Tribune file photo
June 29, 2009
It is a majestic building, that beaux-arts box that occupies a full slice of Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Washington Streets. Built in 1897, it was the city's first permanent library, and a library it remained until 1973, when the books were removed and it was transformed into the Chicago Cultural Center, where more than 1,000 events, programs and exhibitions take place each year, almost all of them free.
Another exhibition opened in late May in the Chicago rooms on the second floor of the building, devoted to the work of a newspaper cartoonist dead and gone for 60 years.
Curated by the city's cultural historian, Tim Samuelson, the exhibition is a gathering of dozens of drawings by John T. McCutcheon. No one in the opening night crowd had known McCutcheon, who died in 1949, and only a few remembered his work, unless it was his most famous drawing, "Injun Summer," which ran yearly in the Tribune Magazine until 2000, banished by those decrying its depiction of Native Americans.
McCutcheon had joined the Tribune staff in 1903, and so two years later was present at the birth of what was then a newspaper novelty. It was called the Tribune's "Worker's Magazine," subtitled, "For the man who works with hand or brain." As Lloyd Wendt tells it in his definitive history, "Chicago Tribune: The Rise of a Great American Newspaper," early issues of this magazine detailed the careers of some the city's notable and successful men, but "after a few do-it-yourself issues it concentrated attention on livelier subjects." Over the next few years it featured stories such as "The Widening Gap Between Husband and Wife"; "The Most Beautiful Women in Chicago," with photographs; "A Kentucky Wife Sells Her Husband for $1"; and "Mary and Her Little Lamb Brought Up-to-Date."
In 1914, the paper began the "Chicago Tribune Pictorial Weekly," a rotogravure publication. As Wendt related, it came with high ambitions, so lofty that Joseph Medill Patterson, then the co-editor and co-publisher, told an interviewer that "he wanted a Sunday magazine so excellent no one would feel an urge to buy one of the national weeklies."
Over the next decades, the magazines changed format and focus, changed names. New magazines, such as the Graphic in 1931, joined the fold. The magazine as you know it -- the modern Tribune Sunday Magazine, if you will -- was born Oct. 4, 1953, with the merger of the Graphic and the sepia-toned rotogravure picture section. Its first editor was the aforementioned Wendt, and it is likely that I first heard of the magazine as a baby. Wendt collaborated with my father, Herman Kogan, on four books, including "Give the Lady What She Wants," a history of Marshall Field & Co., "Lord of the Levee" and "Big Bill of Chicago," published in 1953.
I have been around the Tribune Magazine ever since and eventually started reading it, and watched it change in size and style and substance. For the last dozen years I have been a member of its staff.
You have no doubt read that this will be the last edition of the Tribune Magazine as a weekly publication. Your reaction to this news is understandable.
Disappointed? You bet. Angry? Not surprised.
When something that has been part of your life for decades vanishes, there is a void, a palpable sense of loss: What am I supposed to do with those hours I spent reading the stories and working the puzzle?
But the Magazine will continue to be published in special editions later this year and into the future. The long-form narrative journalism that was its hallmark will find other space in the paper. My "Sidewalks" column, Leah Eskin's "Home on the Range" and the beloved crossword puzzle, plus an extra puzzle, will have found homes in a new section that joins the best of the House & Homes and Smart sections. The new section debuts next week, and I know you will let us know what you think.
A ruthless economy and changing tastes have no sentiment, no regard for history.
I was on the staff of the Chicago Daily News when it ceased publication March 4 (coincidentally, the birthday of the City of Chicago) in 1978. In his final-edition front-page story about the paper's 102-year-long history and its legacy, the great newspaperman M.W. Newman wrote, "The writer's newspaper ends as it began -- a momentous Book of Life. But that story isn't over, just the Daily News' part of it. A newspaper dies, but newspapering goes on. Life goes on, the sequel and all the tomorrows after that."
There's nothing quite as dire, as finite here. No need for poetic eulogy.
To wander through the McCutcheon show is to understand how much newspapers, specifically this one, which was born in 1847, have remade themselves over the years in response to events and currents and tastes. Like McCutcheon and his many contemporaries, we remain in the business of trying to provide, as the title of the exhibition states, "Chronicles of a Changing World."
That about says it. The world changes. So do we. And we move on.