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On Thursday Steinberg's editor, Don Hayner, 60, announced his immediate retirement. Hayner, one of the city's most scrupulous journalists, had been with the Sun-Times almost 30 years and was its editor in chief for the last three of them. His era felt longer to me and possibly to Hayner, too, because these have been hard years. "This is all me. This is my decision," he told his staff, but the Sun-Times is changing in ways that reflect the latest owners' idea of journalism more than his own. The designers run it now, and they must lay it out with tweezers; there's so little space that the sports section decided this year to skip the traditional pennant race predictions by its baseball writers.
On Friday Steinberg, who's been writing for the Sun-Times since the Rupert Murdoch era, published a column devoted to the sinking of the Titanic, in particular the heroic performance of the ship's radio operators. Steinberg concluded:
"For me, the Titanic radio operator story is a metaphor for life. It signals to us something about duty and perseverance in the face of difficulty. You’re not the captain. You didn’t design the ship. You don’t own it. But you stay at your station, no matter what, tapping out your messages with all the skill you have, as long as you can, until relieved."