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Barry Schrader


I have been writing a column for the Chronicle most of the time since December 2007, with two breaks, one in 2016 and the other in 2017 when my wife Kay suffered a stroke. They are all archived here.


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Taking a bittersweet last look at his old workplace

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist.............................March 31, 2018

Tom Smith, owner of two candy stores in DeKalb and Sycamore, at one time was one of the editors at the Chicago Tribune and shared some fond memories of his tenure there.

Last Sunday, Tom and about 500 other former employees and current Tribune staffers gathered at the iconic Tribune Tower, 435 N. Michigan Ave. in downtown Chicago, to bid farewell to the workplace where the newspaper had been produced since 1925. The tower building recently was sold by its parent company to Golub and CIM groups. The new owners plan to convert the neo-Gothic, 36-story tower into other uses, possibly condominiums. So with the sale, the Tribune had to move elsewhere. It is relocating to the Prudential Plaza overlooking Millennium Park, leasing two floors of that 41-story tower.

Tom Smith stands beside the imposing fireplace in the office of the late Col. Robert R. McCormick, longtime Tribune publisher. (Provided photo)

Tom saw few others from his era at the informal going away party. He noted that it was a bittersweet occasion and a “non-event” in his thinking – “more like a wake,” he said. There was no formal program, no handouts and no mementos to take away. One thing he particularly noticed was that a large mural depicting “Injun Summer,” used for decades on the cover of the paper’s magazine section every autumn, was no longer on the wall. He wondered when it was taken down and where it might be now.

He worked there from 1961 to 1970, hired by Waterman native Clayton Kirkpatrick, who was city editor at the time. Tom has a lot of respect for “Kirk” as he called him, saying Kirk brought the Tribune out of its politically charged past as a Republican standard-bearer into the 20th century as a great independent metropolitan newspaper.

Tom moved rapidly up the ladder to become acting photo editor, then makeup editor, which was a major position in determining the daily’s news play. Kirk became editor and asked Tom to design and oversee a new product, the (suburban) Trib in the collar counties around Chicago. So Tom set up an office in Hinsdale with about 33 editors, photographers and other newspeople reporting to him.

He said that was the most exciting time in his journalistic career, including going after the mob, among other projects. But tiring of the pressure and threats, he decided to change careers and went into the more lucrative public relations field. After retiring from that, he came out to DeKalb and opened two candy stores – The Confectionary in DeKalb and later, The Confectionary in Sycamore.

Another DeKalb County native, Linda (Klein) Means from Hinckley, was one of his early hires at the Tribune, who, he said, was one of the best reporters he ever hired. Linda was a college classmate of this columnist, and we worked on the NIU campus paper together in the early 1960s. But that’s another story.

While touring the Tower on Sunday, Tom went up to the 24th floor to see the palatial office of the late publisher, Col. Robert R. McCormick. He admired the imposing fireplace in the office and posed there for a photo. Inscribed on it is a quote from McCormick: “The newspaper is an institution developed by modern civilization to present the news of the day to foster commerce and industry, to inform and lead pubic opinion, and to furnish that check upon government, which no Constitution has ever been able to provide.”

It is hard to imagine the Tribune Tower no longer housing what once was called the “World’s Greatest Newspaper” – another sad chapter in the fading print media scene.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115