Yep, sonny, this is sure enough Tribune summer. Don’t know what that is, I reckon, do you? ’Cuz you only read the RedEye. Well, that’s when all the once-proud Chicago Tribune employees come back to collect their unemployment. You know, a long time ago, long afore potty-mouth’d Sam Zell took things over, there used to be heaps of real journalists ’round here—dozens—some Pulitzer Prize winners, I reckon, sure as Dewey defeat’d Truman. And the chiefs weren’t radio shock-jock types, neither—but reg’lar sure ’nough newspaper folk with their own honest-to-goodness journalism degrees an’ drinkin’ problems. Yes, the journalists wuz all around—right here where yer standin’. An’ they hain’t never offer’d $100 to see yer titties, neither.
Don’t be skeered—hain’t none around here now, leastways hardly any. They been gone since Zell first told ’em they now owned the place and then start’d firin’ ’em.
But every year, ’long about now, they all come back, leastways their sperrits do. They’re here now, whoopin’ and typin’. You can see ’em if you look real hard—see the hazy bloodshot eyes o’ such legends as Ring Lardner, Arch Ward, John T. McCutcheon, Dave Condon, George Bliss, and Mike Royko—once rever’d an’ respect’d, now but figures in the mist. They’re all around us. An’ lookee—here’s Bob Greene’s toupee!
See off yonder, see that tower? It kind o’ looks like a mighty tall corn shock from here, but that’s Tribune Tower, sacred tepee of the great warrior Colonel Robert R. McCormick. Smell that smoky sort o’ smell? Lots o’ people say it’s jest leaves burnin’, but it ain’t. It’s management smokin’ cigars an’ playin’ poker in ol’ Colonel McCormick’s wood-paneled inner sanctum, all laughin’ an’ drinkin’ an’ tellin’ dirty jokes, then havin’ nekkid sex on the balconies, plain as kin be.
Jever notice how the leaves turn red ’bout this time o’ year? That’s jest another sign o’ that rascal Sam Zell. See when an old, unemployed Tribune sperrit gits tired dancin’ and typin’ he goes up an’ squats on a leaf t’rest. And some of Sam Zell’s red ink rubs off o’ that leaf and down it comes, floatin’ to the ground and the sperrit’s pension with it. See—here’s one now. See how red it is? That’s $13 billion in red ink rubbed off’n all them leaves, sure’s you’re born.
Purty soon all 4,200 o’ them fired Trib sperrits’ll go a-marchin’ away, back to the happy job huntin’ grounds, but next year you’ll see ’em stumblin’ back—th’ Rush Street bars jest lousy with ’em, an’ their bonfires, lit with the World’s Greatest Newspaper, smolderin’ away jest like they are now.
—Jim Siergey and Greg Simetz,
with apologies to John T. McCutcheon