[“Sabbath” is this blog’s Sunday feature on life and the work of living.]
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my struggle to read books in the online age. Today I got a similar feeling reading the Sunday paper. I've always enjoyed the Sunday paper because – most Sundays – I have no or limited work responsibilities.
I read the Chicago Sun-Times. Once upon a time I read the city’s other daily newspaper, but it seemed to get worse year by year. Then it was bought by a truly ugly man who insulted his writers and readers. That drove me to the Sun-Times, and I am better for it.
Today’s paper is a wonderful example of why we need good newspapers. The first article reports on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s support of public schools. Is the mayor serious or blowing smoke? Time will tell. The paper’s great columnists – Mark Brown, Mary Mitchell, Neil Steinberg, and Carol Marin – cover topics that range from safety in schools to the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Marin’s editorial on our recent election is to the point and very funny, beginning and ending with a visit to the Wiener’s Circle.
Investigative reporting is a hallmark of the paper. Over the past months, it has covered a case in which the nephew of former Mayor Daley was allegedly involved in a crime, which seems to have been covered up (or very poorly investigated). Today, three pages of the paper are devoted to investigating connections between government officials and a company that sells milk to Chicago public schools. A list of school prices in city and suburban schools gives the reader a way to compare how the biggest buyer of milk in the state pays the highest price, which makes no sense. There is also a side bar that names and profiles the individuals involved in the story. Connections mean everything in Chicago, and the Sun-Times reveals who is making money off the public’s dime.
The paper’s two best writers have nothing to do with politics or related scandals. Roger Ebert writes about movies, and Rick Telander covers sports. In today’s column, Telander ponders the death of his co-worker and friend, Lacy J. Banks, who covered basketball for the paper. Here is how he describes Banks, who was called the Reverend because he was an ordained minister, at a press conference: “The Reverend elbowed to the front of media crowds and stared directly at his subjects with purpose, and he asked his questions in a booming, from-the-pulpit vocal splendor that sometimes left interviewees mute, staring at him slack-jawed.”
This week’s Sunday paper was unusually good. However, week in, week out, day in, day out, the Sun-Times helps me understand and appreciate the city. It introduces me to new people and places. Most of the time, it’s very well written and interesting. Smart people say the newspaper is dead. It’s just a matter of time until it disappears. We’ve heard that line about jazz for decades. Ask Wynton Marsalis or Kurt Elling (or their fans) if jazz is dead. Viva newspapers! Viva the Chicago Sun-Times.