Just as I believe it’s only fair to let a few episodes of a new sitcom go by before drawing conclusions, I’m reluctant to judge the “new look” Sun-Times until I see it on a day when there’s actual news in it. Wednesday’s debut edition, with its front-page pictures of a pucker-faced Dalai Lama (alongside the headline “Hello, Dalai”) and a wary coyote that wandered into the Loop, was longer on attitude than content and longer on repackaging than attitude. “Let’s Get Into It” is the new watchphrase, and the hallucinatory vow to its readers is this: “So starting now, we’re giving you every chance to flex your muscles. How? By digging deeper into the neighborhoods for the most detailed local coverage Chicago has ever seen. And giving you every last detail you need to get involved. We may step on a few toes, but if it gets you off the sidelines, so be it.” If I were a reader who took this personally, I’d be scared silly that the Sun-Times means to run my mug shot on a civic-deadbeats page if I don’t join the block club.
What I notice leafing through Wednesday’s paper is that the stories are incredibly short and there are now two classes of columnists: the ones with conventional head shots and the stars photographed full-body from above, like models in a bank ad. When I saw these pictures I wondered if editor in chief Michael Cooke personally held the ladder steady for the photographer — a way of saying “We’re all in this together and if it doesn’t work I’ll be out on the street with the rest of you.”
A two-page feature on a Liberian family in Wilmette separates the first two pages of comic strips from the third page. I’ve never seen anything like that before.