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If Charlie Trotter were alive, he'd be impressed by the coverage of his death. He might even be astonished. He got more than his share of bad ink since closing his restaurant last year, and if he was as thin-skinned as frequently described, he might have wondered if the media's response would be "good riddance."
And it was anything but. I doubt if Chicago knew just how much Trotter mattered to Chicago before his death forced the question, but the coverage clearly answered it. Because Trotter was only 54 and no one expected his death, it was impromptu and visceral. And because he was pronounced dead at 11:48 Tuesday morning, the dailies had all the time they needed to take a deep breath, decide what the story was worth, and marshal their forces.
The dailies might have surprised themselves a little by how vast those forces were—especially on a day when there was another huge local story to handle, passage of the gay marriage act. Trotter was page one in both papers. The main story in Wednesday's Tribune was written by Mark Caro, with input from Rosemary Regina Sobol, Jeremy Gorner, Carlos Sadovi, Cynthia Dizikes, Ellen Jean Hirst, Mitch Smith, Phil Vettel, Carmel Carrillo, and Kevin Pang. Vettel, the Tribune's restaurant critic, also wrote a separate piece on Trotter. John Kass and Mary Schmich wrote columns. An editorial mourned the loss of one of the city's "great cultural figures."
Mike Thomas wrote the main piece in the Sun-Times, aided by Mitch Dudek, Art Golab, Becky Schlikerman, Jon Seidel, Tina Sfondeles, and Sue Ontiveros. Dudek (with Bill Zwecker) wrote one sidebar, Sfondeles another, and Mike Sneed devoted her column to "the last days of Charlie Trotter."
More stories followed in the Thursday papers.
Perfectionists can be hard to put up with when they're around, but in retrospect our admiration knows no bounds. Trotter slaved over a stove in a kitchen, but mayors go out covered by fewer reporters.