Sorry to be going all journalism today, but this one I just had to share. The Sun-Times’ Richard Roeper has an excellent blog post on his 20 years as a columnist and the dying breed of the big-city, celebrity newspaper columnist. Also, there’s plenty of funny anecdotes, like this one:
To this day, one veteran reporter—who was a veteran reporter 20-plus years ago—has yet to say hello to me when we pass in the hallways. For a few years I’d say hello and chuckle as he scurried away, refusing to look me in the eye. One time I just said, “Oh, fuck you,” to him, and he STILL wouldn’t acknowledge my existence. Now that’s dedication.
It’s a piece that really hits home because Roeper’s column was one of my biggest influences as a teenager falling in love with newspapers. I had no lasting nickname in high school until sophomore year, when I started bringing a Sun-Times to school everyday. From then on I was “The Paper Guy.” And any guy or gal who wanted to read the sports section or the Love Is cartoon came my way. I didn’t mind. Those weren’t my must-read parts anyway. Before most news of the day, I would always turn to page 11 for Roeper’s column, page 14 to Mary Mitchell, the late, great Steve Neal in the editorial pages, and, on Fridays, arguably the best damn newspaper writing there was (is): Roger Ebert’s reviews.
You could imagine my geekiness later on in life when I got an email response from Roeper about some asinine site that included him on the list of America’s Most Conservative Celebrities. He found it very humorous and thanked me for sending it. The only thing to top that was one of my questions appearing in Roger Ebert’s Answer Man column in 2003.
Roger Ebert / January 26, 2003
Q. Having read the book that “Antwone Fisher” is based on, I was quite surprised to find that the Japanese woman who was the first girlfriend of the real Antwone Fisher was omitted and replaced by an African-American woman in the film. Why is this so? (James Edwards, Chicago IL)
A. A Fox Searchlight rep says that while “Antwone Fisher” is inspired by a true story, “not everything in the film is fact. Antwone had several women in his life and the character of Cheryl is a composite of those women.”
All of this reminiscing comes on the heels of the Sun-Times filing for bankruptcy the other day. It’s more gasoline on the fire of the newspaper’s — and newspapers everywhere — hazy future. The best Roeper, or anyone at the Sun-Times, can say is that the march must still go on. Not out of blind optimism and naivety, but out of respect for the job and the institution.
I’ve never had a dream job, or one consistent enough to be considered a dream job. One more thing to envy others who do, along with people who have aunts, uncles, and first cousins. But if there was a gig closest to being a dream, it would be a beat reporter for the paper I fell in love with as a 15 year old in 2nd period Environmental Science. Long shot, I know, yet the march goes on.