So, I was kind of touched by this one in the New York Times, a reporter missing her workspace, and as these kinds of things often do, it sparked memories of how much I miss The Chicago Tribune, which continues to publish but faces what I suspect will be unkind ownership primarily interested in squeezing money out of the place.
Truth be known, we have all–all of us who worked there and kind of loved the place in a tortured, not very romantic way that got the paper out dependably each and every day and sent many of us on untold adventures around the world– missed the place. But its’ not like the New York Times version of missing the place, because that paper will thrive no matter what and those people will all have a space to return to, no matter what.
That’s not the case with The Tribune. The place I loved has already disappeared behind a facade of what the paper used to be, now filled inside with people wealthy enough to buy a space in a classic old building that had a great presence when it was still a paper. Now it’s just an investment for someone. The staff has been shifted over to the gigantic building by the railroad tracks that was named Freedom Center, a name suggested by someone who is sadly very gone now in a difficult way. It remains a very good staff, good as we were, but younger now. It can still be a newspaper, of course, but where do you go for lunch? Where do you take that stroll when you are thinking of something overwhelming you have to write about?
Where do you linger when you are waiting for an inspiration to drop on your head like pigeon poop out on the loading dock, where we all went to smoke and grouse and complain and, sometimes, to flirt? What young reporters get to memorize the underground maze that ran from the Tribune basement all over the place, all of it available on foot. You could get to a good lunch spot pretty quickly down there, or at least to Fields when it was still Fields and you needed some Circassian wood to encompass your okay lunch?
The Cambridge House, of course, is gone. I once calculated the amount of money R.C. Longworth, a delightful lunch companion, spent over his career with the paper. You could do that because he ate exactly the same thing each day, a big salad with oil and vinegar dressing. We ate many a peach and perch arguing about how we were going to do whatever it was people were asking us to do. I had long hair then, in a snappy pony tail, and one of the servers called me “Patrick” because it reminded her of Patrick Henry.
That whole neighborhood was ours, reporter land full of Tribune and Sun Times people. It was a great place to ramble for a little while.
The building had its charms but mostly you didn’t get to see them because the newsroom was in one place, the fourth floor (features fifth). It was a great, open space full of diligent people who were always head down staring at early generation computers. Lots of phones ringing. Lots of talk. Lots and lots of people.
I miss them all, even the ones I didn’t get along with so well. And I miss the ones I wanted to get along with but never had an avenue for approaching them. They aren’t ghosts these days, but they are fading images for me, I am sad to say. It was great to gather with them around the computer when we were trying to call an election, or decide how to write a huge story about something awful. I never had any doubts about their intentions, which is what made it so good to work with them. We all wanted the same thing. Truth. A little grace in a sentence. Some very good laughs.
So I understand why the New York Times woman has feelings about her workspace. So do I, and I suspect I always will. All of you Tribune people out there, writers, editors, graphic designers, features writers, you are missed more than the building. Take care and, as always, don’t ever cheapen the beat!