Chicago Tribune

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The Chicago Tribune is a major daily newspaper based in Chicago, Illinois and owned by the Tribune Company. Formerly self-styled as the "World's Greatest Newspaper", it remains the principal daily newspaper of the Chicago metropolitan region and the Midwestern United States and one of the ten largest daily newspapers in the nation.

On April 2, 2007, the Tribune announced a buy-out plan worth $8.2 billion. It will be associated with a stock buy back at $34 per share, and an Employees Stock Ownership Plan. The person who will be the new Chairman is Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell. Also as part of the deal the Chicago Cubs, and their park, Wrigley Field will be sold after the 2007 season, as well as the Tribune's share of Comcast SportsNet Chicago. [1]


The Tribune was founded by James Kelly, John E. Wheeler, and Joseph K.C. Forrest, publishing its first edition on June 10, 1847. The paper saw numerous changes in ownership and editorship over the next eight years. Initially, the Tribune was not politically affiliated but tended to support either the Whig or Free Soil parties against the Democrats in elections. By late 1853 it was frequently running editorials that criticized foreigners and Roman Catholics. About this time it also became a strong proponent of temperance. However nativist its editorials may have been, it was not until February 10, 1855 that the Tribune formally affiliated itself with the nativist American or Know Nothing party, whose candidate Levi Boone was elected Chicago mayor the following month.

By about 1854, part-owner Capt. J. D. Webster, later General Webster and chief of staff at the Battle of Shiloh, and Dr. C. H. Ray of Galena, Illinois through Horace Greeley convinced Joseph Medill of Cleveland's Leader to become managing editor. Ray became editor-in-chief, Medill became the managing editor, and Alfred Cowles, Sr., brother of Edwin Cowles, initially was the bookkeeper. Each purchased one third of the Tribune.[2][3] Under their leadership the Tribune distanced itself from the Know Nothings and became the main Chicago organ of the Republican Party. However, the paper continued to print anti-Catholic and anti-Irish editorials. The Tribune absorbed three other Chicago publications under the new editors: the Free West in 1855, the Democratic Press in 1858, and the Chicago Democrat in 1861, whose editor, John Wentworth, left his position to become Chicago Mayor. Between 1858 and 1860, the paper was known as the Chicago Press & Tribune. After November 1860 it became the Chicago Daily Tribune. Before and during the American Civil War, the new editors pushed an abolitionist agenda and strongly supported Abraham Lincoln, whom Medill helped secure the Presidency in 1860. The paper remained a force in Republican politics for years afterwards.

In 1861 the Tribune published new lyrics for the song "John Brown's Body" by William W. Patton, rivaling the ones published two months later by Julia Ward Howe. Medill served as mayor of Chicago for one term after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Under the 20th century editorship of Colonel Robert R. McCormick the paper was strongly isolationist and actively biased in its coverage of political news and social trends, calling itself "The American Paper for Americans," excoriating the Democrats and the New Deal, resolutely disdainful of the British and French, and greatly enthusiastic for Chiang Kai-shek and Sen. Joseph McCarthy. When McCormick took over as co-editor (with his cousin Joseph Patterson) in 1910, the Tribune was the 3rd best selling paper among Chicago's eight dailies, with a circulation of only 188,000 [4]. The young cousins added features such as advice columns and homegrown comic strips like "Little Orphan Annie" and "Moon Mullins", then turned to "crusades", with their first success coming with the ouster of the Republican political boss of Illinois, Senator William Loring [4]. At the same time, the Tribune competed with the Hearst paper, the Chicago Examiner, in a circulation war. By 1914, the cousins succeeded in forcing out Managing Editor William Keeley. By 1918, the Examiner was forced to merge with the Chicago Herald.

In the 1920s, Patterson left to take over the editorship of his own paper, the New York Daily News [4]. In a renewed circulation war with Hearst's Herald-Examiner, McCormick and Hearst ran rival lotteries in 1922. The Tribune won the battle, adding 250,000 readers to its ranks. During the McCormick years, the Tribune was a champion of modified spelling (such as spelling "although" as "altho"). McCormick, a vigorous campaigner for the Republican Party, died in 1955, just four days before Democrat boss Richard J. Daley was elected mayor for the first time.

One of the great scoops in Tribune history came when it obtained the text of the Treaty of Versailles in June of 1919. Another was its revelation of United States war plans on the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack. Its June 7, 1942 front page announced that America had broken Japan's military code PURPLE or Magic.

The paper is also well known for a mistake it made during the 1948 presidential election. At that time, much of its composing room staff was on strike, and early returns led the paper to believe that the Republican candidate Thomas Dewey would win. An early edition of the next day's paper carried the headline "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN", turning the paper into a collector's item when it turned out that Harry S. Truman won and proudly brandished it in a famous photo.

The Tribune's legendary sports editor Arch Ward created the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 1933 as part of the city's Century of Progress exposition.

The Tribune's reputation for innovation extended to radio — it bought an early station, WDAP, in 1924 and renamed it WGN (AM), the station call letters standing for the paper's self-description as the "World's Greatest Newspaper." WGN Television was launched April 5, 1948. These broadcast stations remain Tribune properties to this day and are among the oldest newspaper/broadcasting cross-ownerships in the country. (Later, the Tribune's East Coast sibling, the New York Daily News, would establish WPIX television and radio.)

In 1969, under the leadership of publisher Harold Grumhaus and editor Clayton Kirkpatrick, the Tribune's past conservative partisanship became history; though the paper continued its Republican and conservative perspective, the paper's news reporting no longer had the conservative slant it had in the McCormick years. The paper began to publish perspectives that represented a spectrum of diverse opinions, while its editorials presented the Tribune's own views.

In early 1974, in what was a major feat of journalism, the Tribune printed the complete 246,000-word text of the Watergate tapes in a 44-page supplement that hit the streets a mere 24 hours after the transcripts' release by the Nixon White House. Not only was the Tribune the first newspaper to publish the transcripts, but it beat the Government Printing Office's own printed version, and made headlines doing so.

A week later, after studying the transcripts, the paper's editorial board observed that "the high dedication to grand principles that Americans have a right to expect from a President is missing from the transcript record." The Tribune's editors concluded that "nobody of sound mind can read [the transcripts] and continue to think that Mr. Nixon has upheld the standards and dignity of the Presidency," and called for Nixon's resignation. The Tribune call for Nixon to resign made news, reflecting not only the change in the type of conservativism practiced by the paper, but as a watershed event in terms of Nixon's hopes for survival in office. The White House reportedly saw the Tribune's editorial as a loss of a long-time supporter and as a blow to Nixon's hopes to weather the scandal.

In 1997 the Tribune published a popular column by Mary Schmich called "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young", otherwise known as Wear Sunscreen or the Sunscreen Speech. The most popular and well-known form of the essay is the successful music single released in 1999, accredited to Baz Luhrmann.

Although under Colonel McCormick, the Tribune for years refused to participate in the Pulitzer Prize competition, it has won 24 of the awards over the years, including many for editorial writing.

Subsequently the Tribune has been a leader on the Internet, acquiring 10 percent of America Online in the early 1990s, then launching such Web sites as (1995), (1996), and (1999). In 2002 it launched a tabloid newspaper targeted at 18- to 34-year-olds known as RedEye.

Editorial policy

In a 2007 statement of principles published in the Tribune's print and online editions, the paper's editorial board described the newspaper's philosophy, from which is excerpted the following:

The Chicago Tribune believes in the traditional principles of limited government; maximum individual responsibility; minimum restriction of personal liberty, opportunity and enterprise. It believes in free markets, free will and freedom of expression. These principles, while traditionally conservative, are guidelines and not reflexive dogmas.
The Tribune brings a Midwestern sensibility to public debate. It is suspicious of untested ideas.
The Tribune places great emphasis on the integrity of government and the private institutions that play a significant role in society. The newspaper does this in the belief that the people cannot consent to be governed unless they have knowledge of, and faith in, the leaders and operations of government. The Tribune embraces the diversity of people and perspectives in its community. It is dedicated to the future of the Chicago region.

In 2004, the Tribune endorsed President Bush for re-election, a decision consistent with its unwavering support for the Republican Party (it has not endorsed the Democratic Nominee for President since 1872, when it backed Horace Greeley, a former Republican Party newspaper editor[5]). It has endorsed Democrats for lesser offices, including recent endorsements of Barack Obama for the Senate and Democrat Melissa Bean, who defeated Philip Crane, the House of Representatives' longest-serving Republican. The Tribune also reported on the scandals surrounding Illinois governor George Ryan (a Republican) during Ryan's previous term as Secretary of State. The Tribune endorsed Ryan for Governor despite this reporting.

The Tribune has remained economically conservative, being widely skeptical of increasing the minimum wage and entitlement spending. Although the Tribune has criticized the Bush administration's record on civil liberties, the environment, and many portions of its foreign policy, it still supports his presidency while taking Democrats, such as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, to task and calling for their removal from office.

Tribune Company

The Chicago Tribune is the founding business unit of Tribune Company, which includes many newspapers and television stations around the country. In Chicago, Tribune owns the WGN radio station (720 AM) and WGN-TV (Channel 9). Tribune Company also owns the Los Angeles Times -- which displaced the Tribune as the company's largest property -- and the Chicago Cubs baseball team. The Cubs will be sold at the end of the 2007 baseball season.

Tribune Company owned The New York Daily News from its 1919 founding until its 1991 sale to Robert Maxwell. The founder of the News, Capt. Joseph Patterson and Col. McCormick, were both descendants of Medill. Both were also enthusiasts of simplified spelling, another hallmark of their papers for many years.

Since 1925, the Chicago Tribune has been housed in the Tribune Tower on North Michigan Avenue on the Magnificent Mile. The building is neo-Gothic in style, and the design was the winner of an international competition hosted by the Tribune.


  1., [1]
  2. Rushton, Wyatt (1916). Joseph Medill and the Chicago Tribune (thesis). University of Wisconsin-Madison via Google Books full view. Retrieved on 2007-10-24.  and White, James Terry (1895). The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States. James T. White & Company, via New York Public Library via Google Books full view. Retrieved on 2007-10-24. 
  3. Robert Norton Smith (10 June 1997). Chapter 1, The Colonel, The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick 1880-1955. Houghton Mifflin Co. via The New York Times Company. ISBN 0-3955-3379-1. Retrieved on 2007-10-24. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Robert R. McCormick," Current Biography 1941, pp545-47
  5. "To-morrow". Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago Tribune): pp. 4. 1872-11-04.