- Much of the article contains an interview with Jane Byrne, a one-term flop of a mayor who is most famous for doing the “stunt” of living in the Cabrini-Green projects for a while in an attempt to stem the violence. Plus she left as mayor in 1983, 23 years ago…
- They say that “gone are the steel mills and stockyards that gave its reputation for broad shoulders”. Uh, not to burst your bubble, but unless you are reading Sinclair’s famous book “The Jungle” it is the turn of the twenty-first century, not the turn of the twentieth century, and the stockyards have been gone a long time. Good riddance too… they stink and caused the cities rivers to be an open sewer of animal byproducts. As for the steel mills, unless I slept through the last twenty five years, the American steel industry pretty much closed up shop and went under, dragged to the grave by inflexible union rules. Are we really missing anything here? Where are New York or Los Angeles’ stock yards and steel mills…
- They talk about Comiskey Park being replaced and Soldier Field being updated… wake up, pretty much every other stadium from the time when these two fields were built has been updated too, with the exception of Wrigley. At the time Comiskey was torn down it was the oldest stadium in the majors, with the exception of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. Is that news? Do you have to be a reporter to know this type of stunningly obvious material?
- Now they go on to some actual news, if news that is a few months old “In September came what was viewed by Chicagoans as the ultimate indignity: Marshall Fields, the city’s most famous department store, was renamed Macy’s”. OK, so that is a bit of news, that they are slapping a new logo on the old famous building, but is that really a big deal? I can say from my perspective that no one is wringing their hands over this, and I have never heard the term “Chicagoans” uttered by anyone, ever, in any context
- From the article - "I don't recognize my own neighborhood," said writer Studs Terkel, one of Chicago's most distinctive literary voices for decades. He lives on the North Side.” Here is some more stunning news, from someone who reads books from the fifties by an unreconstructed socialist bomb thrower. I am glad you don’t recognize your own neighborhood, because it has been fixed up. The land in the city is valuable, and rather than leaving it a crime ridden wasteland, private investors have come in and fixed up / demolished / torn down the houses to make it a booming, exciting place to live. Much to Studs’ chagrin, these changes didn’t come from command and control top down democratic forces, with labor and unions marching hand in hand, but from that dreaded private capital and by entrepreneurs who came in even when neighborhoods were filthy and dangerous and made investments in order to clean up the city. Sure people had to move out when rents went up – that happens everywhere, too. Sorry to wake you up on capitalism, there are a lot of interesting stories you can right about the down-and-outers but yuppies are something you won’t understand
- Here is another quote from the article – “Chicago is "more homogenized, kind of Disneylike, in the sense that it is a city but there is something artificial about it," said Perry Duis, a University of Illinois at Chicago historian. "The L, you take that away and you won't know where you are."” What kind of quote is that? Are you saying that you don’t recognize the Sears Tower? You don’t recognize Grant Park? You don’t recognize the lake front, which Chicago has been able to keep free of development for a century? Do you recognize Wrigley Field? Do you recognize Navy Pier? I really don’t understand how someone who is an historian can make such an ignorant quote, or maybe he was just taken out of context
- Then they go on to the economics of the city “Company after company once synonymous with the city — Montgomery Ward and Amoco, among them — has either died or moved out of town.” True, Montgomery Ward left town, but their headquarters has been replaced by an ultra-expensive high rise, and their catalog building is now an elegant mixed use building. Amoco was bought up by BP, but they still have some operations in the city. What the author fails to mention are some of the NEW businesses that have taken their place in Chicago, such as the derivatives (options and futures) industry which is basically headquartered in the city, and with a Chicago-based company, Archipelago Holdings (stock ticker AX) merging with and taking public the venerable New York Stock Exchange (look up their stock and see where they are headquartered). Boeing is now headquartered in the city, and the financial industry is thriving here. Maybe if the journalist who wrote this article spent a few minutes in downtown Chicago during rush hour looking at all the packed buildings and white collar workers he might have figured out that these jobs have been more than replaced
- In some attempt at being “fair and balanced” in terms of journalism, they talked to Mayor Daley. From the article "Things change," Daley told reporters in September. "If you aren't willing to accept change, then you stay in the past, and we're never going to stay in the past in this city."
Why is this news, and why is this article blog-worthy?
Here is why – there are many, many misconceptions about Chicago and I think that this article recycles most of them, with the exception of mentioning Al Capone and gangsters.
The writer went out and talked to some of the most reactionary people alive – especially Studs Terkel, whose usefulness expired about the time the Great Depression ended.
I think this article gives completely short-shrift to the massive improvements that the City of Chicago has made over the last couple of decades. In the 70’s, the city was pretty much a dump, with the middle class exiting in droves for the suburbs, and huge tracts of the south and west side abandoned. Businesses were fleeing, and we were on our way to becoming a Cleveland or (gulp) Detroit. If you want to catch a glimpse of Chicago on its way to the abyss, rent the movie “Continental Divide” where John Belushi is stuck up by knife wielding thugs in the center of the loop in broad daylight or “Blues Brothers” where they drive through garbage strewn streets abutted by derelict buildings in the city center.
There are a lot of people stuck in a time warp that want Chicago to go back to being a provincial, union run blue collar town. Frankly, that wasn’t a very prosperous time for the city, and the city is infinitely better off being a white collar city with an entrepreneurial spirit and a booming nightlife that can draw in young professionals from all the surrounding states.
For all of this, the author fails to mention many of the ACTUAL problems in Chicago, maybe because this would require some research and visiting the city. Traffic is at a gridlock standstill, our murder rate (while dropping) is indefensible, and the city suffers from well documented corruption inquiries and convictions. There are areas of the city that are still in terrible shape, and our schools are a wreck (just the city, not the suburbs, and there are many excellent if very expensive private schools and a large religious school base in the city).
When the newspapers are struggling with declining circulation this should be exhibit A of a weak journalistic effort. You might as well open a copy of the worker’s daily or watch Entertainment Tonight for this type of material.