We cannot scrape history clean. In 1984 Rupert Murdoch bought the Sun-Times, paid $90 million for it. And because Murdoch had an unsavory reputation, more than 60 of us who worked there walked out the door.
I walked out with, of course, Mike Royko, who called Murdoch an “alien” and said he published papers that no self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in. I walked out with Zay Smith, who will be joining me in a few minutes.
So I walked out…remembering how I had been through something like this, but much worse, before, in 1978, when the Daily News died.
The day before the death, which took place on March 4, 1978…March 4, the birthday of the city of Chicago…Mike wrote of the end, using softball as his analogy: “When I was a kid, the worst of all days was the last day of summer vacation, and we were in the schoolyard playing softball, and the sun was down and it was getting dark. But I didn't want it to get dark. I didn't want the game to end. It was too good, too much fun. I wanted it to stay light forever, so we could keep on playing forever, so the game would go on and on. That’s how I feel now. C'mon, c’mon. Let's play one more inning. One more time at bat. One more pitch. Just one? Stick around, guys. We can't break up this team. It's too much fun. But the sun always went down. And now it's almost dark again.”
Darkness came: The Daily News died.
And so, Murdoch did his damage to the Sun-Times in just a couple of years and now it is said he is eying the Tribune or the Los Angeles Times.
Odd, he still likes newspapers, because we live in an era when newspapers are not an essential part of most people’s lives. People have other means of getting the news, or so they would tell you. The war against newspapers is bloody, claiming more victims every day and making many believe that there will come a day when you cannot hold a newspaper in your hands.
Bill Newman wrote the front page obit for the Daily News and in times of trouble or Murdoch I remind myself of what he wrote. He wrote: “A newspaper dies, but newspapering goes on. Life goes on, the sequel and all the tomorrows after that.”