By: MARK FITZGERALD
MIKE ROYKO ? WHO chronicled Chicago’s gritty spirit at three newspapers for more than three decades ? died April 30, a week after undergoing emergency surgery for a brain aneurysm. He was 64.
Royko’s career as a columnist began in 1963 at the Chicago Daily News. When that newspaper folded in 1978, Royko wrote the front-page story and moved to its sister paper, the Chicago Sun-Times.
Then, when the Field family sold the Sun-Times to Rupert Murdoch, Royko declared he would never work for the “alien,” as he called him. The paper went to court in an unsuccessful attempt to keep Royko. Instead, in 1984, Royko moved his four-day-a-week column to the broadsheet Chicago Tribune, a paper he once complained “makes my neck stiff” when he read it.
Royko, who won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, was long considered a champion of working people. And he was the genuine article himself: Growing up in an apartment over the family tavern on the city’s near Northwest Side, dropping out of school and cutting his journalistic teeth on an Air Force paper and at the legendary City News Bureau in Chicago.
In recent years, some complained that Royko was as much a bully as a defender, targeting people who seemed to be themselves the little guy. Last year, hundreds of Mexican-Americans protested outside the Tribune over a column Royko apparently intended as a satire of anti-immigration opinions. A gay rights organization also leaked a copy of the police report of his drunken-driving arrest, which portrayed a foul-mouthed, falling-down drunk shouting slurs about the police officers’ ethnicity and sexual orientations.
Still, Chicago’s newspapers were filled with appreciations of a man who served as inspiration and mentor for an entire generation of journalists.
“He was a master of prose,” wrote movie critic Roger Ebert in the Sun-Times. “He used simple words and direct sentences to create the most subtle and touching effects. For more than 30 years, wherever he worked, Mike Royko was the best newspaper columnist in America.”
Tribune Media Services President David Williams stated that the late TMS columnist “was a Chicago institution and a figure of national importance in the profession of daily journalism . . . . Mike’s unique ‘average guy’ perspective on topics such as the ins and outs of local and national politics, social change and his own personal trials have been a part of Chicago culture for more than 35 years.”
According to TMS, Royko was carried in more than 600 newspapers worldwide.
In addition to being a columnist, Royko was the author of the 1971 critical biography, Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago.
The Tribune has posted a memorial to Royko at http://www.chicago.tribune.com.
?(Mike Royko in a recent photo, and in his beloved Windy City in 1971) [Photo & Caption]
?Web Site: http://www.mediainfo.com.
?copyright: Editor & Publisher, May 3, 1997.