Playing It Safe

Re: “The Active Transportation Alliance Does an About-Face on the Parking Meter Deal,” posted by Mick Dumke, November 9

Looking forward to reading in that second report about ATA’s position on the removal of individual parking meters, which provide secure places to lock bikes. I haven’t seen any new racks going up on the sidewalks to replace the junked meters.

Chicago Rider

Formerly Employee Owned

Re: “Tribune Company Ending Pretense Its Employees Own It,” posted by Michael Miner, November 4

Before I was fired 8-8-08, I never received a single share of Tribune stock from the Zell-arranged ESOP. I may be wrong, but I don’t believe any employees ever did. So while the Employee Stock Ownership Plan may have been the largest shareholder, none of the employees were, themselves, shareholders. Which is probably why they never considered themselves owners. Because they weren’t.

Ron Silverman

Southeast-Side Charm

Re: “Clout on the Calumet River: Marina owner Mike Olsen has reason to fear the city will force him out of business to the benefit of his competition,” by Ben Joravsky, October 29

Windjammers is one of the few reasonably priced marinas left in the Chicago area. The article failed to mention that the wood out in back is for the fireplace in the bar, one of the biggest in the area. It makes “Jammers” a cozy winter hangout, unlike the “corporate” marinas trying to bring the north side to the river.


Damski’s Gift

Re: “A Queer Eye, an Open Mind: A new anthology, and a new appreciation, for local gay writer Jon-Henri Damski,” by Michael Miner, November 5

Damski’s point, at the end of “Chic Tolerance”—wasn’t only that “gay life” should be judged and lived on its own terms—but that each individual’s life must afforded that freedom. An iconoclast to the end, he celebrated diversity at many levels—even diversity in how one related to one’s “in group”—the self-selected family of folks with whom one spent the most face time. Yet one must, on Damski’s way of thinking, be able to freely go in and out of any community one chose. This was, perhaps, a unique gift of his—as not everyone has or gives herself such mobility. Those left in one group wonder where you went; those newly met wonder where you came from—and why you don’t go back; or why you weren’t here before (or why you don’t move on fast!). Yet for Damski & this editor of his, the joy is in the journey, not the snapshots in the mirror, looking backwards—or even the ever-dashed hopes one has, looking forward. Regret, self-deceptive hope, joy & pain—all cease to matter when one finds the peace of living in the moment. When I got stuck in the mud on a byway to Wahoo, NE (outside Lincoln), I laughed so hard I scared the cats. How often does one face in such concrete terms that point where art, life and writing become one? Life’s warnings (stuck in the mud, end up in a ditch, out of range, etc. etc.) no longer signs along the way, but reality. Damski taught me to realize how funny it all can be.


We Aim to Please

This morning I picked up my copy of the Reader, as I do every Thursday morning on my way to work, and eagerly read what I could on my commute into the Loop. I especially enjoyed the lit feature—some fascinating books in there! I was moved to tell you how much I look forward to and enjoy your publication every week. Sure, you probably know how much your readers appreciate you. But in these dark times for local media and publishing in general, think of this email as a “Thinking of You,” greeting card you might get from a friend during a hard time.

With blogs and Yelp and all that, I often wonder if your writers (especially the food writers) contemplate their relevance, or get frustrated that their expertise is side-lined by so many blabbermouths on influential (yet unaccredited and unofficial) Web sites. I am all for democracy of opinion, and therefore think Yelp/blogs/etc are a good idea (I even partake in those forms of media). But I also think that the democratic populace should be informed by specialized bureaucracies, which is where you guys come in. You are the specialized bureaucracy in this helter-skelter pluralist society of opinion. This is something I appreciate today and will appreciate forever. I learn stuff from reading your publication. From certain blogs and definitely from Yelp, I just learn about people’s petty gripes.


Thanks a bunch.

Anna, a Chicago resident

Institutional Freelancing

Re: “Is This the Future of Chicago Journalism?,” posted by Michael Miner, November 6

It’s estimated that the Chicago News Cooperative has enough foundation funding to hang on for about 4 months. If that’s typical, then this is indeed the future—about 4 months’ worth. After that, who knows?

These and other examples around the country are beginning to look like institutional freelancing. Instead of individual freelance journalists trying to scrape up work from for-profit institutions with actual business models, institutions like the CNC with no business model try to scrape up funding from non-profit foundations. Rather a gossamer thread on which to suspend one of the vital institutions of democracy. . . .

What we’re witnessing is a panicky shift of talent and resources from a large, proven but currently somewhat unsteady product into alternative media that, after all, have been around a while now and show less and less promise over time. In real estate terms, it would be like moving out of a modest bungalow in need of a little remodeling and into a yurt. True, the yurt is a refreshing change, and it fits the nomadic lifestyle. But after a few years of living like a yak herder, I believe, journalists are likely to miss the old bungalow/newspaper.