Journalism · Uncategorized

Save the Sun-Times

Thirty years ago, the Chicago White Sox announced plans to move to Florida. Governor Jim Thompson knew the loss would diminish the city’s stature.

He also realized he would be held responsible if the Sox left. In June, 1988, with assistance from Speaker Michael Madigan, “Big Jim” twisted enough legislator’s arms to keep the White Sox on the south side.

The point: Keeping Chicago as one of two cites (with New York) with two big league teams was/is a big deal and was worth fighting for.

You know what else is a big deal and worth fighting for?

Having two high-quality daily newspapers.

Yesterday’s Tweet from a reporter at the Sacramento (CA) Bee is a reminder of the state of the newspaper industry.

In Chicago, significant numbers of reporters and editors at both the Tribune and the Sun-Times have been dismissed in recent years.

Five years ago, due to economic pressures (and bad management), the Sun-Times fired all of its photographers, though a few were later rehired. The paper itself has many fewer reporters than it did a decade ago.

But the Sun-Times, with new management, is still here and fighting for survival.

At the Tribune, a much bigger paper, the exit door has been seeing a lot of activity in  recent years, with the latest exodus occurring last month.

It marked the second round of layoffs in five months under publisher and editor-in-chief Bruce Dold. In October Dold cited “significant financial pressure” facing the news industry in cutting a reported 14 positions.

A financially healthy Sun-Times will help protect the Tribune as well. Tribune reporters have decided to form a union to protect the newsroom from the paper’s management. That management, unsurprisingly, has decided to fight the union organizing effort.

Without competition, the Tribune will have no incentive to make peace with the union or to stop diverting newspaper revenues from the newsroom to executives. Saving the Sun-Times means TWO quality papers for Chicago.

We need to save journalism by paying for it.

Two papers staffed with reporters committed to the public’s right to know, who keep each other honest while informing the rest of us, help protect our democracy from those who would prefer we remain clueless.

While a number of individuals or organizations fit that description, no matter who you are or who you do/don’t trust, the point is the same: We need reporters who will ferret out the truth and deliver it to us.

Good journalism has value and must be paid for, so please subscribe.

If past editorial positions are keeping you from subscribing, please reconsider.

The Sun-Times is under new management, including support from organized labor. This  coincides with a new trend of publishing editorials supportive of working people.

Don’t be the person who helped kill democracy by allowing journalism to die. Support your local paper and consider supporting the Sun-Times. Choose home delivery or online access, but please subscribe NOW.

Below are links to the top ten (by circulation) newspapers in Illinois. You can google your area’s paper, if you don’t see it.

As another paper likes to say, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

Let’s keep the lights on.

1.   Chicago Tribune

2.Chicago Sun-Times

3.   Hoy

4.   Journal Star

5.   Daily Herald – Cook County

6.   Belleville News-Democrat

7.   The State Journal-Register

8.   Rockford Register Star

9.   Dispatch/Argus

10. The Pantagraph

McBarronBlog Bonus:

Imagine Chicago without the Sun-Times

meeting the famous · Radio

Meeting Mrs. Bush

As her husband, George H. W. Bush, campaigned in 1988 to replace President Ronald Reagan, “Second Lady,” Barbara Bush, came to Springfield.

Mrs. Bush’s passion was promoting literacy. She visited public schools often, unlike the current White House occupant and his Secretary of Education.

As the wife of the vice president, and later as First Lady, Mrs. Bush was very well-respected. She also was feared. As a 1992 Vanity Fair profile stated,

People who have worked with the Bushes use words and phrases like “difficult” … “tough as nails” … “demanding” … “autocratic.” A 1988-campaign staffer recalls that “when she frowned it had the capacity to send shudders through a lot of people.”

In the presence of school children though, her soft side came through.


My memory is a little fuzzy 30 years later, but I assume her plan when she visited Springfield in mid-1988 was to promote literacy, visit some schools, get some nice pictures in the paper.

Somehow, that plan went slightly awry. I was the news director for a local radio station. As a matter of course, whenever newsmakers came to town, as they often did in election years, I would request a one-on-one interview. Being a lowly radio guy, I didn’t often get the big ones.

As I recall, Mrs. Bush’s visit was being coordinated by the governor’s office. Again, the details are blurred, but someone made a mistake.

My request was approved.

My belief that it was a mistake is based on Mrs. Bush’s deportment when I met her, and her attendant, in a small office at the Statehouse.

She appeared to be pissed at someone, though, thankfully, not at me.

She sat for the interview and answered all my questions. She was not unpleasant. She was direct, not chatty. There were no laughs.

Three decades later, I have no recollection of the details of what we discussed. It’s safe to assume no big news was made. In fact, I might not have remembered the conversation at all if it was not for one odd thing about it.

It’s common for prominent people making public appearances to have attendants, people who make sure meetings with the media go well and don’t get weird. It wasn’t unusual that the person who accompanied Mrs. Bush sat in a chair just to my right as I interviewed her. What was unusual was who that person was.

An arm’s-length from me, for the duration of the conversation, was Gov. James Thompson.

The governor, mid-way though the last of his four terms, said nothing during the interview which, I imagine, lasted 20 or 30 minutes.

He just sat there.

Afterward I tried to figure out why.  Theory: It was his punishment for having someone in his office approve my interview request.

I know this: There was only on person in that room happy about my interview and it wasn’t either of them.

Anyway, the interview concluded without incident. We went our separate ways.

I guess the only other thing worth mentioning is that, in November of 1988, George H. W. Bush won Illinois’ electoral votes with 50.7 percent of the vote, topping Michael Dukakis by 1.8 percentage points. Barbara Bush’s time in Illinois could only have contributed to that success.

Barbara Bush was always an asset to her husband’s political career. She didn’t suffer fools.

I’m grateful that, one day at the Illinois Statehouse, she made an exception.

# # #




In praise of the “PR stunt”


Retirement means I’ve been able to visit places with the family I never thought I would see. Earlier this year, we journeyed to Paris and Amsterdam, experiencing The Louvre, Napoleon’s Tomb, the Anne Frank House and much more.

In Amsterdam, we stayed in a hotel with a link to Beatles history.


The Amsterdam Hilton opened in 1962, but its greatest fame came seven years later when the presidential suite, room #702, became the honeymoon suite for newlyweds John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

From March 25-31, 1969, Lennon and Ono hosted media members from around the world at their “Bed-in for peace.” The idea was to use their highly publicized marriage to bring attention to the importance of ending the Vietnam war.

With their nonconformist artistic expressions (cf. Bari: 33),[3] such as the nude cover of the Two Virgins album, the press were expecting them to be having sex, but instead the couple were just sitting in bed, wearing pyjamas—in John’s words “like angels”—talking about peace with signs over their bed reading “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace”. After seven days, they flew to Vienna, Austria, where they held a Bagism press conference.

The Bed-in was a PR stun intended to draw attention to the couple’s pro-peace message. As such, it was quite successful. The Bed-in for Peace received a huge amount of news coverage worldwide. The North American leg of the Bed-in (Montreal, June, 1969) was the site for the recording of Lennon’s peace anthem which was an international hit.

Whether one considered it silly or serious, the Bed-in drew attention. It irritated President Nixon whose infamous “enemies list” included Lennon, an outspoken and extremely famous anti-war activist.

This morning, I watched a news report on the anniversary of the “Bed-in.” The report noted “the PR stunt didn’t end the war.”

Well, no. The war didn’t end, this week, 49 years ago.

Neither did the mass anti-war demonstrations that took place throughout the 60s end the war. At least, not during the 1960s. Those also could have been described as “PR stunts.”

A stunt is an event designed to draw attention. An anti-war PR stunt is intended to get the attention of people who don’t usually consider the cost of war. It raises the question, “Is it worth it?”

Small demonstrations, like the Bed-in, and large, like the December 1969 March on Washington, helped shorten the war. Over time, those on the fence examined their attitudes and decided the war wasn’t worth the cost. Moving people to the “it’s not worth it” position ended the war.

Saturday’s demonstrations against gun violence haven’t ended end gun violence.


But, there was palpable energy and commitment emanating from the huge crowds of young people participating in the March for Our Lives events throughout the country on Saturday, including those in Washington D.C.Springfield, Chicago, and its surrounding areas. That’s what a movement looks like.

If you show up in large numbers to promote a powerful message and, if you’re in for the long haul, you will eventually win. That’s what we learned from the anti-war movement and from the civil rights movement.



It’s not hard to imagine John Lennon would have been marching against gun violence in New York on Sunday. Others of his generation marched in his place.


Battles aren’t won by PR stunts, but when stunts are part of a strategy and supported by highly motivated people dedicated to a cause, they can help achieve goals worth fighting for.

Photo hanging in the lobby of the Amsterdam Hilton

McBarronBlog Bonus

The Amsterdam Hilton is name checked on this Beatles single which features Lennon on guitar and McCartney on all the other instruments. Ballad of John and Yoko

Guns · Privilege

Privilege? You be the judge


The facts:

A 67-year old man fired a pistol in his apartment. The bullet passed through the wall he shared with his neighbor.

The shooter failed to report the accident. In addition, when asked by his neighbor and the property management company AND the police about the hole in the wall, he provided various explanations, none of which mentioned a firearm.

Police reports say O’Shea gave property managers and police at least three excuses for the hole, including he accidentally put a screwdriver through the wall while hanging a mirror, and his son accidentally caused the hole while using a pneumatic nail gun.

Nine days after the shooting, the neighbor ran across a spent bullet in his apartment. Only then did the shooter admit what had happened. He was charged with reckless conduct.

Now, you might think this an “open and shut” case. If you’re familiar with the legal system, you might be surprised there was a trial. Most lawyers would tell someone stupid enough to fire a gun in his house, and foolish enough to lie to police about it, to avoid court.

But the shooter knew plenty about the legal system.

DuPage County Judge Patrick O’Shea was negligent when he accidentally fired a revolver through his wall and into a neighbor’s apartment, but a Kane County judge ruled Friday those actions did not meet reckless conduct requirements.

Judge Keith Johnson found O’Shea not guilty, ruling prosecutors failed to prove key components of the charge.

The state did not prove anyone’s life was in danger because prosecutors were unable to prove anyone was home in the unit where the shot was fired or anywhere else in the vicinity, Johnson said.

The phrase “white privilege” rubs many people, particularly white people, the wrong way. This is understandable. After all, life is hard for everyone. Few are spared hardship and disappointment.

On the other hand, who believes the court would have been so understanding about the shooting and lying had it been, for example, a young black man who fired a gun into another person’s DuPage County apartment?



The not guilty verdict  wasn’t the end of the good news Judge Johnson gave Judge O’Shea:

He also signed an order allowing to O’Shea to retrieve two pistols and 49 other guns from the Wheaton Police Department, once his FOID card is reinstated by the Illinois State Police.

Oh good. I was afraid a dope wouldn’t have access to 51 guns.

O’Shea declined to comment. His attorney, Terry Ekl, said they expected and were pleased with the ruling.

Yes, despite the evidence, the confession and the lying,  the ruling was “expected.”

I have no reason to believe, after the verdict was issued, that Judge O’Shea told Judge Johnson “It’s been a privilege.”

But he should have.

# # #




Teachers, students, parents wasted their time talking to President Trump

Cw_k5phVIAACeeNFor a moment on Wednesday I thought President Trump gave a damn about the danger posed to all Americans, including school children and teachers, by the easy access to guns in the United States.

I thought he might have actually been paying attention during Wednesday’s “listening session” at the White House, where the parents and classmates of the Florida school shooting victims poured their hearts out to him. They spoke eloquently, angrily and tearfully about their pain and their passionate belief there are too many guns, too easily obtained, especially weapons capable of killing dozens of people within seconds.

The President said the right things Wednesday, showing, for maybe the first time as president, a little bit of empathy.

Trump told the group he would “do something about this horrible situation that’s going on” in America, and that he hoped to “figure it out together” with those students, teachers and parents gathered at the White House.

“We don’t want others to go through the kind of pain that you’ve gone through,” Trump said.

It was a different story Thursday, when the President voiced support for countering the problem of guns in schools by having teachers bring more guns into schools.

President Donald Trump on Thursday expanded on his idea to train and arm some teachers with guns, suggesting that firearm-adept school staff be given “a little bit of a bonus” for carrying weapons, and promising federal funds to train them.

At a White House discussion on school safety solutions with state and local officials, Trump said “highly adept people … who understand weaponry” could carry guns in schools, estimating that 10 to 40 percent of teachers could be qualified for such a task. Those who are would undergo “rigorous training,” he said, later adding that he’d consider offering federal money for that effort.

Though on Wednesday, he said he wanted to “figure it out” with teachers and students, by Thursday it was clear the only voice he hears is that of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The NRA answer to every problem is “more guns,” which makes sense because the NRA is the marketing and lobbying arm of the gun manufacturers. Anything that reduces the number of guns sold is bad for business.

Arming teachers could mean 720,000 more guns in schools., so you can see why the NRA told Trump to float the idea, which was immediately rejected by the nation’s largest education employees union. NEA President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, said more guns into schools does nothing to protect students and educators from gun violence.

“Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms. Parents and educators overwhelmingly reject the idea of arming school staff. Educators need to be focused on teaching our students. We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that.

A post on the issue on the IEA Facebook Page generated more than 500 comments in less than 24 hours, virtually all of them in opposition.

A sampling:

  • If teachers become armed I am leaving the profession.
  • #ArmMeWith enough school psychologists, social workers, & teaching assistants to ensure my students are getting all of the help they need before it becomes too much for them.
  • NOPE. Stop leaving problems created by society as a whole at the feet of teachers and expecting us to fix them on our own. Society created this issue. Society needs to fix it. People can’t budge on their guns but expect teachers and kids to fight off attackers? Insane. And teachers would probably be required to fund it on their own.
  • Not surprised by his ignorance. I will not be forced to carry a gun at school! Just as lawmakers are unwilling to amend the 2nd Amendment, I will not allow it to infringe on my rights as a teacher!
  • I grew up in a gun collector’s home and was taught from a young age just how serious they are by my father who worked in Chicago emergency rooms. As a middle-school teacher and union president, I do not want them introduced into my school unless they are in the hands of trained law enforcement, not those of my coworkers, and especially not in my hands.
  • The people best prepared to deal with this issue–our enforcement officers in this nation–believe this is not a good solution. I just heard the Sheriff of Broward County where the Florida school shooting took place said this idea of arming teachers is not a good idea.

Offering to bribe teachers to carry guns is classic Trump. He knows teachers will never go for a plan to give them weapons. That’s not why they became teachers.

But the thing is He doesn’t care.

Now he’ll say, “I offered a solution, teachers didn’t like it, we’re done.” As far as he’s concerned, that gets him off the hook.

Status quo, the position always favored by the NRA, remains in place.

Let’s hope everyone outraged by last week’s violence in Florida will remain angry in November.

The president won’t be on the ballot. However, many of his enablers will.

McBarronBlog Bonus

This president can’t relate to people whose focus is not on “making money.” This explains the meeting Trump had with the national Teachers of the Year at the White House last year, which the Washington Post described as “weird.”


Growing up

St. Jerome’s all-time hit leader


(A previous published version of this post contained an error. As I was fixing that, I recalled information from more than a half-century ago that changed some of the details. This is an updated version of the original post)

With baseball season coming up, my thoughts drift back more than 50 years to the one time in my life I regret going to Wrigley Field.

At the center of the story is Sister Mary St. Delphine.

Everyone who attended Catholic schools taught by nuns has “nun stories.” Sometimes, survivors from different schools compare stories.

In the competition for the worst/craziest/most violent nun, I always win because my eighth grade nun was Sister Delphine.

In the photo above, taken around the time she was my teacher, Sister Delphine was approximately 180 years old. She presided over Room 301 at St. Jerome’s School in Chicago’s Rogers Park.

Every day of eighth grade started with torture disguised as “music appreciation.”

There was an upright piano in the front of the room with a mirror positioned strategically above the sheet music. This allowed Delphine to monitor the students as she pounded out the hits using her gnarled, arthritic hands.

The songs we had to learn in 1966 included World War II era classics Buckle Down Winsocki and Coming in on a Wing and Prayer, along with one contemporary hit, The Ballad of the Green Berets.

This was torture, not because the songs were bad (though most of them were extremely old-fashioned and corny), but because Sister Delphine insisted on singing them.

Delphine’s singing voice was…unusual.

I strain to find comparisons, but if you Google ” Taser demonstration video” you’ll have a sense of the experience.

Sister Delphine demanded a roomful of eighth grade boys remain calm and unsmiling as the most horrible sounds we had ever heard filled the room. This was impossible.

When we laughed (and we all laughed), Sister, who had been watching us via the mirror, would get up from her bench, grab a yardstick (she bought them by the gross) and offer her response to our review of her warbling.

We had mixed feelings when the yardstick was headed our way.

On the one hand, we knew it was going to hurt. On the other, there was usually no singing during beatings.

You could tell who Sister Delphine liked. They were the ones with the faint bruises.

Then there were others. I was one of those.

There probably was never a good time to have met Sister Delphine, but this was definitely a bad time.

I arrived in her class frustrated, hurt by my parents recent divorce, and overly emotional. Delphine picked up on that and, like any nurturing teacher would, gave me a nickname in front of the class.


Surprisingly, this did not result in improved behavior.

Warning: The following story ends with a “sad trombone” sound effect.

As the end of the eighth grad year neared I hated school. On the school day in question, in May 1967, I realized I really needed to see a Cubs game.

I don’t remember what my plan was for explaining my absence. Maybe the story was that I was sick and had to go to the doctor. Or, I had to stay home in bed. Or I had a sick relative I had to care for.

Whatever the story was, it did not involve sunshine.

So maybe sitting in the bleachers was not the best idea.

When I saw my sunburned face I knew I was in for a bad time. The next day, I made a half-hearted attempt at a lie, but Delphine wasn’t having it. She quickly got me to confess.

The rest is a blur, but I’m pretty sure I got more hits than the Cubs did the previous afternoon.

The kicker: While I was sunning myself at the ballpark, Sister Delphine, who wasn’t much interested in teaching anyway, decided to give herself and the class a treat and tuned the classroom TV to the ballgame.

I’ve only scratched the surface (something Sister Delphine did often) on my eighth grade year.

There will be more.



Oh say, did you see that Anthem performance?

Had it been a fight, Fergie’s performance of the National Anthem at Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game would have been stopped by “the dawn’s early light.”

Twitter was not kind.

It seems foolish to get too exercised over this latest Anthem insult. After all, the song itself is, at the least, controversial.

The lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner were written by Francis Scott Key, a slaveowner. He was celebrating the failure of the British to conquer Baltimore in the War of 1812.


The words were set To Anacreon in Heaven, an awkward tune appropriate for inebriation, which is how it was usually sung.

Though I’ve always thought it silly to perform it before every sporting event, I remain an Anthem fan. It’s how I was raised. There’s nothing wrong with putting your own spin on the song, if your talent and your heart are in the right places.

Any list of great Anthem performances must include the lengthy but incredibly soulful version by Marvin Gaye at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game.

Fifteen years earlier, Jose’ Feliciano was a little too soulful for the time. His expressive performance at the 1968 World Series resulted in death threats and calls for the Puerto Rican-American singer to be “deported.”

My favorite Anthem performance took place in Portland on April 25, 2003, prior to a NBA Playoff game between the hometown Trailblazers and the Dallas Mavericks.

The scheduled singer that night was 13-year-old Natalie Gilbert who, in true, “the show must go on” fashion, decided to take the mic despite having spent the day in bed with the flu.

In retrospect, that was a mistake. Yet, something wonderful happened.

That Anthem performance shows how things ought to be in America. When we see someone struggling, we should accept the risk that we could look silly and we lend a hand.

It doesn’t matter that Trailblazers coach Mo Cheeks couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. He saw a young girl who needed help and stepped in.

That clip gets me, every time. And I’ve watched it a lot.

That’s leadership.

Sadly, Mo Cheeks wasn’t nearby when a man who pontificates about patriotism drew a blank on the words to the anthem of the country he’s supposed to be leading.

At least Fergie knows the words.

When performed with sincerity, the Anthem can be quite moving.

When things go awry, the Anthem can either give us a window into the heart of those who talk a good game about patriotism but don’t feel it, or it can show us something great about America.

Thank you, Mo Cheeks.

Happy President’s Day.

# # #

McBarronBlog Bonus

One of the most “unorthodox”performances of the Anthem took place at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Former US Airman Jimi Hendrix said he just wanted to share something “beautiful.”

It might be hard to believe, but the Anthem was not always played before every sporting event

In his stand-up days, Albert Brooks ruminated about the possible rewriting of the National Anthem