The June 16, 2009 front page of
The Chicago Tribune
|Publisher||Tony W. Hunter|
|Editor||Gerould W. Kern|
|Founded||June 10, 1847|
|Political alignment||Libertarian, Conservative|
435 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611
The Chicago Tribune is a major daily newspaper based in Chicago, Illinois, and the flagship publication of the Tribune Company. Formerly self-styled as the "World's Greatest Newspaper" (for which WGN radio and television is named), it remains the most read daily newspaper of the Chicago metropolitan area and the Great Lakes region and is currently the eighth largest newspaper in America by circulation (and the second largest under Tribune's ownership behind Los Angeles Times). Traditionally published as a broadsheet, on January 13, 2009, the Tribune announced it would continue publishing as a broadsheet for home delivery, but would publish in tabloid format for newsstand, news box, and commuter station sales.
On April 2, 2007, the Tribune Company announced a buy-out plan led by Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell worth $8.2 billion, associated with a stock buyback at $34 per share, and an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. The deal closed on December 20, 2007, with Zell as the company's new chairman. As part of the deal, the Chicago Cubs and their park, Wrigley Field, will be sold, as well as the Tribune Company's share of Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Less than a year after the deal closed, the Tribune Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on December 8, 2008.
The Tribune was founded by James Kelly, John E. Wheeler and Joseph K.C. Forrest, publishing its first edition on June 10, 1847. The paper saw numerous changes in ownership and editorship over the next eight years. Initially, the Tribune was not politically affiliated but tended to support either the Whig or Free Soil parties against the Democrats in elections. By late 1853 it was frequently running xenophobic editorials that criticized foreigners and Roman Catholics. About this time it also became a strong proponent of temperance. However nativist its editorials may have been, it was not until February 10, 1855 that the Tribune formally affiliated itself with the nativist American or Know Nothing party, whose candidate Levi Boone was elected Chicago mayor the following month.
By about 1854, part-owner Capt. J. D. Webster, later General Webster and chief of staff at the Battle of Shiloh, and Dr. Charles H. Ray of Galena, Illinois through Horace Greeley convinced Joseph Medill of Cleveland's Leader to become managing editor. Ray became editor-in-chief, Medill became the managing editor, and Alfred Cowles, Sr., brother of Edwin Cowles, initially was the bookkeeper. Each purchased one third of the Tribune. Under their leadership the Tribune distanced itself from the Know Nothings and became the main Chicago organ of the Republican Party. However, the paper continued to print anti-Catholic and anti-Irish editorials. The Tribune absorbed three other Chicago publications under the new editors: the Free West in 1855, the Democratic Press in 1858, and the Chicago Democrat in 1861, whose editor, John Wentworth, left his position to become Chicago Mayor. Between 1858 and 1860, the paper was known as the Chicago Press & Tribune. After November 1860 it became the Chicago Daily Tribune. Before and during the American Civil War, the new editors pushed an abolitionist agenda and strongly supported Abraham Lincoln, whom Medill helped secure the Presidency in 1860. The paper remained a force in Republican politics for years afterwards.
In 1861 the Tribune published new lyrics for the song "John Brown's Body" by William W. Patton, rivaling the ones published two months later by Julia Ward Howe. Medill served as mayor of Chicago for one term after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Under the 20th Century editorship of Colonel Robert R. McCormick the paper was strongly isolationist and actively biased in its coverage of political news and social trends, calling itself, "The American Paper for Americans," excoriating the Democrats and the New Deal, resolutely disdainful of the British and French and greatly enthusiastic for Chiang Kai-shek and Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
When McCormick took over as co-editor (with his cousin Joseph Patterson) in 1910, the Tribune was the 3rd best selling paper among Chicago's eight dailies, with a circulation of only 188,000. The young cousins added features such as advice columns and homegrown comic strips like Little Orphan Annie and Moon Mullins, then turned to "crusades", with their first success coming with the ouster of the Republican political boss of Illinois, Senator William Loring. At the same time, the Tribune competed with the Hearst paper, the Chicago Examiner, in a circulation war. By 1914, the cousins succeeded in forcing out Managing Editor William Keeley. By 1918, the Examiner was forced to merge with the Chicago Herald.
In the 1920s, Patterson left to take over the editorship of his own paper, the New York Daily News. In a renewed circulation war with Hearst's Herald-Examiner, McCormick and Hearst ran rival lotteries in 1922. The Tribune won the battle, adding 250,000 readers to its ranks. During the McCormick years, the Tribune was a champion of modified spelling (such as spelling "although" as "altho").
McCormick, a vigorous campaigner for the Republican Party, died in 1955, just four days before Democratic boss Richard J. Daley was elected mayor for the first time.
One of the great scoops in Tribune history came when it obtained the text of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919. Another was its revelation of United States war plans on the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack. Its June 7, 1942 front page announced that America had broken Japan's naval code.
The paper is also well known for a mistake it made during the 1948 presidential election. At that time, much of its composing room staff was on strike, and early returns led the paper to believe that the Republican candidate Thomas Dewey would win. An early edition of the next day's paper carried the headline "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN", turning the paper into a collector's item when it turned out that Harry S. Truman won and proudly brandished it in a famous photo.
The Tribune's reputation for innovation extended to radio — it bought an early station, WDAP, in 1924 and renamed it WGN (AM), the station call letters standing for the paper's self-description as the "World's Greatest Newspaper." WGN Television was launched April 5, 1948. These broadcast stations remain Tribune properties to this day and are among the oldest newspaper/broadcasting cross-ownerships in the country. (Later, the Tribune's East Coast sibling, the New York Daily News, would establish WPIX television and radio.)
Although under Colonel McCormick, the Tribune for years refused to participate in the Pulitzer Prize competition, it has won 25 of the awards over the years, including many for editorial writing. The Tribune won its first post-McCormick Pulitzer in 1961, when Carey Orr won the award for editorial cartooning. Reporter George Bliss won a Pulitzer the following year for reporting, and reporter Bill Jones snagged one in 1971 for reporting. A reporting team won the award in 1973, followed by reporter William Mullen and photographer Ovie Carter, who won a Pulitzer for international reporting in 1975. A local reporting team won the award in 1976, and architecture critic Paul Gapp won a Pulitzer in 1979.
In 1969, under the leadership of publisher Harold Grumhaus and editor Clayton Kirkpatrick (1915–2004), the Tribune's past conservative partisanship became history. Though the paper retained its Republican and conservative perspective in its editorials, it began to publish perspectives in wider commentary that represented a spectrum of diverse opinions, while its news reporting no longer had the conservative slant it had in the McCormick years.
In early 1974, in what was a major feat of journalism, the Tribune published the complete 246,000-word text of the Watergate tapes in a 44-page supplement that hit the streets a mere 24 hours after the transcripts' release by the Nixon White House. Not only was the Tribune the first newspaper to publish the transcripts, but it beat the Government Printing Office's own published version, and made headlines doing so.
A week later, after studying the transcripts, the paper's editorial board observed that "the high dedication to grand principles that Americans have a right to expect from a President is missing from the transcript record." The Tribune's editors concluded that "nobody of sound mind can read [the transcripts] and continue to think that Mr. Nixon has upheld the standards and dignity of the Presidency," and called for Nixon's resignation. The Tribune call for Nixon to resign made news, reflecting not only the change in the type of conservativism practiced by the paper, but as a watershed event in terms of Nixon's hopes for survival in office. The White House reportedly saw the Tribune's editorial as a loss of a long-time supporter and as a blow to Nixon's hopes to weather the scandal.
On December 7, 1975, Kirkpatrick announced in a column on the editorial page that Rick Soll, a "young and talented columnist" for the paper whose work had "won a following among many Tribune readers over the last two years" had resigned from the paper after acknowledging that a column he had written that had appeared on November 23, 1975 had contained verbatim passages that another columnist had written in 1967 and later published in a collection. Kirkpatrick did not identify the columnist. The passages in question, Kirkpatrick wrote, had been in a notebook where Soll had copied words, phrases and bits of conversation that he had wished to remember. Although the paper initially had suspended Soll for a month without pay, Kirkpatrick noted that further evidence then came out that another column had contained information that Soll knew was false. At that point, Kirkpatrick wrote, Tribune editors decided to accept the resignation that Soll had offered when the investigation began. Soll went on to marry Chicago newspaper (and future TV) reporter Pam Zekman and eventually work for the short-lived Chicago Times magazine in the late 1980s.
Kirkpatrick stepped down as editor in 1979 and was succeeded by Maxwell McCrohon (1928–2004), who served as editor until 1981, when he was transitioned to a corporate position. McCrohon held the corporate position until 1983, when he left to become editor in chief of the United Press International. James Squires served as the paper's editor from July 1981 until December 1989.
Jack Fuller served as the Tribune's editor from 1989 until 1993, when he became the president and chief executive officer of the Chicago Tribune. Howard Tyner served as the Tribune's editor from 1993 until 2001, when he was promoted to be vice president/editorial for Tribune Publishing.
The Tribune won 11 Pulitzer prizes during the 1980s and 1990s. Editorial cartoonist Dick Locher won the award in 1983, and editorial cartoonist Jeff MacNelly won one in 1985. Then, future editor Jack Fuller won a Pulitzer for editorial writing in 1986. In 1987, reporters Jeff Lyon and Peter Gorner won a Pulitzer for explanatory reporting, and in 1988, Dean Baquet, William Gaines and Ann Marie Lipinski won a Pulitzer for investigative reporting. In 1989, Lois Wille won a Pulitzer for editorial writing and Clarence Page snagged the award for commentary. In 1994, Ron Kotulak won a Pulitzer for explanatory journalism, while R. Bruce Dold won it for editorial writing. In 1998, reporter Paul Salopek won a Pulitzer for explanatory writing, and in 1999, architecture critic Blair Kamin won it for criticism.
In 1986, the Tribune announced that celebrated film critic Gene Siskel no longer was the paper's film critic, and that his position with the paper had shifted from being that of a full-time film critic to that of a free-lance contract writer who was to write about the film industry for the Sunday paper and also provide capsule film reviews for the paper's entertainment sections. The demotion occurred after Siskel and longtime Chicago film critic colleague Roger Ebert decided to shift the production of their weekly movie-review show—then known as At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert and later known as Siskel & Ebert & The Movies -- from Tribune Entertainment to The Walt Disney Company's Buena Vista Television unit. "He has done a great job for us," editor James Squires said at the time. "It's a question of how much a person can do physically. We think you need to be a newspaper person first, and Gene Siskel has always tried to do that. But there comes a point when a career is so big that you can't do that." Siskel declined to comment on the new arrangement, but Ebert publicly criticized Siskel's Tribune bosses for punishing Siskel for taking their television program to a company other than Tribune Entertainment. Siskel remained in that free-lance position until his death in 1999. He was replaced as film critic in 1986 by Dave Kehr.
In November 1992, Tribune associate subject editor Searle "Ed" Hawley was arrested by Chicago police and charged with seven counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse for allegedly having sex with three juveniles in his home in Evanston, Illinois. Hawley formally resigned from the paper in early 1993, and pleaded guilty in April 1993. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison.
In an unusual move at that time, the Tribune in October 1993 fired its longtime military-affairs writer, marine retiree David Evans, with the public position that the post of military affairs was being dropped in favor of having a national security writer.
In December 1993, the Tribune's longtime Washington, D.C. bureau chief, Nicholas Horrock, was removed from his post after he chose not to show up for a meeting that editor Howard Tyner had requested of him in Chicago. Horrock, who shortly thereafter left the paper, was replaced by James Warren, who attracted new attention to the Tribune's D.C. bureau through his continued attacks on celebrity broadcast journalists in Washington.
Also in December 1993, the Tribune hired Margaret Holt from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel as its assistant managing editor for sports, making her the first female to head a sports department at any of the nation's 10 largest newspapers. In mid-1995, Holt was replaced as sports editor by Tim Franklin and shifted to a newly created job, customer service editor.
In 1994, reporter Brenda You was fired by the Tribune after free-lancing for supermarket tabloid newspapers and lending them photographs from the Tribune's photo library. You later worked for the National Enquirer and as a producer for The Jerry Springer Show before committing suicide in November 2005.
In April 1994, the Tribune's new television critic, Ken Parish Perkins, wrote an article about then-WFLD-TV morning news anchor Bob Sirott in which Perkins quoted Sirott as making a statement that Sirott later claimed to have never made. Sirott criticized Perkins on the air, and the Tribune ended up printing a correction acknowledging that Sirott had never made that statement. Eight months later, Perkins stepped down as TV critic, and he left the paper shortly thereafter.
In December 1995, the alternative newsweekly Newcity published a first-person article by the pseudonymous Clara Hamon (a name mentioned in the play The Front Page) but quickly identified by Tribune reporters as that of former Tribune reporter Mary Hill that heavily criticized the paper's one-year residency program. The program brought young journalists in and out of the paper for one-year stints, seldom resulting in a full-time job. Hill, who had written for the paper from 1992 until 1993, acknowledged to the Chicago Reader that she had written the diatribe originally for the Internet, and that the piece eventually was edited for Newcity.
In 1997, the Tribune celebrated its 150th anniversary in part by tapping longtime reporter Stevenson Swanson to edit the book Chicago Days: 150 Defining Moments in the Life of a Great City.
On April 29, 1997, popular columnist Mike Royko died of a brain aneurysm. On September 2, 1997, the Tribune promoted longtime City Hall reporter John Kass to take Royko's place as the paper's principal Page Two news columnist.
On June 1, 1997, the Tribune published what ended up becoming a very popular column by Mary Schmich called "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young", otherwise known as "Wear Sunscreen" or the "Sunscreen Speech." The most popular and well-known form of the essay is the successful music single released in 1999, accredited to Baz Luhrmann.
In 1998, reporter Jerry Thomas was fired by the Tribune after he wrote a cover article on boxing promoter Don King for Emerge magazine at the same time that he was writing a cover article on King for the Chicago Tribune Sunday magazine. The paper decided to fire Thomas—and suspend his photographer on the Emerge story, Pulitzer Prize-winning Tribune photographer Ovie Carter for a month—because Thomas did not tell the Tribune about his outside work and also because the Emerge story wound up appearing in print first.
The Tribune has been a leader on the Internet, acquiring 10 percent of America Online in the early 1990s, then launching such web sites as chicagotribune.com (1995), metromix.com (1996), ChicagoSports.com (1999), chicagobreakingnews.com (2008), and chicagonow.com (2009). In 2002, the paper launched a tabloid edition targeted at 18- to 34-year-olds known as RedEye.
Ann Marie Lipinski was the paper's editor from February 2001 until stepping down on July 17, 2008. Gerould W. Kern was named the paper's editor in July 2008. In early August 2008, managing editor for news Hanke Gratteau resigned, and several weeks later, managing editor for features James Warren resigned as well. Both were replaced by Jane Hirt, who previously had been the editor of the Tribune's RedEye tabloid.
The Tribune won five Pulitzer prizes in the first decade of the 2000s. Salopek won his second Pulitzer for the Tribune in 2001 for international reporting, and that same year an explanatory reporting team—lead writers of which were Louise Kiernan, Jon Hilkevitch, Laurie Cohen, Robert Manor, Andrew Martin, John Schmeltzer, Alex Rodriguez and Andrew Zajac -- won the honor for a profile of the chaotic U.S. air traffic system. In 2003, editorial writer Cornelia Grumman snagged the award for editorial writing. In 2005, Julia Keller won a Pulitzer for feature reporting on a tornado that struck Utica, Illinois. And, in 2008, an investigative reporting team including Patricia Callahan, Maurice Possley, Sam Roe, Ted Gregory, Michael Oneal and Evan Osnos won the Pulitzer for its series about faulty government regulation of defective toys, cribs and car seats.
In late 2001, sports columnist Michael Holley announced he was leaving the Tribune after just two months because he was homesick. He ultimately returned to the Boston Globe, where he had been working immediately before the Tribune had hired him.
On September 15, 2002, Lipinski wrote a terse, page-one note informing readers that the paper's longtime columnist, Bob Greene, had resigned effective immediately after acknowledging "engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct some years ago with a girl in her late teens whom he met in connection with his newspaper column." The conduct later was revealed to have occurred in 1988 with a woman who was of the age of consent in Illinois. "Greene's behavior was a serious violation of Tribune ethics and standards for its journalists," Lipinski wrote. "We deeply regret the conduct, its effect on the young woman and the impact this disclosure has on the trust our readers placed in Greene and this newspaper."
In March 2004, the Tribune announced that free-lance reporter Uli Schmetzer, who had retired from the Tribune in 2002 after 16 years as a foreign correspondent, had fabricated the name and occupation of a person he had quoted in a story. The paper terminated Schmetzer as a contract reporter and began a review of the 300 stories that Schmetzer had written over the prior three years.
In May 2004, the Tribune revealed that free-lance reporter Mark Falanga was unable to verify some facts that he had inserted in a lifestyle-related column that ran on April 18, 2004 about an expensive lunch at a Chicago restaurant—namely, that the restaurant charged $15 for a bottle of water and $35 for a pasta entree. "Upon questioning, the freelance writer indicated the column was based on an amalgam of three restaurants and could not verify the prices," the paper noted. After the correction, the Tribune stopped using Falanga.
In October 2004, Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski at the last minute spiked a story written for the paper's WomanNews section by free-lance reporter Lisa Bertagnoli titled "You c_nt say that (or can you?)," about a noted vulgarism. The paper ordered every spare body to go to the Tribune's printing plant to pull already-printed WomanNews sections containing the story from the Wednesday, October 27, 2004 package of preprinted sections in the Tribune.
In September 2008, the Tribune considered hiring controversial sports columnist Jay Mariotti, shortly after his abrupt resignation from Tribune archrival Chicago Sun-Times. Discussions ultimately ended, however, after the Sun-Times threatened to sue for violating Mariotti's noncompete agreement, which was to run until August 2009.
In April 2009, 55 Tribune reporters and editors signed their names to an e-mail sent to Kern and managing editor Jane Hirt, questioning why the newspaper's marketing department had solicited subscribers' opinions on stories before they were published, and suggesting that the practice raised ethical questions as well as legal and competitive issues. Among those who signed off on the e-mail were reporters John D. McCormick and Rick Kogan. Reporters declined to speak on the record to the Associated Press about their issues. "We'll let the e-mail speak for itself," reporter John Chase told the AP. In the wake of the controversy, Kern abruptly discontinued the effort, which he described as "a brief market research project."
In the 2000s, the Tribune has had multiple rounds of reductions of staff through layoffs and buyouts as it has coped with the industrywide declines in advertising revenues:
The Tribune broke the story on Friday, May 29, 2009 that several students had been admitted to the University of Illinois based upon connections or recommendations by the school's Board of Trustees, Chicago politicians, and members of the Rod Blagojevich administration. Initially denying the existence of a so-called "Category I" admissions program, university President B. Joseph "Joe" White and Chancellor Richard Herman later admitted that there were instances of preferential treatment. Although they claimed the list was short and their role was minor, the Tribune, in particular, revealed emails through a FOIA finding that White had received a recommendation for a relative of convicted fundraiser Tony Rezko to be admitted. The Tribune also later posted emails from Herman pushing for underqualified students to be accepted. The Tribune has since filed suit against the University administration under the Freedom of Information Act to acquire the names of students benefited by administrative clout and impropriety.
On February 8, 2010 the Chicago Tribune shrank its newspaper's width by an inch. They cited that the new format was becoming the industry standard and that there would be minimal content changes. The tabloid Trib to Go became one inch shallower.
In a 2007 statement of principles published in the Tribune's print and online editions, the paper's editorial board described the newspaper's philosophy, from which is excerpted the following:
The Tribune has remained economically conservative, being widely skeptical of increasing the minimum wage and entitlement spending. Although the Tribune criticized the Bush administration's record on civil liberties, the environment, and many aspects of its foreign policy, it continued to support his presidency while taking Democrats, such as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, to task and calling for their removal from office.
In 2004, the Tribune endorsed President Bush for re-election, a decision consistent with its longstanding support for the Republican Party. On October 17, 2008, the paper made an endorsement that the paper admitted "makes some history for the Chicago Tribune." For the first time in its 161-year history, the Chicago Tribune endorsed a Democratic Party's nominee for president with its backing of Barack Obama's election bid.
The Tribune has previously backed independent candidates. In 1872, it supported Horace Greeley, a former Republican Party newspaper editor, and in 1912 the paper endorsed Theodore Roosevelt, who ran on the Progressive Party slate against Republican President William Howard Taft.
Over the years, the Tribune has endorsed Democrats for lesser offices, including recent endorsements of Bill Foster, Barack Obama for the Senate and Democrat Melissa Bean, who defeated Philip Crane, the House of Representatives' longest-serving Republican. Though the Tribune endorsed George Ryan in the 1998 Illinois gubernatorial race, the paper subsequently investigated and reported on the scandals surrounding Ryan during his preceding years as Secretary of State. Ryan declined to stand for re-election in 2002 and was subsequently indicted, convicted, and imprisoned as a result of the scandal.
The Chicago Tribune is the founding business unit of Tribune Company, which includes many newspapers and television stations around the country. In Chicago, Tribune owns the WGN radio station (720 AM) and WGN-TV (Channel 9). Tribune Company also owns the Los Angeles Times -- which displaced the Tribune as the company's largest property—and the Chicago Cubs baseball team. The Cubs might be sold sometime during 2009.
Tribune Company owned The New York Daily News from its 1919 founding until its 1991 sale to Robert Maxwell. The founder of the News, Capt. Joseph Patterson and Col. McCormick, were both descendants of Medill. Both were also enthusiasts of simplified spelling, another hallmark of their papers for many years. Tribune Company sold the Long Island newspaper Newsday in 2008.
Since 1925, the Chicago Tribune has been housed in the Tribune Tower on North Michigan Avenue on the Magnificent Mile. The building is neo-Gothic in style, and the design was the winner of an international competition hosted by the Tribune.
On June 25, 2008, the Tribune company announced they had hired a real estate company to entertain bids of the sale of both the Tribune Tower in Chicago, and the Times Building in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times, is also owned by the Tribune Company.
The September 2008 redesign (discussed here  on the Tribune's web site) was controversial and is largely regarded as an effort in cost-cutting. Since then the newspaper has returned to a more toned down style. The style is more a mix of the old style and a new modern style.
After a $124 million dollar third-quarter loss, the Tribune Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on December 8, 2008. The company made its filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, citing a debt of $13 billion and assets of $7.6 billion.
As part of its bankruptcy plan, owner Sam Zell intended to sell the Cubs to reduce debt. This sale has become linked to the corruption charges leading to the December 9, 2008, arrest of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Specifically, the ex-governor was accused of exploiting the paper's financial trouble in an effort to have several editors fired.
The Tribune prices are: $1.00 Daily, $1.99/2.00 Sunday. The Tribune on weekdays was $0.75 until January 18, 2010, when it was raised to $1.00.