December 28, 2004
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Paul Nachman writes from California:
The Tribune's metamorphosis is striking for a native (though no longer resident) Chicagoan.
During the 1950s, my dad explained the paper's politics to this grade-schooler by saying the Trib didn't like President Eisenhower "because he's not Republican enough."
During the 1960s, I was sufficiently sentient to notice that the Trib, besides billing itself, below its nameplate, as the "World's Greatest Newspaper" (incidentally, the origin of the call letters of its owned TV station, WGN), ran a photo of the "Flag of the Day." This was a different American flag, flying somewhere around the Chicago area, every day.
A brief history of the paper backs up my youthful impressions. It says that the Tribune "was noted for the vigor of its anticommunism and attacks on the New Deal, surpassing even the Hearst papers in virulence."
But by the mid-1970s, the paper actually had one liberal editorial writer, whom I lobbied to write an editorial backing full wilderness protection for Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Given the Tribune's flinty conservative reputation, the published piece created somewhat of a sensation during hearings about the relevant legislation before the House Interior Committee.
In the intervening years, Tribune managers have apparently managed to completely exorcise the ghost of Col. Robert McCormick, the Trib's arch-conservative owner for the second quarter of the 20th Century.