The next miracle (v11.1): Owen Youngman

Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy, Medill / Northwestern

Owen YoungmanOwen YoungmanOwen Youngman

Stop the presses! Cooper Rollow was a legend!

For a good part of the 20th Century, it was not at all unusual to find one particular person front and center at important moments in the life of Chicago, in the business of media, and in American sports.

That person was not an athlete or a mogul, as such a person almost certainly would have to be today. He was the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune.

Cooper Rollow

Cooper Rollow catches some rays in Pioneer Court next to Tribune Tower.

“He was so influential,” said one of my former colleagues at a gathering I attended on Saturday night; “it was the biggest job in the country.” “I couldn’t believe the famous people who came in,” said another. “He was a celebrity,” nodded a third.

We were sitting on a Lake Forest patio, about 5 miles from Halas Hall, and we were deep into the first of two days of talking mostly about Cooper Rollow, who died March 29. He was sports editor of the Tribune from 1969 to 1977, which means he was the boss when I began my 11 years in that department in September 1974. But the celebrity part goes back a good ways before that.

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“Watch the fake!”: Reporting and muckraking, 40 years on

The late Sun-Times columnist Sydney J. Harris was well known for an occasionally appearing column that probably would not have been nearly as resonant in the Age of Google: “Things I Learned En Route to Looking Up Other Things.” Here’s an example of one of the items in such a column from 1980, courtesy of … what else … a quick Google search:

“If a cat died in ancient Egypt, family members were required to shave off their eyebrows as a sign of mourning.”

(Though you can see why the feature was memorable, it does seem kind of hard to divine the search query that went awry.)

At any rate, I had something of a Sydney J. Harris moment this afternoon while visiting the North Park University Web site. First I stumbled upon a photo gallery of North Park’s first nine presidents, a little short on eyebrow-shaving stories but full of other alumnus-pleasing anecdotes. And then the big payoff: North Park has scanned in every back issue of the student newspaper all the way to 1921-1922, more than 90 years’ worth.

Which of my stories would I try to find? Continue reading

Where is Randy Youngman?

Back on March 1, I published the tale of how my brother Randy came to leave the Orange County Register after more than a quarter-century of covering sports and writing columns there. Partly, I suspect, because there was no official information on his disappearance from the columns of the paper, within hours “Sliding away” became the most-read item in the 18-year history of this Web site. Since then — in the grand tradition of the long tail — my analytics tell me that at least a couple more people find their way here as the result of a Google search nearly every day.

Randy Youngman

The younger Youngman

Today it occurred to me that I should look at it a little more rigorously, then provide an up-to-date answer to the question, “Where is Randy Youngman?” (while noting that, last week, it was a pretty easy question for me to answer: he was staying in my house on a trip to Chicago for his North Park University class reunion).

Everyone loves a graph, right? Continue reading

Radio (or, more properly, audio) days

Chicago Tribune famous front page drinking glasses

75 years of headlines on a single bookshelf, including two versions of GREAT WAR ENDS

Last week I popped down to WBEZ (or do you say Chicago Public Media?) at the invitation of my former colleague Rick Kogan and his producer, my former Medill grad student Katie O’Brien. The purpose: to appear on “Afternoon Shift,” the program that Rick has begun hosting since Steve Edwards left to take a position at the University of Chicago’s new Institute of Politics, or as folks are wont to call it, “David Axelrod’s new thing.” (Rick’s also still at the Tribune, and it’s also worthwhile to troll chicagotribune.com to find him.)

Anyway, Kogan’s opening essay about his long involvement with and regard for newspapers is pretty evocative, and as you can see it put me in mind of the two sets of Tribune headline drinking glasses I have sitting on one of my bookshelves at Medill. The essay is followed by a three-way discussion among him, Katie, and me that tries to ask and answer questions like, Why journalism? and Why journalism for you, Katie? WBEZ.org called it “The Future of Facts.”

Chicago Public Media is using several different platforms for putting its archival material online, and here are two:

  • A Storify collection of tweets and links that includes pointers to all of the individual segments of the program. One swell feature is that it appears you can add comments to the audio track at any given point along the audio stream, though I haven’t tried it.
  • An audio link on SoundCloud that takes you to a fairly straightforward interface. Continue reading
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