Steve Huntley operates with an unassuming grace.
And yet I was surprised on Thursday when he elegantly, and quietly, announced his retirement from the Chicago Sun-Times after 30 distinguished years.
I guess because I can’t imagine this joint without him.
Why should readers care? Isn’t this just so much inside baseball, you know, media droning on about media?
I can answer that.
He protected us.
All of us.
Liberals, moderates, conservatives, libertarians, citizens, politicians, reporters.And always, first and foremost, readers.
Steve was my first boss at the Chicago Sun-Times back when the publisher and executive editor, John Cruickshank and Michael Cooke, foisted me upon him in 2004 to fill the space on the editorial page once occupied by legendary political columnist Steve Neal.
At the time, the paper was reeling from Neal’s suicide and from the aftershocks of the federal fraud investigation of our felonious owner/chairman, Conrad Black, and his henchman, David Radler.
And then I arrived. A longtime television reporter suddenly thrust into a print newsroom, I braced myself for pushback. Print has always seen itself as hallowed space — the high church of journalism — and historically viewed television types as blown-dry hairdos with not much under the hair.
But Steve Huntley, a languid Southern gentleman, warmly welcomed me on my first day 11 years ago. What, he inquired, was I planning to write?And how soon would I be ready to file?
As editor of the editorial page back then, he could easily have tried to steer my columns in one direction or another.
He never did.
Moreover, when I would explain the position I was taking — on the mayor, the Catholic Church, the state Legislature — he gave no sign of agreement or disagreement.He cared only about facts and fairness.
Like my columnist colleague, Mark Brown, I was shocked to discover when Steve become a columnist that he had truckloads of opinions.
“I am always most struck,” wrote Mark in an email, “by Steve being such a consummate journalism professional that most of us didn’t have an inkling of the depth of his conservative views until he started writing his column.”
Tough on Obamacare, an abiding supporter of Israel, and no friend of Hillary, Steve offered a full range of conservative views that were eloquently argued and written. While I admit he and I often see the world from different perspectives, it is a respectful disagreement.
Respect is what Steve offered every day in the newsroom to colleagues and to readers.
While some people in our business are larger than life, imposing and self-promoting, he is the opposite. What he promoted for the all the years he was our editor was the news.
And, on the opinion pages, the free and unfettered exchange of views.
It is a lucky ink-stained wretch who can brag that he or she once worked for Steve Huntley.Because every one of us knows he made us better than we otherwise might have been.
Thank you, boss.
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