Eyes on Chicago

Michael Miner, the Chicago Reader’s longtime media critic has a thoughtful piece today on the dilemma that The Chicago Tribune—under new Zell-tastic ownership—faces in either sticking with their unbroken record of backing Republican presidential candidates or endorsing Obama, a fresh-faced hometown pol whom they’ve strongly supported in the past.

I’m not at all sure the Tribune will endorse the Republican ticket. There are good reasons why it might not—but also reasons anyone who wants to respect the Tribune should worry about. …

It may be that Sam Zell and company view the Trib’s political heritage as its seed corn. But as this is a brash, arrogant, desperate bunch with no background in the newspaper business and hundreds of millions of dollars of debt to dig out from under, it probably does not. “Is our POV blurred or dated?” asked innovations chief Lee Abrams in a staff memo in April. He suggested the company was operating on cruise control, “accepting that the look and POV are fine, when historically they might be, but the history may hold us back from competing and winning in today’s vastly changed and intense new environment.”

On September 29 the Tower will unveil a leaner, cleaner Tribune transformed for one big reason—the old one cost too much to produce. If Zell and Abrams and their buddies think endorsing Obama will give the retooled Tribune a leg up in this hazardous environment, they won’t let history stop them. Then it’ll be up to [editorial page editor Bruce ]Dold to persuade us that it’s still the newspaper of Lincoln talking, not the paper of—to quote the back of a T-shirt a Zell-hating Cubs fan was sporting a couple rows ahead of me at Wrigley Field last Sunday—a “money-grubbing old man.”

Read the whole thing here.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.