‘Sun-Times’: Cancel That Left Turn

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Conrad Black, who led the thieving band of executives that put the Chicago Sun-Times pretty far down the road to ruin, had just been convicted in a Chicago federal courthouse, but Publisher John Cruickshank had something more urgent to talk about Friday afternoon in the tabloid’s offices.

“We’re not going to start being a Democratic paper or a liberal paper or a conservative paper or an ideological paper — we’re an independent paper,” he said. “We’re not going to be a small L liberal paper. We’re not going to bind ourselves to a party or ideology in anything.”

On Tuesday, the Sun-Times launched a redesigned commentary section with this ringing declaration by new Editorial Page Editor Cheryl L. Reed: “We are returning to our liberal, working-class roots, a position that pits us squarely opposite the Chicago Tribune — that Republican, George Bush-touting paper over on moneyed Michigan Avenue. We’re rethinking our stance on several issues, including the most pressing issue facing Americans today: Bush’s war in Iraq.”

An E&P story (http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003609413) about the change caromed through the blogosphere like a pinball — exciting the Michael Moore crowd, and outraging the Rush Limbaugh Ditto heads.

But its all a misunderstanding, the paper says now.

In a column in Sunday’s editions, Reed writes, “the word liberal carries a lot of baggage, so I’m discovering.”

She added she had “no intention of driving this paper down some partisan path.”

The Sun-Times often brags that its demographics match the Chicago’s, and that its readers include Gold Coast billionaires and South Side factory workers. The editorial section will be for all of them, Publisher Cruickshank said.

“Yes, we’re proud of the fact that the paper came into the world to fight the Trib, and that we’ve got a great working-class readership,” he said.

Quoting Sun-Times Media Group Cyrus F. Freidheim, he added, “If we’re going to serve the ‘real Chicago,’ well, real Chicago also includes Lester Crown, who has enormously helped this city by creating jobs, and with his philanthropy.” Investor Crown and his family was ranked 61st in last year’s Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, with an estimated net worth of $4 billion.

Cruickshank said he, Reed and Editor in Chief Michael Cooke are in agreement about the direction of the editorial pages. What they are doing, he said, is adding “passion and independence” — and a modern edge to a form that “has something of the 19th century about it, don’t you think?”

Sunday, the paper introduced a new slogan for the editorial pages: “A progressive, independent voice for the city that works.”

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