Dear Rich Person: Please Save the Chicago Tribune. You Will Be a hero. And I Will Mow Your Lawn.
A newsroom is likely one of the weirdest workplaces in the world, a space filled with smart, driven, compassionate and beautifully cynical people who have traded all hope of becoming wealthy for a chance to make the world a better place. And they do. (The “making the world a better place” part, I mean, definitely not the becoming wealthy bit.)
In the two decades I’ve been here, my colleagues have changed laws, changed lives, saved lives, brought down corrupt politicians over and over and over again (we have a lot of them) and shined light on moments of otherworldly triumph and soul-searing despair.
In recent years, they’ve pulled the curtain back on the horrendous use of seclusion and restraint in Illinois schools. They’ve unraveled the Cook County tax system and figured out how the wealthy were getting breaks while lower-income residents were taking it on the chin. They exposed the ways Chicago Public Schools teachers and principals were failing students who reported being raped or sexually assaulted by CPS employees.
At the end of April, they reported that fires “killed 61 Chicagoans from 2014 through 2019 in buildings where the city had been warned about fire safety problems yet failed to adequately address them. The majority of those fires were in low-income neighborhoods mostly populated by Black and Latino residents.”
I have colleagues who work all hours of the day and night covering the city’s violence, capturing the voices of victim families and neighbors, voices that would never be heard otherwise.
The things that happen around us, the good and the bad and the brilliant and the devastating, the things that make up any community, the things that people need to know to be part of a functioning city and democracy — those are all in the pages of this newspaper, every single day. And they come to readers from people — my people — who care deeply about the world around them and the varied souls that keep it running.
Without owners who care about what this newspaper does, who recognize the crucial role journalism plays in civic life, the Chicago Tribune’s ability to watch over the city and highlight the wonderful and the wicked will almost undoubtedly be diminished.
That benefits no one. (Well, I suppose it could benefit the hedge fund folks, but my definition of “benefit” and theirs might differ dramatically.)
I don’t care if this makes my potential future hedge fund bosses angry. If they win out and take over, I’m happy for them to prove me wrong.
But until then, I’m going full Bonnie Tyler, holding out for a hero to join Mr. Bainum and recognize how important newspapers remain.