I was given the opportunity to visit the Chicago Tribune last week as my opinion writing class visited their editorial board.
I’ve always sort of had a romanticist view of journalism. Everything about the profession amazes me, from the work reporters/designers/etc. do to the press itself. I worked for the Rockford Register Star for three years as a part-time copy editor and held that view the whole time.
Was it like it is in the movies? No way. It was a bunch of regular guys and gals communicating with one another in a working environment.
The thing is, I think that’s why I like it so much. As a kid I would read the sports section of the Star on a daily basis. I would see the faces of Matt Trowbridge, Bill Wolverton, Emily Tropp (Aldrich back then), Jay Taft, Mike DeDoncker, Reed Schreck and Doug Goodman and they were larger-than-life figures to me. These people who’s faces were in the newspaper. How cool is that?
When I started interacting with these people on a daily basis and found out they were just regular people, it didn’t diminish the feeling to me, it enhanced it. As dorky as it sounds, those people were rock stars to me as kids, and the fact that they could carry on like it’s no big deal even though they were in the newspaper every day amazed me.
Which brings me back to the Tribune.
As an adult I know I had to think the Tribune folks weren’t all that different than those at the Star. But I hadn’t really thought much of it.
The newsroom was cool enough, but then they took us to the editorial section and the edit board’s personal meeting room. We met Bruce Dold, the editorial page editor and he invited me and my classmates around the large, hexagonal, wooden table to sit shoulder to shoulder with the same cast of characters who made the decision to make Barack Obama the first Tribune-endorsed Democratic presidential candidate in history. They made influential decisions on a daily basis, and their opinions could often make or break statured people.
And, just like the sports writers at the Star, they were just regular people.
More educated than us? Yes. More well-cultured? Maybe.
After the edit board meeting we walked around the newsroom a little bit more and met the Tribune’s sports editor. He was incredibly kind despite the fact that we were likely interrupting his work. He even broke the news for us that the Bulls were trading Tyrus Thomas, which hadn’t been reported yet.
It’s hard to express to those who aren’t “journalism people” just how cool the experience was, but I can say one thing definitively. The newspaper industry isn’t in as bad of shape as people might think. There are a lot of smart, hard-working people behind papers like the Tribune, and — again, my romanticist view comes into play, whether you think it’s foolish or not — I have faith that it’s going to be fine. Will it be like it was 30 years ago again? Probably not. But it will survive.
The thing that made me happiest about the whole visit is that it got me more excited about journalism and my future in the industry than ever. After visiting the Tribune, can I say I still want to be a journalist for the rest of my life?
In two words: Hell yes.