EDITORIAL: Chicago is in our Sun-Times DNA, so let’s party

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Workers removed the Chicago Sun-Times sign from the building at 350 N. Orleans St. last month in preparation for the move to the West Loop. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

On Thursday here at the Chicago Sun-Times, we’re throwing a holiday party.

We’ll celebrate the season with our current colleagues, but also, we hope, with many former colleagues. We’ve invited them all. We thought we should say thanks.

The Sun-Times goes back a long ways, but our DNA remains the same. It’s the DNA of Chicago. The Sun-Times has always been the newspaper — and now the digital multimedia company — that, to our thinking, best tells the stories at the heart of Chicago, holds the powerful to account, honors working people and stands up for anybody who’s up against it.

EDITORIAL

Things have changed, but not the important stuff.

For years, we worked out of a building on Wabash Avenue downtown. The floor of the newsroom vibrated every afternoon when the printing presses down below cranked up. We loved that daily tremor.

Then, for awhile, we worked out of a building in River North. We looked out on one of the prettiest sights in town, the junction of the North and South branches of the Chicago River, where kayaks dodge barges, and we could almost see the French fur traders who once put up their canoes at a frontier tavern located right where we stood.

Now we’re working out of new digs, a loft building near Madison and Racine in the West Loop. It’s an adjustment. We go online to see what the new condos going up all around are selling for — $460,000 for a small two-bedroom with a galley kitchen! We are confronted constantly by the clashing forces of change. On the Near West Side, people walk dogs that cost the down payment on a car. They walk past a shelter for addicts who have slept in cars.

If it’s in the DNA of the Sun-Times to tell the truest stories of Chicago, maybe this is exactly where we belong in 2017. Not in the rarified air of the Loop, among the boardroom boys and girls. But in a place closer to our city’s everyday reality.

At the risk of indulging in inside baseball, we want to express our appreciation today for all the folks who have ever worked for the Sun-Times, especially those who have really understood that DNA.

Some terrific journalists signed up early on, just about the time the Chicago Daily Times and the Chicago Sun merged in 1948. We’re thinking of the gossip columnist Irv Kupcinet and the advice columnist Ann Landers, of course, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jacob Burck. Later came stars like Roger Ebert, Pam Zekman, Jack Higgins, Roger Simon and Mike Royko.

But once we get to naming names, there’s no end to it. So enough. The Sun-Times, over almost 80 years, has showcased the work of hundreds of fine Chicago journalists.

Sun-Times journalism has been central to sending politicians to prison. Our journalism has been essential to reforming state and local government, breathing life into the local theater and music scenes, cleaning up the environment and improving the schools.

Chicago’s building code department, once notorious for taking bribes, was overhauled after the Sun-Times secretly operated a tavern — the Mirage — just to watch the crooks walk in. Safety standards in abortion clinics were upgraded after our reporters worked undercover in several clinics. City Hall’s entire hired truck program was thrown out, and people went to prison, after the Sun-Times exposes the kickbacks, favoritism and goldbricking.

The Harold Washington Library, Chicago’s prized central library, stands today because a Sun-Times reporter, Charles Nicodemus, shamed City Hall into it. In the late 1980s, Nico showed that the city’s original plan, to shove the library into an empty department store building on State Street, could never work. The weight of the books would collapse the floor supports.

For all of that, we believe the Sun-Times is at its daily best when it simply reflects back to our city the wonders of ordinary life. We’ll take a Maureen O’Donnell obituary — such as the one she wrote recently about Jean Harvey Lightfoot, a member of the famed Fisk Jubilee Singers — any day.

As we say, we’ve moved into new quarters, and tighter quarters at that. Walls have fallen. Reporters sit next to digital editors who sit next to page designers who sit next to ad sales people who sit next to accountants who sit next to marketing people. And we all give thanks to Mike Figi in the lunchroom for keeping the coffee strong and fresh.

Something unexpected has come of such close proximity. We are reminded each day that we are all in the news business, whatever our job, and we’re all pretty proud when the Sun-Times gets the news right and gets it to you. It’s in our DNA.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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