After Even a Decade,
Royko Name Lives On;
He Saw Real Murdoch
As Clearly as a Bell
Late April marked the tenth anniversary of the death of the popular Chicago-based columnist Mike Royko. Editor & Publisher's always-incisive Mark Fitzgerald nicely marked the occasion here. A couple of years ago, I wrote this tribute to Royko, recalling my all-too-brief telephonic brush with him. The piece also describes why I think Cleveland's closest Royko counterpart, columnist Dick Feagler, falls short of his stature--though to be fair, just about everyone does.
But Royko's in my thoughts for yet another reason this week. Ever since media mogul Rupert Murdoch made an offer to purchase the Wall Street Journal, I've been waiting for someone to mention a key Royko anecdote that related directly to this potential deal. Since I haven't yet seen it, let me do so. Many years ago, Murdoch purchased the Chicago Sun-Times, which is where Royko happened to work at the time. Without waiting around to find out more about what the new owner planned to do with the paper, or what promises he might make about retaining its independence or its quality, Royko simply quit in January 1984 and decamped to its cross-town rival, the Tribune. As his fellow Chicago writerly icon Studs Turkel later recalled, he simply wrote: ‘I resign. No self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Murdoch paper.’
So I ask you: why is this simple reality, so clear to Royko decades ago, even before Murdoch went on to ravage other media properties with his unique blend of political treachery and sleazy lowbrow taste, so difficult for members of the serious media to see now? Just a question...