Final Edition

I really thought I was officially cried out.

 

It was the day after being told I was one of 53 members of the editorial staff no longer employed by the Tribune. I had decided I would stop feeling sorry for myself, that I had much for which to be thankful and more importantly, that my head was going to explode if I continued.

 

And then I got my brother’s e-mail.

 

FYI

I cancelled my Trib subscription today. Just thought you'd like to know that. Had it for 30-plus years

Richy

 

My reaction surprised me. Why was I so emotional about it? This was the company --  whether motivated by financial reasons or not – that had told me what I had poured my heart into for 23 years, was no longer of value to them.

 

But I could not imagine my brother actually giving it up.

 

I don’t remember anything before the Daily News, Sun-Times and Trib, but we had them all in our house and thought nothing of it. You may as well pack up and move to Russia if you didn’t get a newspaper in the morning, and all of my friend’s fathers picked up the Daily News on their way home from work or had it delivered in the evening.

 

My father’s routine was sacred. Kisses for all when he came home and then you left him to his newspaper. The Daily News for the late markets, often accompanied by a shot of scotch and water. The Nightly News with Huntley and Brinkley in the background.

 

If we called him to dinner during a “very important” news story, there was much waving and shushing that this was “very important.” He would finish the paper after dinner.

 

During my childhood, we were a Sun-Times family during the week and on Sunday, or more accurately Saturday night, we also got the Tribune. For this, the ritual was as drummed into me as any family tradition there was. For this, our mother ruled.

 

My dad would present her with the Sunday Trib on Saturday night – I’m not sure if they realized it or not, that they were not getting Saturday’s news – and the procedure would begin. My mom would carefully, almost surgically dissect the newspaper, pulling out the comics, Sports, the magazines, Tempo, a few selected advertising sections perhaps, and the A-section as I would later know the front section to be called.

 

She would put the rest, the rejects, which seemed to be ads and nothing else, on the table in the upstairs hallway. We were allowed to go through that. We were NOT allowed – until Sunday when she was finished – to TOUCH the rest of the paper.

 

When the Sun-Times came on Sunday, the same routine occurred as I would wait patiently for some time after noon when I would gently ask which section I could have.

 

I can remember the smell of the ink and its touch, which ironically considering my later choice of profession, gave me the same kind of chills most get from scratching a chalkboard. I hated the feeling of the ink on my fingers, so I would carefully hold just the edges.

 

And then, after every other one of the six members of our family were through picking, I would lose myself inside the wondrous prose of Mike Royko and David Israel, John Schulian and Ray Sons. I would read Kup, though I didn’t know who or what he was talking about, and of course, Ann Landers. We saved Royko for last, savored it. I did it because I knew my parents did it, his column evoking conversation and laughter and debate.

 

Back then, most people called the comics, the funnies. In our house, we called that section “the jokes” because that’s what our parents called it, and thought nothing of it until we got to college and an accidental mention of “the jokes” was met with instant ridicule.

 

Same with bubble eggs, but we won’t get in that now.

 

The paper, piled neatly next to my mother’s side of the bed, sprawled before all of us at the kitchen table, lying on and around my father’s black “leather” chair and ottoman in the den, were as much a part of our house as any of the furniture, as much a part of our family life as dinner at 6.

 

And so I cried last when I opened my brother’s e-mail last week. Again, which was particularly annoying since I thought my two-day headache was fading and because I didn’t know if I was crying because I was so touched by my big brother’s loyalty or because it felt like another death in the family.

 

He will, of course, get his news from other sources, just one of so many others who have moved away from the Trib because they no longer recognize it; who have moved away from the newspaper, hastening its demise along with decreased advertising and the increased price of newsprint.

 

He will eventually adjust to life without it and I guess, now, so will we.

 

Today, my husband turned to me as he gathered a few days of old Tribs and Sun-Times to toss them into the recycling bin, and said gently, “I was a little afraid to tell you, but I  cancelled our Tribune subscription today. This is our last one.”

 

Clearly, there would be no discussion.

 

I wanted to cry again, to feel something, but I didn’t. I couldn’t.

 

I really was all cried out.

 

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Comments

  • April 28, 2009 10:44 AM Kevin wrote:
    Melissa, this really brought back memories. The Trib had a morning and afternoon edition when I first delivered it (Sunday mornings). I tossed Chicago American during the week, that became Chicago Today. I always associate the memory of Rick Talley with Chicago Today because he was the first "young buck" writer in the mold of Dick Young that I can remember, and because I was (and am) a die hard Cub fan and he was always taking shots at them. An early paid assassin? Precursor to Mariotti? It's funny but to look at those old Talley pieces they sure seem tame.

    We also dipped into the Sunday paper in a similar fashion (four boys fighting over the funnies), only ours was delivered (by me) on Sunday morning. That paper package was massive. I could carry maybe 12 at a time.

    I can certainly understand your reaction to your brother cancelling the Trib, since you have such self-identity invested in them. But take it from someone never ever paid to write anything, a pure subscriber: that paper really, truly is not what it was even 2 years ago. The shrinking editorial staff has the most to do with that, so does the dumbing down of the layout.

    Noting earlier comments, apparently from members or relatives of the journalism community, you are going to end up somewhere that your talents are fully utilized and appreciated. Just try to keep thinking that way. Allow the grief to progress. Gotta go, over 1400 characters now.....
    Reply to this
  • April 28, 2009 11:54 AM Ken wrote:
    As someone who loves reading great sportswriting from all over the country, I was sad to hear you were let go from the Tribune.

    I really enjoyed reading your stories. I'm sad to witness what's happening to our nation's newspapers. It's awful.

    I sympathize with you losing your job. My company may have to close and I may lose my job as well. This is no fun.

    My comfort has been reading the nation's sports pages, but with newspapers and good writers falling by the wayside as a result, my fear is that we'll lose great writing as well.

    My best to you, Melissa. I hope you find other work soon. You have been a joy to read in the Tribune. I hope to read you here as well.
    Reply to this
  • April 28, 2009 3:00 PM Linda wrote:
    Melissa, I am so sorry. I didn't realized you were one of those let go. What a loss for our community and the Tribune. And the irony! Doesn't this news come just as you learned of receiving a major award for the very compelling feature you wrote about your folks?

    I feel the same way about the paper. And I still grieve for Royko.

    As I visit colleges with my teenager, how strange to tell her I have a Master's degree in a field that may not exist when she graduates. You know: journalism?

    Again, I am so sorry.
    Reply to this
  • April 28, 2009 10:29 PM Susie wrote:
    Missy dear,
    When you're not crying, I am,,,,,,The Tribunes loss is the worlds gain as I am sure you will find something bigger and better very soon. You are my touchstone of memories.
    Reply to this
  • April 29, 2009 10:21 AM Tom wrote:
    Hi Melissa.

    I don't live in Chicago, I live in Puerto Rico... a transplant from Napa Valley, California. I heard about what you've gone through and have read your blog. My heart truly goes out to you.

    I used to work for my hometown paper as a graphic artist/page designer. There are fewer thrills out there than being in a newsroom when something big happens. There's a buzz and a roomful of people become one mind. I've always compared it to working in a M.A.S.H. unit.

    We worked our asses off till deadline and then bitch about our jobs during lunch. But we loved our work. We bled ink.

    I used to love to go to the back pressroom area and watch the pressmen do their dance of adjusting the inks and watching the ribbons of paper go from one press to the other. It was magic. The pressmen took care of my art, making sure to get the colors right. They were the first fans of my work.

    But management was just too hard to deal with and so I left. It was such a whole in my heat and I too couldn't bring myself to read that paper anymore. Too many memories. Too many co-workers who still got to do the good job.

    The thing is, it forced me to get into my art and my writing and now I'm a freelancer for Marvel Comics and I love it. So much more than that paper job. I get to wake up and decide what Wolverine will do, or Spider-Man. It's been a dream come true.

    Life does not end with newspapers, Melissa. There are so many avenues you can dive into. You can feel a sense of loss and even that pain. Especially when something big happens. But the world outside a newsroom is surprisingly calm and wildly beautiful.

    Don't lament the place you were before. Become excited about the place you're will be today. Put that passion into another form of expression and enjoy the freedom to create what YOU wish to create.

    I miss working for my paper, but I don't miss all the bullshit we had to deal with to get a paper out. Good for me to get out and have my peace of mind, than still be in a place that stressed me out and made me worried about tomorrow.

    All the best to you and your husband. And to your brother, who did the right thing.
    Reply to this
  • April 29, 2009 11:34 AM bill wrote:
    Melissa,

    I've enjoyed reading your articles over the years and watching you on various sports talk shows. I think you rock!!

    This is huge loss for the Tribune. I look forward in purchasing "Sweet Lou" and continue to read your blog and perhaps in a different publication soon.
    Reply to this
  • April 30, 2009 3:53 AM Miriam wrote:
    Hi Missy,

    What a treat to read your posts! Ironically I am having the pleasure of reading your thoughts post-Tribune. I think this is such a clever way to continue your writing and keeping it public and interactive. As Romi takes her 2nd nap this morning, I read you. I am supposed to use this time for a thank-you collage for my in-laws. Keep the articles coming! I love every word. You are sharpening my mind. BTW - I sent my friend, Eva your website. Since I met her here in Israel (from Toronto) she reminded me of you - was a professional basketball player, coach, writer with a huge heart, witty sense of humor and laid back attitude (at least on the outside).

    I also like the opportunity to write on your blog.

    You are an inspiration!

    Miriam
    Reply to this
  • April 30, 2009 6:12 AM Melissa wrote:
    Missy...

    I worked as the asst. graphics editor for metro and later financial at the Tribune from 1995 to 2004...we never crossed paths though.

    I was so touched by your Alzheimers article last year.

    Your commitment and contributions remain in the minds of readers for many years to come.

    You are a class act.
    Reply to this
  • April 30, 2009 6:25 AM Lynn wrote:
    Missy,
    Loved this column.
    Reply to this
  • April 30, 2009 6:44 AM Larry wrote:
    Melissa,
    I was shocked and sorry to see your name among the 53 people let go. I've always enjoyed your reporting and writing. I was one of 58 people let go from the Hartford Courant last summer, so I've had similar feelings. I grew up in Chicago and worked at the Daily Herald and knew John Mullin and Terry Bannon there.
    Newspapers are a nasty business, and I really miss the "old days" of 15 and 20 years ago.
    Keep your head up, someone with your talent will find another venue.
    Reply to this
  • April 30, 2009 9:47 AM Andrew wrote:
    Very moving. Thanks for sharing.
    Reply to this
  • April 30, 2009 10:54 AM Mike wrote:
    Melissa,
    Born and raised in Chgo (though gone since '80), I too was weaned on a newspaper tradition. And I'm in the biz. Fairly immune to most of our field's sad tales the past several years, but this one hit me. Quite a changing time. My first job was selling the Chicago American at a big factory. Cost 7 cents, and folks wanted their change, of course. But speaking of the theme of change: that factory where I sold the papers? The long-gone Victor Adding Machine, going strong just before the electronic calculator took hold.
    Reply to this
  • April 30, 2009 11:33 AM Kathleen wrote:
    Your crying has transferred to me. I broke down just a couple 'graphs in. So much a familiar story, to this reader with history in the Chicago area and N.Y., also. Thanks for pouring your heart out to us. I was also raised in a 3-paper family. Now, as an adult, I am the Sunday paper control freak ! Your story and emotional attachment to newspapers rings true. I'm so sorry for your loss. Those who have never experienced the devotion, the fanatical work ethic of true newsies may be baffled by our tears. But, so many of us share in your grief and wish you well as you create a new, unexpected future for yourself.
    Thank you sharing your story.
    -- Kathleen
    Reply to this
  • April 30, 2009 12:12 PM sandy wrote:
    I cried reading this. When it was my turn, a friend warned me it would take a year to get over the anger and grief of a 29-year career casually tossed aside. It did.
    Reply to this
  • April 30, 2009 12:38 PM David wrote:
    The paper is run into the ground by these mouth breathing radio/marketing idiots and intelligent people have to suffer. We all will eventually pay the price for the dumbing down of America.
    Reply to this
  • April 30, 2009 3:08 PM Eric wrote:
    Melissa,
    I think you'll find writing for yourself, at your pace, on your deadline, will ultimately be more rewarding for you. Your writing is so elegant, so concise. It's a pleasure to read. Best to you.
    Reply to this
  • April 30, 2009 4:35 PM Steve wrote:
    Melissa,
    I left the business at the end of 1998 and have been teaching fulltime since 2004 (and as an adjunct for 14 years before that while a working journalist). I moved online in 1995. I'm glad I left on my own terms. I am sad to see what's happening. Barry Temkin (I take it he's gone, too?) and I went to school together; I've had many friends at the ChiTrib over the years. I'm sure you'll land on your feet, hopefully outside mainstream print journalism with one of the many fine online sites that certainly know your talent. It's a new world. Heck, this blog item is as gppd as any of your print work. Keep that in mind as your career evolves. Platforms change. Talent is talent.
    Reply to this
  • April 30, 2009 5:56 PM Dan wrote:
    All best wishes from Portland, Oregon. I grew up with The Oregonian and worked for it for 41 years, but I got to retire before the buyouts began. (No full-time layoffs, a promise by the publisher and owners; part-timers are not so fortunate.)I can identify with your experience. Growing up with newspapers (we took the union-produced Portland Reporter during a strike, and, briefly, the afternoon Oregon Journal when I delivered it) was important. All that information! In a working class family that paid attention to events, the newspaper was valued (pre-TV and post-TV). Again, all best wishes for the future. It must be hard to give up the newspaper that meant so much. I don't know what I would do. Maybe the same. Some owners have it coming.
    Reply to this
  • May 5, 2009 3:00 PM Marc wrote:
    Melissa,

    You probably don't remember me, but I was the young idiot reporter who walked around entirely overwhelmed at Bears camp about 10 or 11 years ago now.

    I'm still in it, going into my 11th season covering Iowa football at the Cedar Rapids Gazette. (College is so different than the NFL. Coach is king in college; not so in the NFL.)

    You've been one of my standards. You've shaped a lot of the way I think and write. I remember you once telling me, if it's the truth, they (players) know it. Turns out, they don't always like it, but they do know it. I'm derelict in my thanks. Way, way overdue. Just know your career has been appreciated from afar from a fellow sportswriter.

    All the best,

    Marc
    Reply to this
  • May 10, 2009 12:10 PM Frank wrote:
    Melissa,
    The best writer of all time at the Chicago Tribune, and now gone. Terrible, just terrible what is happening in the newspaper industry.
    Looking for your columns every day, I will be lost. You never forgot the veteran athletes, who I for one always look forward to reading about. The very touching story on your parents is something for all of us to learn from. The tribune's big loss will bounce back soon with something better. Maybe more books and a TV Show. Yes I would go for that.
    All The Best to You.
    Frank
    Reply to this
  • May 16, 2009 8:31 AM Fred wrote:
    I was very upset that the Trib felt the need to terminate your services, As a long time reader of the sports pages, going back to Carmichael, Brown, Holtzman et.al., you are definitely in my personal Hall of Fame. I wish you the very best in your future endeavors.
    Reply to this
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