Remember Billy Crystal as Fernando, the Latin dandy who understood it’s much more important to look good than to feel good? The Sun-Times has become the Fernando of newspapers, fabulously designed even when there’s nothing much in it to read. But layout won’t be enough for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and to carry out the all-important, highly coveted assignment of following and writing about it, the Sun-Times has chosen none other than Jennifer Hunter, the publisher’s wife.

It has to be difficult being the publisher’s wife. When you’re given a post on the editorial board and then a column – blessings previously bestowed on Hunter – mopes in the newsroom talk. They draw the obvious parallels between the high-living old regime of Conrad Black and his wife Barbara Amiel, who was some sort of editorial VP entitled to stick her nose in anywhere, and the upright new crew led by publisher John Cruickshank and Hunter, who’s apparently similarly entitled. What’s changed? they ask. And when Hunter asks for and gets the Obama beat, they consider the question answered.

But then it has to be difficult being a publisher with a wife like Hunter. You’re damned at the office if you give her big opportunities, and probably damned at home if you don’t. In her favor, Hunter has a lot of experience as a journalist, and just because most of it was in Canada doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. Her first piece on Obama, February 9, was a solidly researched story on the political rise of Lincoln, whose mantle Hunter sees Obama hoping to don — she cites his decision to launch his presidential campaign from Springfield’s Old State Capitol. Tossing around terms like daring and hubris and serious chutzpah, she told Obama to watch his step. 

But someone with her nose for vainglory should be embarrassed by the italicized boilerplate that’s apparently going to run after each of her pieces: “Jennifer Hunter is an award-winning journalist who is following Sen. Barack Obama on his run for the White House.” The sulking Sun-Times newsroom consists of almost nobody but award-winning journalists. Hell, this is Chicago. I’m an award-winning journalist myself.  If Hunter thinks she needs to say anything about herself, she should say she’s the publisher’s wife and then write so well the city forgives her.