What kind of Tribune is the Tower putting out these days?
  • Chris Sweda/Sun-Times
  • What kind of Tribune is the Tower putting out these days?

The proposal to rename Stony Island Avenue for the late bishop Arthur Brazier has already been ripped in the Reader by both Ben Joravsky and myself. So today I want to focus on the good news.

At least Joravsky and I, despite living on the north side of Chicago, are aware of the proposal to rename Stony Island Avenue.

My objection to the name change is that Stony Island is the wrong street. Brazier had no particular connection to Stony Island, aside from his Apostolic Church of God being a few blocks away on 63rd Street. But 63rd Street was very much his creation: he was instrumental in getting the CTA to tear down the 63rd Street el in 1997 all the way from Cottage Grove to Stony Island. Development will follow, he predicted—not that much of it ever did. When I wrote about the 63rd Street el debate in 1996, I had a point to make about the slapdash media coverage. My focus was the zoning that the Tribune back then practiced obsessively. I wrote:

Consider transportation, which in the mind of the Tribune doesn’t connect here to there but simply serves a variety of theres. I’ve written already about that paper’s parochial approach to the debate over whether to extend the North-South Tollway through Will County. A second lively debate has been waged for months over whether to level the last three-quarters of a mile of the Jackson Park el along 63rd Street. The subject interests me, but there’s no earthly reason why it should, as it deals with matters more than 13 miles away in a wholly other part of town. So when the CTA board voted 6-0 this month to tear the sucker down, the MetroChicago south edition told the tale, while the MetroChicago north, the paper tossed at my door, didn’t.

Zoning was a matter to which the Tribune, with its far-flung, heavily suburban readership, devoted serious thought. Soon after becoming editor of the Tribune, Jack Fuller discussed the subject at a forum at Northwestern University.

The suburbs “have a desperate need of knowing” some things about Chicago, such as the plight of the underclass, he said. “On the other hand, when we write about the Cook County Board race, I can’t find the argument by which I tell somebody in Elgin that he or she should care, any more than I care—except as an editor—who wins the Kane County Board elections. It doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

It’s a very different Tribune that the Tower is putting out these days. While its TribLocal sites and weekly papers offer hyperlocal news, the Tribune that comes to my door now embraces what the Tribune decades ago dubbed Chicagoland as now one big happy, if dysfunctional, family.

Consider Thursday’s paper. Page one reports that the Burbank police department has hired as a counselor a priest with a checkered past. The story jumps to page 12, opposite an account of a Schaumburg attorney accused of bilking clients, an account of a Crystal Lake attorney accused of bilking clients, and an item about a school bus with no passengers that plowed into an animal shelter in Niles. (No one was hurt, neither beast nor human.)

Turn the page and we find yourself reading about a murder in Glen Ellyn and an injunction issued to break up a street gang in Addison.

We’re back on page 16 before we come to the section the Tribune calls Nation & World—the subject matter that was the point of the old Tribune.

Better? Worse? If you think you don’t need a heads-up when a school bus harmlessly clips an animal shelter, believe me you’re speaking only for yourself. As city editor Walter Burns commanded in The Front Page, “Junk the League of Nations. Spike it! No, leave the rooster story alone. That’s human interest.”