The Lerner Newspapers, including our local News-Star, were recently merged into Pioneer Press by owner Hollinger International. Last week I mentioned to my wife that our favorite columnist, "Chicago" Eddie Schwartz, had disappeared from the opinion pages. She suggested that maybe he was on vacation. I recalled that when he was sick for a long time, there was always a blurb that said he would be back. This time there was nothing.
Schwartz and I go way back, so to speak. I used to listen to his overnight radio show on WIND and later WGN when I was in grade school over 20 years ago (generally Friday nights and during summer vacation). I even called in a couple of times and got on the radio, a big deal for a pre-teenager. When I subscribed to the News-Star in 1998, Schwartz's column quickly became my favorite. Chicago Ed was like an old friend, and every week he offered commentary on local, state, and national issues ranging from politics to entertainment. Schwartz often incorporated his years of talk radio experience into his columns, spinning yarns of long lost interviews. My wife, a police officer, especially liked him because he was one of the few media people who was genuinely pro-police, even when the department was embroiled in controversy or scandal.
This week Eric Zorn eulogized the Lerner Newspapers. In that column, he confirmed our fears: one of the first acts of Pioneer Press was to fire Chicago Ed. That was sad enough, but my disappointment turned to anger when I read more details at Zorn's blog today. As it turns out, Schwartz was not even informed of his termination--he found out when he picked up a newspaper and found his column missing! According to a Pioneer editor, Schwartz's column wasn't "intensely local" enough. But they didn't even give Schwartz a chance to redirect his column toward local topics; they just dumped him. When I told my wife, she suggested we cancel our subscription immediately. It was classless for Pioneer to sack a Chicago media legend like Schwartz without even telling him. Ideally, they would have offered him the graceful exit of a farewell column.
Thanks to Zorn's blog, at least we can see the last column that Schwartz submitted. It's typical Chicago Ed--take a national story and add some local color and personal recollections. Schwartz's web site (which looks Lerner-centric enough that its days may be numbered) doesn't mention his column's absence from print. Maybe if enough readers complain to Pioneer he will return.