in high-profile sports such as baseball, football and men’s and women’s basketball continue to lag — Brand and other NCAA officials argue that recently adopted and stricter academic accountability rules are steadily sidelining old stereotypes.

I've always bristled at the concept of the "dumb jock." On the whole, I don't think that athletes are any less intelligent than the rest of the general population. However, nearly every NCAA Division I institution has a lower set of admission standards for scholarship athletes than it has for general (non athlete) applicants. And Division I athletes have advisers and tutors holding their hands from the minute they arrive on campus to Commencement day.

I'm glad that the NCAA no longer counts transfers against institutions' graduation rates. That practice always seemed unfair to me. But I'm still not convinced that the NCAA isn't just shuffling the deck, with regard to their compilation of graduation data, in order to show improvement in graduation rates. And as a former NCAA Division III athlete (Division III institutions don't grant athletic scholarships and don't grant privileged status to student athletes), I suspect that I'd be best served by continuing take any of the NCAA's talk of "academic excellence" at the Division I level with a big grain (or two) of salt.


It looks like the people who left comments in the comments section of the Inside Higher Ed article share some of my skepticism. Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on Division I athletes or on Division I institutions. But there's no question that Division I schools go out of their way -- usually way out of their way -- and, quite often, look the other way in order to help revenue sport athletes succeed academically.

Monday, October 13, 2008

NBA to Cut 9 Percent of U.S. Staff

NBA Comishioner David Stern announced that the league will eliminate 80 jobs in its United States offices. The layoff will affect 9 percent of the NBA's U.S. workforce.

25th Anniversary of First Cell Phone Call

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the first commercial cell phone call:

"It was on Oct. 13, 1983, that Bob Barnett, then president of Ameritech Mobile Communications, placed the first commercial wireless call from inside a Chrysler convertible at Soldier Field in Chicago, to the grandson of Alexander Graham Bell, who was in Berlin, Germany."

Like the Internet, cell phones have -- in a short period of time -- radically changed the way in which people live their lives. These days, it's difficult to imagine life without cell phones. But it wasn't all that long ago that the use of cell phones was largely limited to the wealthy and/or powerful.

The picture below is taken from a scene in Oliver Stone's 1987 film "Wall Street." Michael Douglas portrayed the fictional Wall St. arbitrageur Gordon Gekko (more here), a character who was allegedly a loosely based on a composite of Ivan Boesky (more) and Carl Icahn.

Gekko's character became a cultural icon in the late 1980's and achieved renown for his assertion that "greed is good." The scene pictured below made waves with movie audiences in the late 80's because Gekko's use a cellular phone to conduct business while at his oceanfront vacation home was widely viewed as a sign of excess. Cellular phones cost about $4000 in those days, and many Americans weren't even aware of their existence. The concept of a cocky rich guy cutting deals while standing on the beach in his bathrobe blew a lot of people's minds.

Back in the late 80's, the only person I knew of who had a cell phone was a friend of my mom's. She had a cell phone because she was a newspaper reporter who covered city hall meetings and court cases. Her cell phone came in it's own briefcase like charging apparatus.

Around 1993 or 1994, Motorola came out with a smaller, more affordable flip phone. That allowed cell phones to become more accessible to the public. But they didn't exactly become ubiquitous overnight. As of '94, cell phones were still largely a viewed as a luxury item.

The first time I saw one was at the '94 Western Open. I was in my late teens at the time and was with my parents as we watched Nick Price put on his last hole of the day. We'd been at the golf tournament all day and I hadn't solidified my social schedule for the night. As such, I was growing uneasy as late afternoon was quickly giving way to night (the Western took place in July, when the daylight lasts past 8:00 PM). I knew that I would have to get home soon if I wanted to be able to get in touch with anyone before they headed out for the night. But the golfers were taking quite a while to finish, and I knew that it would take a while to get out of the parking lot.

Standing just outside gallery were two young, professional looking Filipino guys who had a big gray Motorola cellular phone. Because they were in possession of the latest cutting edge technological gadget, they were able to call friends and hammer out their plans for the night -- in spite of the fact that they were on a golf course and nowhere near a land telephone. My jaw practically dropped as I watched those guys plan their evening from the 18th hole (understand that in 1994, cell phones were still something of a novelty -- outside of the high rollers, hardly anybody had one). I was watching the future play out in front of my eyes. If only I'd had a cell phone, I could have called friends and nailed down my plans for the night ... from the golf course.

It was at that moment that I had an epiphany: I knew that I had to get a cell phone!

When I finally got home and started making my phone calls, all of my friends had already left for the night ... exactly as I had feared. I'd been proven right. Prior to that evening, acquiring a cell phone hadn't been high on my list of priorities. But after enduring one short phone conversation after another in which a friend's mother/brother/sister informed me that the friend I was attempting to contact had already stepped out for the evening, cell phone ownership suddenly rocketed to the top of my list.

Two years later, as a college student/summer intern for House of Representatives, I was issued a cell phone for work. Although I had to return the cell phone when the internship ended, it had essentially changed my life for the months in which it was in my possession. I lobbied my parents heavily to buy a cell phone, if not for me, for the family. Although my dad remained dead set against cell phones (as he remains to this day), my mother purchased a Motorola phone for me as a birthday gift.

It was the same model as the phone on the left:

When I got the phone (at end of 1996), I was about the only guy among my friends (either at college or back at home) who had a cell phone. Believe it or not, people were really impressed by the fact that I had a cell phone.

Often, I'd be out with friends when someone would suggest that we find a pay phone and call some other friends. When I'd offer the use of my cell phone (which I always kept turned off in a gym bag), people's eyes would light up. They'd say things like, "Oh wow. I didn't know that you had a cell phone."

As recently as 1996 or '97, most people still relied on pay phones to make calls when they were away from home.

But within two or three years, everybody and their mother had a cell phone (except for my father).

Now I've got an iPhone and a two year old Motorola RAZR. But like 30 percent of the American population, I don't have a land line.

Without my phones, I'd be absolutely lost.

Cell phones (and now smart phones) have changed everything.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Hastening Decline of the American Newspaper

Last week Tribune Co. debuted the all new, redesigned Chicago Tribune. Frank the Tank, who publishes the Chicago sports/Illinois Fighting Illini sports/national sports/politics/pop culture blog Frank the Tank's Slant, and who has been critical
of recent changes
that the Chicago Tribune has undergone since real estate mogul Sam Zell purchased the Tribune Co. in 2007, voiced his displeasure with the redesigned Tribune in the blog post "Someone Vomited on My Newspaper."

Mr. Tank wrote that the redesigned Tribune looked like USA Today -- which was the exact reaction that I had when I first saw the new paper. So upset was Mr. Tank by the design/content of the new Tribune, he emailed the paper's editor to articulate his objections. Mr. Tank prefaced those objections by explaining to the editor that he had feared the worst upon learning of the pending redesign:

"I feared that the Tribune was advocating “form over substance”, meaning that it would switch around portions of the paper and make heavier use of graphics without making real substantive changes. I also questioned the paper going the route of USA Today as opposed to the New York Times or Wall Street Journal not just from a journalistic perspective but from a pure business standpoint. It’s incredulous that a local newspaper that depends on hometown subscribers would follow the model of USA Today, whose circulation is primarily based upon giving papers away for free to out-of-town travelers in hotels and has virtually no subscribers."

Mr. Tank went on to explain why he thought the Tribune's redesign would fail to revitalize that newspaper:

"(I)t’s insulting that the leaders of “old media” seem to believe that members of Generation Y just want flashy graphics and junk food news about celebrities and crime. While those of us 30-and-under certainly enjoy snarky blogs about Hollywood, we are also the most media-savvy generation anywhere and crave great substantive reporting as well (hence, that’s why you see the New York Times and Washington Post websites high on the list of most-visited sites on the Internet but USA Today is nowhere to be found). The Tribune has made a huge substantive error with its redesign. At the end of the day, it will not attract any more of the younger set of potential readers while also alienating its long-time subscribers like myself."

In August, Drive and Dish discussed the Chicago Tribune and its relation to the overall decline of the American newspaper.

Implicit in the Chicago Tribune's recent decision to change its design is a certain desperation to keep that paper relevant in a rapidly changing media landscape.

Last month in the American, Jonathan Yardley described the newspaper business as an industry in crisis:

"Make no mistake about it, this is a crisis. Speaking in May to a group of journalists, Rupert Murdoch pointed out that, as his own newly acquired Wall Street Journal reported, “in the last five or six months, the average newspaper had seen its ad revenue drop 10 to 30 percent.” A decade and a half ago, the average daily circulation of the Post was 832,232; it is now 638,000. The Washington Post Company’s operating revenue in 1999 was $157 million; last year it was $66 million. Newspaper consultant Mark Potts has examined the overall financial picture for American newspapers and, as reported by Charles Layton in the June/July issue of The American Journalism Review (AJR), predicts that “by the year 2020 print ad revenue will be about half what it is today,” leaving newspapers with “six more years of economic pain—continued cuts in staff, newshole and newsgathering resources—before they even start to turn a corner” with improved revenue from Internet advertising."

Yardley continued:

“The scariest problem,' AJR reported, 'is that many papers won’t share in the online growth….And even as the industry as a whole survives, we may begin seeing, pretty soon, big American cities with no daily newspaper.' As Potts puts it: 'It’s going to be really bloody, incredibly devastating. And I think there are going to be a lot of major metros that don’t make it.”

I've always loved newspapers. I started reading the sports page of my local daily (a suburban Chicago newspaper) and of the Chicago Tribune when I was about nine or ten years old. Every day, I would read the sports page in its entirety as soon as I got home from school. Eventually, I started reading other sections of the paper too.

And whenever I visited out of town family members, I read their daily papers too. By the time I was in junior high, I was reading three newspapers a day. Since the local suburban papers had coverage of youth sports leagues and junior high scholastic sports, I poured over the box scores of every soccer game, little league game, and junior high basketball game -- obsessively comparing my statistics (and those of my friends) to the stats of kids from leagues/schools in other, nearby towns. And I read my suburban hometown's weekly community paper from cover to cover.

When I was in 8th grade, my mother's elderly aunt fell and broke her hip. After she got out of the hospital, she moved in with us. She had her hometown paper mailed to our house every day (it would arrive one or two days late). I started reading that paper too. My great aunt stayed with us for a little over a year, but after she left (and her newspaper no longer came to our house), I truly missed reading that newspaper every.

By the time I got to high school, I was regularly reading at least four or five papers (although a couple of them were small suburban papers that specialized in coverage of high school sports, and which I read for the primary reason of finding out whether or not I'd made it into the sports page).

As a freshman in college, I started reading the local papers from the area in which I attended college (in addition to the Chicago Tribune that college students could subscribe to and have sent to their campus). I transferred to a different school in a different city, and started reading that city's paper too. And when I had a Comparative Politics class, I had to subscribe to the New York Times to keep up with global geopolitical events.

I've been a regular reader of the local paper in very city that I've lived in, no matter how short my stay in that particular city. And I've always made a point of buying the local paper in any city or town that I visit.

What's more, I've read -- and continue to read online -- the hometown papers of cities in which I (or organizations for which I've worked/had other strong ties) have had regular business/work related dealings. I think that it's always good to have a working knowledge of what's going on in the cities and towns that you -- or your company/organization -- do business in. And since I've worked in politics, worked for a large service based corporation and worked for a family owned (my family) manufacturing business, and have tried to keep up with the daily news from a lot of cities, towns, and nations, I've read an awful lot of different newspapers.

Ultimately, I've been either a regular or semi regular reader of the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Southtown, Joliet Herald News, Orland Park/Frankfort/Mokena Star, Daily Herald, Naperville Sun, Quad City Times, Rock Island Argus, (Harlingen, TX) Valley Morning Star, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, Raleigh News & Observer, Charlotte Observer, Nashville Tenneseean, Bloomington/Normal Pantagraph, Peoria Journal-Star, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York Post, New York Daily News, New York Sun (R.I.P.), Buffalo News, Indianapolis Star, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Florida Times-Union, Salt Lake Tribune, Desert News, Denver Post, Rochester Post-Bulletin, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Miami Herald, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Philadelphia Inquirer, New Orleans Times-Picayune, etc.


And that's not even counting the papers that I've read for business related/work purposes (several of which are overseas papers). Based on my newspaper reading habits -- both past and present -- I could probably be considered a connoisseur of American Newspapers. And as such, I find Yardley's prediction of an America in which many cities have no daily newspaper to be troubling.

I hope it doesn't come to that. But I wouldn't be surprised if it does.