Law and Conversation

October 6, 2010

The newspaper biz: The Chicago Tribune and Tom Rachman’s “The Imperfectionists”

Filed under: Books and writing,reading — Helen Gunnarsson @ 4:49 pm
Tags: , , , ,

This article by Phil Rosenthal in the online edition of today’s Chicago Tribune, which links to this detailed NYT article suggesting problems and unhappiness at the Tribune, naturally caught my attention. 

As a reader of the Tribune since childhood, reading about negative developments in the newspaper’s business disappoints me.  I miss the Tribune of a decade or more ago; today’s paper, like most others, has been pared back so much that it takes me only a few minutes to read it.   Tribune execs, if you happen to read this, please consider hiring a few more writers and reporters and increasing your content.  You still have many very fine journalists–I’ve praised Eric Zorn’s incisive commentary many times and also enjoy the work of Dawn Turner-Trice, Greg Burns, Mary Schmich, Clarence Page, Stephen Chapman, and John Kass, among others.  Aren’t there some unemployed or freelance writers out there who would provide even more great content and make fine additions to your staff?  I realize it’s become increasingly difficult for print publications to turn a profit, but continuing to scale back the content, especially while increasing the prices, can only result in the loss of paying subscribers. 

I hope the Tribune will recover from its troubles.  Canadian writer Tom Rachman, an experienced journalist himself, recently published “The Imperfectionists,” a novel about the decline and fall of an American-owned European English-language newspaper in the early 2000’s.  A couple of weeks ago, the novel made the longlist for Canada’s ScotiaBank Giller Prize, Canada’s equivalent of the US’s National Book Award.  (The shortlist was announced yesterday; “The Imperfectionists” didn’t make it.)  After hearing Rachman interviewed on podcasts such as Q from the CBC, I couldn’t wait to check his book out from the library.  Once it was available, I wasn’t disappointed; it’s a fine novel.  Composed of short stories, each focusing on an individual newspaper employee, Rachman has skillfully linked the stories together to form a coherent and engaging narrative.

Rachman provides a list of his own favorite books and writers on his website.  I see that one of his picks is J.M. Coetzee’s “Disgrace,” which I originally disliked but have committed to rereading.

The Giller Prize website provides wonderful ideas for reading literature from Canada.  You can follow developments in the prize on Twitter, too!

UPDATE:  Next day coverage of the Tribune’s woes from the Trib itself is here.  Lots of work for the bankruptcy bar, and, if the NYT article reports matters accurately, the employment bar, also.  Query how many additional writers the Trib could hire to produce more high-quality coverage of local, national, and international matters alike with even a fraction of those inflated bonuses approved by the bankruptcy court?

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