• Judy Fidkowski
  • Some of the crowd at Bartolini’s

The newspaper known as the Englewood Economist when it was founded in 1906 would undergo various transformations over the decades—to become the Southtown Economist, the Daily Southtown, and since 2007 the SouthtownStar. But no change was quite so singular as the latest, which brought some 75 past and present employees to the back room of Bartolini’s, a pizza joint in Midlothian, last Friday evening to mourn and celebrate.

The thing about a newspaper has always been that it’s a place where an ink-stained wretch can go and be understood; and if its newsroom stinks of cheap coffee and nicotine (true of them all until a few years ago), and if the pay is wretched (more true now than ever), there was a chair you could park your butt on and a keyboard nice enough to believe that whenever you raised your fingers you had something great to say. Most importantly, you were with friends. The theme of the party at Bartolini’s was “RIP Newsroom,” and the reason is that after Wednesday there will be no SouthtownStar newsroom: the editors will come downtown with all the other Sun-Times Media editors and work in the company space at the Apparel Center, and the reporters will work out of their homes and cars.

And libraries. And Starbucks. And Caribou Coffees. Wherever they can plug in a laptop. “They’re making lists of places they can go to work from,” says former Southtown photographer Judy Fidkowski. “Which I found kind of cute.”