Herald-Whig View

Chicago Tribune says goodbye to famed tower

Posted: Jun. 8, 2018 11:20 am

This editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune

The work of the Tribune Editorial Board includes inviting government officials or political candidates to meet with us in our boardroom -- sometimes for a formal interview, sometimes a campaign season debate. Our guests often have confided they were intimidated by the gravitas of the setting: neo-Gothic Tribune Tower, Chicago's ornate 93-year-old cathedral of journalism.

Just imagine the first-time candidate for office arriving in the high-ceilinged, travertine-marbled lobby of this proud, steadfast structure. One blink to get situated and the visitor is confronted with the Tribune's sober watchdog mission. Carved on the walls are noble quotations from historical figures about the role of the press in preserving a free society.

Was it an unfair advantage we held over those who came calling? It didn't hurt that even before being ushered to our lair and asked a budget or policy question, the visitor had been lectured in the hallway by Benjamin Rush ("Newspapers are the sentinels of the liberties of our country"), warned by Lord Macaulay ("Where there is a free press the governors must live in constant awe of the opinions of the governed") and hectored by Thomas Jefferson ("Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press and that can not be limited without being lost.")

We've loved working at Tribune Tower. We felt privileged to come through the revolving doors of the most spectacular building in Chicago, walking past those etched admonitions. If walls could talk, says the cliche. Well, the walls of Tribune Tower did speak to us, uplifting us in our daily toils, reprimanding us when we fell short in our responsibilities.

We'd prefer to stay. The building's permanence and solemnity symbolize the Tribune's history -- Sunday will be its 171st birthday -- and enduring responsibilities. The spectacle of this place, with its playful Gothic sculptures and kooky artifacts from far-off lands plastered to the outside walls, is intoxicating. Ballplayers stepping onto the grass at Wrigley Field probably get the same jolt.

Yet we can't mourn our departure because dynamic cities grow and evolve. The Tower stands on Michigan Avenue, and will continue to do so under landmark protection, but as part of a larger commercial development planned by its new owners.

To be overcome by sentiment would be to misread the turbulent nature of a great city. Businesses, which create jobs, rise or fall based on their ability to compete. Sure, it would be nice if the Tribune stayed at 435 N. Michigan Ave., but creative destruction is a key attribute of free enterprise. Having voiced that difficult reassurance many times to many others, we can't grant ourselves a dispensation.

Cities evolve, and so will the Chicago Tribune, starting with the location of our newsroom. We will embrace the opportunity.

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