To the editors:
So, once again Mike Royko’s hangdog visage adorns Michael Miner’s Hot Type (March 8); and once again Royko is the epicenter of a “flap,” the result of the Great Columnist’s careless sarcasm and the misplaced seriousness of people who take newspapers seriously.
In Royko’s favor it should be noted that it took him 30 years to go the distance all radio call-in geek-speak artists make in one bound. In the old days Royko, at his best, seemed like the last sane voice in a city–maybe a world–of zanies. Today he’s just another fella from the city that has big shoulders and not much else. Sad.
I’m sure there are various explanations. He’s tired, they’ll say; or he’s lost interest; or he’s indulging the senior citizen’s unseemly urge to make a scene and grab attention, etc, etc. My own hypothesis is that newspaper writing per se is deadly for all writers save those who are more accurately called typists.
Even Shakespeare would have become weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable writing a daily column for the Times of London, let alone the Sun-Times!
The newspaper is the only form of literature (using that word in its very broadest meaning) that is meant to be discarded five minutes after reading. In fact, the newspaper has steadily lost even its original modest utility. There was a time when the residents of Goose Island, so poor that they enjoyed neither indoor nor outdoor plumbing, availed themselves of the Tribune. But the welfare state has put an end to all that . . .
Compare Royko to the daily grind of journalism and he still looks pretty good, in the same way that the elderly codger moonlighting as a security guard at a wax museum looks dynamic and vital beside the exhibits.
There have been writers of some talent who were so unfortunate as to be obliged for a time to write for newspapers, but to my recollection only one–the exception that proves the rule–ever had a high opinion of newspapers: Walt Whitman. But though dear old Walt had genius, I’m afraid he was always something of a ding-a-ling. (I say this affectionately.)
The case of Royko is yet another example of why those with eyes to see will not mourn the imminent demise of that standing indictment of modern civilization–the daily newspaper.