To Mr. Miner:
I am writing in response to your article “What Makes News News?” [August 18] I enjoyed it very much. Let me state up front that I am a proud member of SAG, AFTRA, and AEA and that I have made much of my living, such as it is, as an actor in TV commercials.
Just to recap for your readers, the article dealt with the legitimate complaint of actor Richard Henzel that the Chicago Tribune seemed to be purposely avoiding to cover the AFTRA/SAG commercials strike. You noted that Mr. Henzel wrote to the new public Chicago Tribune editor, Don Wycliff, complaining about this oversight. Predictably, Mr. Wycliff preached the Tribune party line: “This is not a big story.” Or perhaps, “This is not a big story because we definitely side with the Fat Cats and wish to see this strike go away.”
While I commend Mr. Henzel for taking the time to complain to Mr. Wycliff, the response of this latest Tribune functionary is very, very predictable. The Chicago Tribune has always been a Republican rag in bed with Big Business for whatever they can mutually achieve. Since it is more powerful than ever it appears to have been well served by this game plan.
However, for Mr. Wycliff to pretend to have an open mind and be a legitimate journalist is an affront to all creative people that has to be addressed.
Let’s quit kidding. If anyone is “acting” here it is Mr. Wycliff pretending to not be covering this very important news story due to the simple fact that “in the large scheme of things, it isn’t a very important news story.” Quite the contrary, Mr. Wycliff. It is a very important news story and directly affects most of the country. But perhaps you are being a trifle disingenuous here. The Chicago Tribune owns a very large number of TV stations across the country. In fact, they are one of the largest owners of TV stations in the U.S. What supports TV stations? Advertising. The more ads they have the more successful the TV station. And who is AFTRA/SAG battling against? The advertisers. Guess who the Chicago Tribune is going to side with??
Hello? Mr. Wycliff, didn’t you think someone would notice this and then bring it up?
As I was reading the article, Mr. Miner, I almost felt you were pretending that Mr. Wycliff was being honest and just covering “news” where he perceived “news.” However, I stuck with the article and was very happy to read toward the end of the piece that “The Tribune pioneered a system of one-year hires, allowing it to bring in young talent, squeeze it for a year at little cost, and send it packing. When the Internet came along the Tribune browbeat its freelancers into giving up any claim on their stories that would prevent the Tribune from posting them on-line in perpetuity. In short, the way to begin an indictment of today’s Tribune is to note that the actors are striking over the sort of creative rights that the Tribune has attempted to dismantle.”
Thank you Mr. Miner. This is the real Chicago Tribune we are all very familiar with. A good friend of my sister’s, who is a journalist, worked for the Tribune for many, many years. He had to take mandatory retirement. Immediately after that, they phoned him and offered him his job back. The exact same job. However, it would be paying far less than he was paid before, and there would be no health insurance or pension payments. That is the Chicago Tribune I am familiar with.
Let me cite another example. One of my favorite TV programs was The Twilight Zone, written and produced by Rod Serling. I read Mr. Serling’s biography. He did not sell his first TV script until he sent out his 77th TV script, “Patterns,” which became a classic. Now keep in mind, Mr. Serling was an artist who believed in himself. He had to somehow support himself while writing and mailing out those 77 scripts. Would Mr. Wycliff ever dedicate himself to a dream like that? I doubt it. Artists really are very different people. They have different goals and objectives. And it’s definitely not the bottom line or how big their Christmas bonus check is going to be for suppressing an annoying little actors’ strike.
“Dewey Defeats Truman.” The more things change, the more they stay the same. Can you recall any recent TV commercials that stand out because of the acting? I can’t.