The story has ended for Chicago’s venerable City News Service. Saturday was the final day of business at the agency that trained generations of journalists and writers and inspired “The Front Page.”
“I’m sad,” said City News Editor Paul Zimbrakos. “What can one say?”
The Chicago Tribune, which owned City News since 1999, announced Dec. 1 that it would eliminate the service and its 19 jobs at the end of the year to cut costs and to stop serving up news to the Tribune’s online and broadcast competitors.
The newspaper said it will replace City News with a 24-hour news desk to serve the Tribune’s Web sites alone.
All of Chicago’s major daily newspapers jointly owned and used City News’ predecessor, City News Bureau., until the Tribune became the sole owner and renamed it the New City News Service.
Since its founding in 1890, it had provided breaking news via streetcar messengers, pneumatic tubes, Teletype machines and, finally, computers.
City News was where Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mike Royko, author Kurt Vonnegut and investigative reporter Seymour Hersh cut their teeth. Actor Melvyn Douglas worked there. “Cheers” actor George Wendt wanted to, but a City News staffer found out he couldn’t type and advised him to forget about filling out a job application.
One alum, playwright Charles MacArthur, turned his City News experiences into “The Front Page,” which he co-wrote with Ben Hecht.
“You learned about good reporting and bad reporting,” Hersh said of his City News experience. “I learned about the streets. I saw dead people. I saw things that I wouldn’t have seen” in other jobs.