Phil Rosenthal’s amusingly triumphant column on the Sun-Times today makes an important point: early on, it’s looking like a bulky Red Eye. Rosenthal also picked up some nice asides:

“When the Tribune leads its paper with trade treaties in places far away from here, we think that’s a good thing,” Cooke said. “We’re concentrating very much on Chicago, and that’s what the research told us.”

Yeah, trade treaties are totally dullsville. And the farther away, the duller.

“What came out of that research over and over again was that [people] literally liked the idea of Chicago,” Michael Cooke, the Sun-Times editor-in-chief, told reporters Wednesday. “They liked the name Chicago. They think it’s a fantastic noun. They like to be from Chicago. They want the paper to be Chicago.

A fantastic noun. It’s my kind of noun, Chicago. It’s too bad the Tribune uses it too.

Unique readers to the Sun-Times Web site took a dive in the second half of last year, when popular film critic Roger Ebert was confined to a bed, though there has been some bounce since things bottomed out late last summer.

I think there are very important lessons here. First, readers actually like expert writers. Second, it takes years to build a brand (Ebert’s been writing for the Sun-Times for 40). Third, hire creatively–Ebert was a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago when he got picked for the film critic’s job. It shows.

“We talked a lot not just about the brand of the Sun-Times but about the state of the industry, which also kind of reflects the state of engagement generally in society,”  [Sun-Times publisher John] Cruickshank said. “It began with a recognition that the decline in newspaper readership in North America went hand in hand with a decline in other forms of engagement, [such as] the decline in voting.”

Just don’t break my heart, is all I’m asking.