Nothing lasts forever and sometimes when it’s time, it’s time. But QT, the snarky daily column by Zay Smith in the Sun-Times never showed any age that I could notice, and God knows there’s no less in the world today to be snarky about than there was in 1995.
That’s when QT began as a collection of short bright items. Smith soon made it much more. He blended the sentimentality of H.L. Mencken with the feather-light touch of a safe cracker.
QT just became history. Over the past couple of months it’s appeared more and more frequently online only, and this week it didn’t run in the paper at all. Today managing editor Don Hayner called Smith, who works out of his home, and told him not to bother turning in a Sunday column.
True, the printed paper keeps getting smaller, but I’d throw a lot of other features over the side before dumping QT, a move I consider less likely to keep the Sun-Times afloat than to help it sink. And the Internet’s not only boundless, it’s brought Smith an international audience.
So go figure. Smith is on vacation for a while, but he’s apparently going back to general assignment — reached via BlackBerry for comment, traveling editor in chief Michael Cooke replied simply, “We need more first rate Chicago reporters.” Smith was on GA when he wrote the paper’s extraordinary Mirage series in 1978. Thirty years later, the Sun-Times owes him no favors for that, but I’m puzzled that it’s not more appreciative of what he’s done for it lately — the perfect newspaper feature to read each morning over coffee and a toasted muffin.
His favorite fan mail: “This morning’s QT — coffee out the nose.”