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Richard Roeper Blog

After 4,000 columns, I’m just getting warmed up.

         When I was growing up, the newspaper business was as solid as Sears, which was as solid as General Motors, which was as solid as U.S. Steel, which was as solid as Pan-Am Airlines.

         Things change.

         In the Chicago area in the 1960s and 1970s, the question wasn’t whether your family subscribed to a newspaper—the question was which newspaper: the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago American, the Chicago Tribune or the Chicago Sun-Times. A home without a newspaper on its doorstep in the morning was as unthinkable as a home without a TV antenna on the roof or an AM radio in the kitchen. At my house, we subscribed to the Daily News, and my father would bring home the Sun-Times after reading it on the train on the way home from work.

         The Chicago Daily News was an afternoon paper—old media’s old-fashioned way of breaking the 24-hour news cycle. If there were a major fire at dawn or a politician died at 10 a.m., it’d be right there in the paper that afternoon. When the White Sox were playing the Oakland A’s on the West Coast and the game ended too late for the morning papers, the Daily News would give you the recap and the box score, no problem.

         In the 1970s and through the 1980s and even the 1990s, there were few jobs that carried the prestige, glamour and clout of the newspaper columnist.

         You think I’m kidding? When I started at the Sun-Times in the late 1980s the legendary Kup would occasionally rumble through the newsroom like the ex-footballer that he was, still robust and intimidating in his 60s. He was usually making his way from his expansive corner office to his private bathroom, to which only Kup had the key.

         Kup? He was more like Hef. If an established newspaper columnist asked his editors for a private bathroom today, they’d put him on a mental health leave. And by the time he got back, either his job would be gone or the paper would be out of business.

         Longtime heavyweight columnists such as Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin in New York, Jack Anderson in Washington, Mike Royko and Irv Kupcinet in Chicago—these guys were often more famous and more powerful than the subjects they wrote about. They were huge. (In some ways, Ann Landers, who had a Pepto Bismol-pink suite of an office at the old Sun-Times, was a bigger star than all the boys. Presidents came to her for advice. And of course Roger Ebert was already world-famous when I started at the Sun-Times. The first time I saw Roger in the newsroom, it took a moment to sink in: Holy shit! Oh that’s right, he works here!!) Kup’s gone now, but he has a bridge in his name, and a towering statue near the old site of the Sun-Times building.

         Call me crazy, but I’m having a hard time envisioning a Perez Hilton Bridge in our lifetime.

         When Royko dropped into a courtroom, the judge would stop the proceedings, invite the columnist into his chambers and ask Royko what he could do for him. Today’s entertainment bloggers are thrilled when they can post a picture of themselves with Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz; when Kup was in his prime, Bogie and Bacall were hanging with him on their honeymoon, and he was running around with Sinatra.

         Jerome Holtzman, the legendary baseball columnist for the Tribune, invented the save. I mean literally invented it. Before Holtzman came up with the term and a definition for it, relief pitchers just ended games and shook hands with their teammates. Every modern-day closer who’s making seven figures a year should be sending a donation to charity in Holtzman’s name. A sports editor once called Holtzman into his office and urged him to stop using clichés, e.g., “the hot corner” for third base. Holtzman patiently explained that he had coined all those clichés and therefore felt he had a right to continue to use them.

          Bob Greene, eventually brought down by a scandal—-before his fall, Bob Greene had a run that no columnist or blogger will ever come close to matching in the 21st century. It’s just not possible, given budget constraints and the changes in the relationship between the chroniclers and those who are chronicled. As a star columnist on the rise, Greene had an all-access pass to the latter part of the 20th century. Greene went on tour with Alice Cooper; he hung out with Elvis and Nixon; he became buddies with Michael Jordan. Greene parlayed his newspaper column into gigs with Esquire and “Nightline.”

         You know what happens when you type “Bob Greene” into the Amazon.com search engine in 2009? You get a bunch of books by Oprah’s personal trainer before you ever get to Greene’s work. (No offense to Bob Greene the personal trainer—I’m sure he’s better than excellent at his work—but how do you make a fortune out of being Oprah’s personal trainer, when poor Oprah still looks like she did before she ever put down the cheeseburgers and got on a treadmill? Isn’t that sort of like being Yao Ming’s shortness coach?)

         Just before the dawn of the Internet Age in the mid- and late-1990s, journalism students still had big dreams of one day writing a daily, general interest column for a major newspaper. You get a gig like that, you’d be set for life!

         If you couldn’t be a baseball player or a rock star, a newspaper columnist was the next best thing. Hyperbole? Not really. Here’s a story for you. The scene was the famous Billy Goat Tavern of “Saturday Night Live” and “Cheeseborger, Cheeseborger” and Cubbie-curse fame, right around 1990. At the time, the Sun-Time was still at 401 N. Wabash Avenue (now home to the gleaming, blue-glassed Trump Tower), and the Goat sat squarely between and just beneath the Tribune Tower and the barge-shaped Sun-Times Building. Head down there any night after work, especially on a Friday, and the joint would be bulging with reporters, photographers, columnists, editors and other newsies—most of them smoking and all of them drinking.

         On one such evening, Royko was there, and I was there, and at one point we wound up at the same table. Now, Royko didn’t like me. He didn’t like anybody. Well, I guess he liked his family and a few other people in life, but he sure as hell never liked any up-and-coming columnist, whether it was someone at his own paper or a punk at the rival rag. In an infamous Chicago magazine profile, Royko was asked to assess a half-dozen columnists in town, and he ripped every one of us.

         A certain exchange that night was captured in an article Bill Zehme wrote for Esquire magazine a few years ago:

         IN CHICAGO, A STORY has circulated among certain pockets of younger newspaper people for years…It takes place, circa 1990, at the legendary Billy Goat Tavern on Lower Michigan Avenue, where thousands of ink-stained hangovers were born. Mike Royko sat at the bar, as was his eternal wont, and a young Sun-Times columnist a couple of years on the job named Richard Roeper sat at a table with a handful of colleagues, and drinks flowed, as they will, and eventually Royko–the dean among them all, and all else–sauntered over to sit with them. And drinks flowed further, and Royko, who… loved to tease punks who moved anywhere near his turf, at one point bellowed: “Roeper! What are you doing at my table!” And everyone laughed. And then: “Roeper! Where the hell did you come from, anyway!” Then, minutes later: “Roeper! Do you use your column to get laid?”

         ROEPER: “Excuse me?”

         ROYKO: “You heard me! Do you use your column to get laid?”

         ROEPER (half jokingly, keep in mind drinks flowing): “Of course not. That wouldn’t be right!”

         ROYKO (pounding the table): “Well, what the hell is the point in having a column if you don’t use it to get laid!”

         Zehme has his facts straight. That’s how the exchange happened, nearly verbatim as I recall it. If you were a newspaper columnist in a big city like Chicago 50 or 25 or even 15 years ago, you were more than a little bit of celebrity, and you were the envy of many, and important people courted your attention—and sometimes you’d meet someone who might not otherwise give you the time of the day, but because your picture was in the paper, she’d dance with you at midnight.

         Not that this was the prime motivation for becoming a columnist; as I said nearly 20 years ago, that would be WRONG. What I’m telling you in 2009 is that in 1989, there weren’t too many better gigs in the world than writing a daily column for your hometown paper, especially if your hometown happened to be one of the greatest newspaper cities ever known to humankind.

         When I got the job after just a year as an editorial assistant and a couple of quick years as a city side reporter, the reaction in the newsroom ranged from outrage to bloody outrage. Some hated me, while others merely resented me. Then there were those who openly mocked me, and let’s not forget the faction that simply pretended I didn’t exist. (To this day, one veteran reporter—who was a veteran reporter 20-plus years ago—has yet to say hello to me when we pass in the hallways. For a few years I’d say hello and chuckle as he scurried away, refusing to look me in the eye. One time I just said, “Oh, fuck you,” to him, and he STILL wouldn’t acknowledge my existence. Now that’s dedication.)

         And why wouldn’t they resent me? I was given a golden ticket before I had earned that ticket. I was still in my 20s, and I had my mullet-headed mug on billboards and in TV ads, not to mention in the paper every day. In the years to come, when I would be the beneficiary of other career breaks, from radio shows to local TV to the co-hosting chair on “At the Movies,” when people asked me how I dealt with criticism, I’d just laugh. The sniping from the blogosphore regarding my “At the Movies” post was a sissified wet kiss compared to the shit I took when I first got a column at the newspaper. You survive that hazing, you’d be ready to take on Lynndie England at her most sadistically impish and smile your way through it.

         (Of course, the great Siskel & Ebert were newspapermen who happened upon TV jobs. Their famous chemistry was fueled by that constant, genuine rivalry as competing reporters. Yes, they were film critics, but they both treated the job like any other beat—and each was always trying to scoop the other.)

         When I went from part-time columnist and full-time reporter to full-time columnist—-complete with office, business card, fax machine, expense account and prime-time real estate in the paper four times in the week–it was at the tail end of the golden age for newspapers in Chicago.

         It was 1989. The Tribune was a mighty monolith, the Sun-Times was scrappy but thriving, and the combined daily circulation of the two newspapers was well above 1 million (readership was more than 2 million, when you took into account the “pass around” effect.) My promotion to full-time columnist was enough to make more than a little bit of a splash in Chicago media circles. I was the subject of profiles in the free weeklies, I was asked to appear on various radio shows, I was invited to big parties at happening nighteries like the Limelight. (“You are invited to join Russ Meyer and Playboy’s Donna Edmondson for ‘Leave it to Cleavage’ Night…”) Somebody gets a column today, and the first question anyone would ask would be, “You mean like in a newspaper? Are they paying you?”

         The newspaper column led to guest spots on radio shows. The guest spots on radio shows led to a weekend radio program. The weekend radio program led to a daily radio show. The daily radio show led to guest spots on TV shows. The guest spots on TV shows led to a regular commentator’s gig on TV. All of these things led to books. And eventually the column-to-radio-to-local-TV path took me to a guest-hosting gig with Roger Ebert, which led to many more guest-hosting stints, which led to the permanent co-hosting job in the summer of 2000, which led to nearly 20 appearances on “The Tonight Show,” becoming an answer on game shows such “Wheel of Fortune” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”, meeting untold show business legends, getting backstage at the Oscars, and a number of other fringe benefits and surreal moments far too numerous to list here.

         Every once in a while, when I’d find myself talking about movies with President Clinton or playing softball with Michael Jordan or engaging in some other activity that was never a part of my wildest fantasies when I was taking journalism classes at Illinois State University in beautiful Bloomington-Normal, Il., I’d think:

         If I didn’t get that column, this never would have happened.

         I’m still writing four columns a week for the Chicago Sun-Times, every Monday through Thursday on page 11, which has been my home for two decades. (Often I’ll write a fifth column for the Friday or Sunday paper.) That’s roughly 4,000 columns on subjects ranging from local politics to movies to sports to dating to national events to human-interest stories. It works the same way it always has: I come up with a topic, I do some research and some musing and some reporting, I do a little more musing and research, and I dash off 900 words and hit the SEND button.

         And then I get up and do it all over again. (That’s the trick to being a columnist. Everyone has a column in them. Most people have more than one. The challenge is to write 200 or so every year.)

         It’s still one of the best jobs in the world. When I started writing books and doing TV, a lot of people in the business expressed surprise that I’d keep the column. To which I’d respond, why wouldn’t I?

         Not that it’s just about the money. The column is the one pure thing I’ve had as my own for 20 years. Sure, I could spout off on the radio and crack wise about movies on TV—but you have a lot more bosses to deal with than you do at the newspaper level. Of course there’s a great responsibility that comes with having a column in a major news organization, and of course I’m always mindful of what I’m saying and how I’m saying it, and how it will affect the reputation of the Sun-Times—but at the start of each day, it’s just me and the world and a blank Word document, and I have the freedom to write. That is a gift. Why would I ever give up that gift?

         As I celebrate my 20th year as a daily newspaper columnist, I cherish each and every day. Nobody is ever going to have the job I have at the salary I make, with the freedom I enjoy and the perks that come with the territory.

         Not that there are fewer columnists today than there were in 1989. Hell, there are about a thousands times MORE columnists out there—getting up every morning, digesting the news, contemplating their own adventures, and sitting down at a keyboard to share their thoughts and experiences with the world.The difference is that about 99 percent of those columnists are called “bloggers.”

         Today, the Sun-Times’ parent group filed for bankruptcy protection. We join the Tribune in that club. But as I write this, the Chicago Sun-Times is alive and fighting.

         When a sports columnist at the paper exited in 2008, he trashed the Sun-Times by name and the newspaper business in general, telling everyone that the Internet was the future of journalism. Really, asshole? Thanks for letting us know.

         In addition to my print column, I share my reports and opinions and musings via the Sun-Times web site, Twitter, Facebook and my own web site. I’ll continue to do so—but I’ll also continue to write for Page 11 for as long as there is a physical Page 11 to call home. I’ll continue to be grateful for this rare opportunity I’ve had.

         My column has given me a front-row seat for everything from the Clinton impeachment hearings to the first Tyson-Holyfield fight to the Oscars. It brought me to New York just after 9/11, to dinner with Robert Redford, to Grant Park on the night Barack Obama was elected. At times I’ve felt as if I’ve had an almost Gumpian presence through the 1990s and the 2000s, whether I was playing softball with Michael Jordan, talking about “Chocolat” with Bill Clinton, kissing an Oscar winner on her big night, asking George W. Bush to name the capital of Illinois, playing poker with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, standing at O.J. Simpson’s front gate or inspecting the evidence in the decades-old case against John Wayne Gacy shortly before Gacy was executed. I’ve also covered stories big and small in Chicago, and offered my opinions on various trends and pop culture developments, from some misbehaving teenage girls named Hilton to this thing called the Internet.

         I hope to be writing for the Sun-Times next year, and the year after that, and 20 years down the road. And I hope you’ll stay with me.

 

54 Responses to “After 4,000 columns, I’m just getting warmed up.”

  1. aby Says:

    So as long as you are around, I’ll be picking up a Suntimes till the day there isn’t one to pick up. Yea I read it online, but there’s nothing like also having the paper copy at my front step every morning. I’m 26 year’s old. I think I fell in love with your column at about the age of 15. My dad bought the newspaper ever since I can remember, and he has always read your column. I think I just started reading it one day, and haven’t stopped since. I hate when you are on vacation and there isnt anything to read on page 11. i hope both you and the Suntimes are around. I used to read that ‘asshole’ column also for entertainment purposes, but lost all respect for him quite a while ago. Keep on writing and tweeting also!

  2. jimmypasta Says:

    Richard,
    Your columns are always entertaining. I hope your writing for another 20 years,too!
    What about the CHICAGO TODAY newspaper? I enjoyed reading that,also. I remember in
    High School,I wrote a paper about Mike Royko. I commented on the number of columns he
    did weekly and came to the conclusion he was overworked. Pretty insightful for a 16 year old
    punk. Right now I subscribe to the Daily Herald. It covers the NW suburbs pretty well.

    Great Article,
    Jim

  3. Aixa Says:

    Richard: You better believe we’ll stay with you……..always.

  4. Christopher Stipp Says:

    In an age when digital seems to be whispered in every death knell made against newspapers who find themselves out of business, I cannot fathom a day when I can’t physically hold a paper due to a shift in media consumption.

    That said, and for what my half-penny huzzah means to you, it’s been a pleasure to read your columns all the years when I was in a position to get the Sun-Times in my hands. Even though I read you now through bits and bytes there is something to be said about cream rising to the surface, no matter what the medium.

  5. Alex Says:

    I’ll be here with ya, Rich! Just keep doing what you’re doing in the Sun-Times, and when you eventually (and hopefully soon) get back on TV! Heck, I don’t even live in Illinois and I still read the Chicago Sun-Times because of you and Roger! You’re one of the best pure journalists working today, and me along with probably thousands of people would be EXTREMELY dissapointed if we didn’t see you around for another 20-30 years. I give you a Big Thumbs Up, sir.

  6. Nikki Says:

    Richard,

    That was beautiful. I have read your column for years, often times passing it on to friends and co-workers. I love the way you write, and I always tell people that you are my career “hero”. You have my dream job, and I’m not even talking about the radio, tv appearances, etc. that you do. It’s the column that I admire. I have a Journalism background and have freelanced a little, but unfortunately, at 31, life just didn’t lead me down that path (I currently work in IT). I’m still trying to find my way back there! I’ve even talked to Paige Wiser about it, and she has given me some advice. I hope that the Sun-Times is around forever, and as long as it is, you can be sure that I, along with many others, will be reading your column. I admire you a great deal, and I thank you for writing such amazing columns, giving me something to strive toward in the future.

    Nikki

  7. Rob Sefer Says:

    I prefer the internet medium vs. the paper now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy quality writing like that of yourself. Great post. I particularly like the part about Mr. Marrioti ;-)

  8. Jerome Cusson Says:

    You’re one of the few reasons to even buy the Sun-Times anymore as it continues to shrink and people seek greener pastures elsewhere.

    I remember back in 2003 when you wrote my school, Gordon Tech, and a kid named Dan Crespo. He couldn’t afford to pay his tutition and your column not only helped pay for the balance, but thanks to the generous donations of others, everyone in my class was able to graduate on time without owing the school any money. From that day forward, I’ve always had a great deal of respect for your work since that time.

    Whether the Times is around even a year from now is a question burning in my mind. I love the idea of that paper for 50 cents that you can read and enjoy on the train, but thanks to the internet it’s becoming more and more obsolete.

    When I was a journalism, I never thought about how much I wanted to be a columnist or a Richard Roeper. I guess the idea of the columnist reeks as more of a voice of God as opposed to being a voice for the people. You certainly have never acted like you’re above anyone (except Cubs fans but as a Sox fan I’ll let that slide ;)) But I guess like the movie says, “You’ve really led a wonderful life.”

  9. Angelica Says:

    Once upon a time (almost 20 years ago), I was an wannabe student reporter at my high school. The summer of ’89 or ’90 (I can’t remember now), I was doing a summer program at New Expression. One day, they took us on a field trip to the Sun-Times building. How I remember the roar of the print room on the first floor when you first walk in. That was just awesome. We were all just wide-eyed and open mouthed. But the best part, we were going to meet a new columnist, Richard Roper. We were just giddy with anticipation. We were a bunch of teens who had seen his picture in the news paper and thought he was cute. Sure enough, we were waiting in the hall when he shows up. He was polite, said hello and left. We were all flush with the meeting. Sure there was a lot of other things we saw on our tour but that was the best part.

    You also quoted me once regarding an AIDS chain letter that was going around. Thanks to you, NBC5 called me and interviewed me. I got my 15 seconds of TV fame too.

    Thanks for the memories. And I will continue reading Page 11 as long as it exists.

    Angelica

  10. Paul Says:

    Great post. But a couple of points here:

    • What’s the point of dedication a medium? That’s like Michelangelo saying “Paint is really the only way to express my vision, those sculptors are hacks, never mind ‘David’.”

    • All those perks / amazing access you discussed are now available to the Perez Hilton’s and Arianna Huffington’s of the world

    I understand the value of sentiment but I think you guys, (journalists and columnists) not advertising dollars, should be pushing the newspapers to build better websites.

    If “newspaper people” cared more about the news than they did the paper, the industry would be in a much better position.

  11. sammy Says:

    Being old school there is nothing like holding either a book or newspaper in one’s hands and turning the pages with excited anticipation of what was to come next. Knowing that one’s favorite columnist would appear that day made all the differnce. Sometimes the most fun was reading the whole paper and then going back to the column to read last. Over the years you have been my “for the last” read and I will continue to read you as long as The Sun-Times exists.

  12. Ryan Gobel Says:

    I’m going to be honest, I’m not from Chicago. My daily local and statewide papers were not of the highest quality, but I did read them daily to keep in touch with the news. I started newspaper reading when I was 5, and continue to do so to this day.

    My first exposure to the Sun-Times came back in the early 2000s when my school started receiving it. I would quickly procure the paper for myself and read it throughout the different class periods. I never gave much thought to Page 11 because I was mostly a Sports page guy.

    When you started on the Television with Roger, as his part-time turned full-time partner, I started to read your columns. Since that day, I’ve subscribed to the Sun-Times and get it daily now in northern Wisconsin. I know that I enjoy the physicality of the paper over the computer, as do most people. My generation isn’t one for the newspaper (being 23, most of us use the internet or the 24 hr. television news for information), but there will not be a day that goes by when I won’t pick up a paper of some sort and read it front to back.

    The long and short of it is keep going, Richard. I enjoy your columns, your tweets, your blog, and your books. This young person from Wisconsin has seen great journalism, and until he sees otherwise, there will not be a change in his habits.

  13. Ed H Says:

    Richard — you have lived the dream I ended for myself during college. I always wonder what could have been…But I think this column is exactly what I hoped it would have looked like.

  14. Teddy G Says:

    How could you forget the greatest highlight of them all? Getting ripped on “The Simpsons!”

    I sure hope the “asshole” you mention reads this.

    Great stuff, as always.

  15. Ken Misch Says:

    I remember not being a huge fan of yours in the beginning. I thought your mullet was nicer than mine. I know, petty stuff. Those were the days. Those were the 80′s.

    Now, I am a huge fan. I love your column and I love your website. I used to think you were just a wise-ass. Now I think you’re a wise, insightful ass. Keep up the great work!

  16. Schmellen Says:

    Great entry… Brought back a lot of memories. We were a Chgo Daily News and Sun Times family… I remember reading Royko from the time I could read — as my mom and dad were huge fans and his stories were discussed around the dinner table. It’s been a while since I thought of that time — and Royko’s defection to the Tribune when the Sun Times was bought by Rupert Murdoch.
    I remember you being the *punk* writer, mostly because that’s what my dad called you, or maybe because we’re the same age — and a lot of my friends were still considered *punks*. (Perhaps he’d heard of the Billy Goat exchange with Royko?)

    It’s great that you’ve done so well and that you appreciate all you’ve been able to do, achieve, witness, since starting your column – 4,000 columns ago.

    Congratulations and keep writing.

  17. John M Says:

    I’m a Sun-Times suscriber. Will continue to be (ESPECIALLY since the “asshole” left–ha ha). Scrolling thru internet blogs are eye-straining and mind-numbing. I pray this is not the future. If there is one thing I would suggest the Sun-Times do, is start covering national news better. More in-depth. If I were to search the paper’s archives for stories filed for, say, “Downing Street Memo,” how many would come up? A coupla two-paragraph AP blurbs buried on page 34, maybe a Mark Steyn op ed spinning it favorably to the Iraq war run-up (another long-vanquished “asshole”)? This needs to change! Why not play up the strengths of newsprint? That, and more gratuitous photos like the kind run in Quick Hits. Oh, and put me in the category of people who resented this upstart young punk who lucked into having his own column in the Sun-Times…but you know, the damnedest thing happened…the guy has gotten really really good at what he does.

  18. Dave Says:

    I was glad this post didn’t end with a Goodbye or something like that. I’ve been reading your Sun-Times colums since the very beginning when you were still in Showcase and will continue to be a reader until the last -30- is transmitted.

  19. John M Says:

    P.S. By the way, the veteran that won’t say hello in the hallways, is it Steve Huntley??? That perpetual grouch seems like he wouldn’t say hello to his own kids AT HOME when he passes them in the hallway: “Hi dad!” “Grumble grumble…liberals…grumble grumble…big government…grumble grumble…weak on terrorism…grumble grumble”

  20. Joe TCS Says:

    Although Jay Mariotti is an asshole, I do believe he is unfortunately right. The mindset of the average American is why pay for a newspaper subscription when you can go online and read all of the headlines that are up-to-minute and free.

  21. must be nice Says:

    Thanks for rubbing it in the face of all the sun-times employees laid off this past month that YOU, lucky YOU will still be making a monster salary and writing your column, while the rest of us lose our homes.

  22. ScoresMan85 Says:

    We “old school” newspaper readers (people who don’t have internet access all day) enjoy your work. Keep it up.

    P.S. love the Howard Stern refrences. GO CUBS!

  23. Amanda Says:

    My name is Amanda and I am a 15-year-old teenager with the ambition of writing for the Chicago Sun-Times after college. I am aware of the conditions of newspapers and online journalism and am completely on your side. My favorite newspaper to read is the Sun-Times, espeically your column, and I sincerely hope that I can graduate from my “dream school,” Northwestern University, and grow to be a staff writer for the paper. There are seniors at my school who are unaware of what they want to become, but my plan is already set. I started writing for my high school paper this year and aspire to be the editor-in-chief as a senior. I wish to be accepted into Northwestern and be as successful a writer as you are, and I hope you read this. The sentiment would completely change. If we read news on the internet there never would be that tangible evidence of a significant event in history having occured. News of the world should be treasured and not forgotten by our ignorant, technology-based laziness. I hope I don’t just sound like some moaning adolescent, and I hope you understand what I am trying to say.

  24. Jennifer Says:

    I’m a big fan of the blog and tweets, but still, nothing beats reading your column in the paper – and it was one of the first things I thought of today when I heard the bankruptcy protection news. Thanks for sharing your last 20 years, and the many years to come! (I’m an optimist…the Sun-Times is going to be around for a long, long time.)

  25. richard Says:

    To ‘must be nice’:

    Really? That’s what you took away from this entry, that I was ‘rubbing it in the face’ of colleagues who have lost their jobs? Please identify yourself to me, either privately or on this page. To make a charge like that is offensive to me personally and professionally, and I’ll be glad to respond, if you’ll tell me who you are.

    Best,

    Richard

  26. mer.v Says:

    Thank you for writing this …it was just about the best thing in a long time my new eyesight has seen and read.
    Just like Kup, Royko & Holtzman, you too have become one of the distinguishable writers (& characters) of Chicago. You happen to be caught up in a transitional time. Congratulations on your 20th year and 4,000! You’ll be just fine (with all your friends and followers). We like you here and hoping you always stay in Chicago….

  27. Bob Crowley Says:

    I have been reading your column since you began writing with the Sun-Times. I used to read it in the back of my 1st period chemistry class as a high school sophmore. Now, I read it as soon as it’s posted over the internet at about 10am British time. Reading your column has been one constant, along with reading the Sox box score every morning. As I moved to the UK. As you have grown over the years I have grown from a punky, teenager who knew everything, to a man who realizes I know so little. I’m glad I have had your column to make life richer.

  28. Ryan Says:

    hey Rich- thank you for greeting me 4 times a week! I make sure i read your column first each morning. As a former editor in b2b magazines (i’m now in sales) i see whats happening in our industry of print media. I still beleive there is a place for the printed media , be it newspapers or magazines, and i dont belive it will go away – just transform. Our industy is in a state of transition and i look forward to reading your columns now and 20 years from now! Keep up the good work! When will I have you back on tv for your movie reviews?? As you know, a good movie critic out there for the masses is missing. i look forward to you seeing you again on the small screen- even though i can count on reading your reveiws on your website and in the Sun Times. Thank you!
    R

  29. Ryan Says:

    hey Rich- thank you for greeting me 4 times a week! I make sure i read your column first each morning. As a former editor in b2b magazines (i’m now in sales) i see whats happening in our industry of print media. I still beleive there is a place for the printed media , be it newspapers or magazines, and i dont believe it will go away – just transform. Our industy is in a state of transition and i look forward to reading your columns now and 20 years from now! Keep up the good work! When will I have you back on tv for your movie reviews?? As you know, a good movie critic out there for the masses is missing. i look forward to you seeing you again on the small screen- even though i can count on reading your reveiws on your website and in the Sun Times. Thank you!
    R

  30. Michael Says:

    My introduction to you was when you became the permanent co-host with Roger Ebert. I thought, “perfect,” the best guy was right there at the paper all along. In addition to your movie reviews the off topic comments made on the show lead me to the Chicago Sun-Times website. You obviously have a knack for writing well but your point of view is as interesting as the writing style it is expressed with. I hope you are around in many formats for years and years to come.

  31. Tim Mundt Says:

    I think the wonderful thing about your column is people can take different things away from it. Just scrolling through the posts, it seems one part or another resonates whether it be to the good or to the bad. For me, in its most simple terms, life’s been good and you appreciate one of the vehicles that got you there. Glad that you keep your perspective. It’s what makes your columns a must read. I’ll keep being a subscriber.

  32. Tim Larson Says:

    Rich, as a long-time reader/stalker of yours you can bet I’ll always be a loyal reader. The website is a great addition.

  33. Matt Says:

    Thanks Richard for this blog entry. I’ll stay with ya. Your columns are always insightful.

  34. dennis rodkin Says:

    If you had hit SEND when this one was only 900 words long, your point would have been made.

  35. richard Says:

    Dennis:

    Always good to hear from a fellow Chicago writer. However, your comment seems a little strange. I was writing a retrospective. If I had hit SEND after 900 words, I wouldn’t have accomplished my goal, which was to look back on my 20-plus years at the Sun-Times, tell a few stories and put things into a bit of perspective on a tough day for the paper. Sometimes when we write, we’re not striving to just ‘make a point.’ But you already know that.

    All the best,

    Richard

  36. Tim Barkas Says:

    Interloper! Yup, that’s how I construed your elevation to the permanent seat across from Roger after Gene’s unfortunate departure from this good earth. Interloper! Poseur! Pretender!

    Of course now, with the perspective of time and a more carefully considered position, I see that you were the ideal choice. At the time of said elevation, I knew you not. I’d not read your column, heard your radio commentary, or even encountered you in a foul mood at a local diner. Couldn’t have happened. I am not local. I am in Los Angeles, and therefore – like many non windyones – only made your acquaintance from your film reviews. But that’s how it happens, when a career such as your grows from seedling to mighty oak. One branch leads to another. So, late to the party, I’m happy to have made your acquaintance.

    P.S. You were pretty entertainer on Top Chef. Had you been acappella I think you might have had a shot at Padma, though perhaps that, too, would have been wrong? Regards – Tim

  37. Dan Campana Says:

    Way to give props to ISU. Many a journalists dreams began in Normal. Well, at least two that I know of.

  38. Rich Says:

    The only reason I continually read the Sun-Times is because of your column. I hope you do write it for the next 20 years, it would be great for Chicago, and great for the paper in general! I’ve read all of your books, and can’t wait for the next one! Keep up the good work!

  39. Bob Says:

    Richard you have become a part of my daily routine for years. Actually I was an At The Movies fan before I started reading your Sun-Times column. I hope my online reading didn’t push the bankruptcy along but it had to I know. You are bright, educated, funny, and a nice looking guy. Along with wearing great watches. There will hopefully always be a spot for guys like you to report to the rest of us. Many times you say what we think. I have always said: The world needs more Richard Roepers. You tell it like it is and when you tell it we can believe it because there is a good heart and soul that comes through your writing. Just like a favorite band, team, tv show or movie, I will remain a loyal follower. Continued success.

  40. ‘The Paper Guy’ Goes Down Memory Lane « Randomly Speaking Says:

    [...] journalism today, but this one I just had to share.  The Sun-Times’ Richard Roeper has an excellent blog post on his 20 years as a columnist and the dying breed of the big-city, celebrity newspaper [...]

  41. Lee Bey Says:

    Rich! Very nice work, man. A newsroom–especially the Sun-Times newsroom–was really a magical place, even as recently as the 1990s. I do believe the paper and the industry will find a way to recover from the current nastiness and continue.

  42. Chris Mini Says:

    I used to buy the Trib just so I could read Royko. After he passed I started buying the Sun-Times just so I could read you. I don’t always agree with your movie reviews but I always read them. If I had to name a reviewer I agreed with most, it would have to be Roger Ebert. (I now read rottentomatoes now to get a better feel as it’s not just one person’s opinion.) I always heard Royko didn’t like you and I kind of figured he was a little jaded, but probably the best ever. As far as everyone else is concerned, sounds like sour grapes to me. Keep carrying the torch!
    Chris M.

  43. Daniel Says:

    Nice column, Rich. But you just had to put in that dig about Bush, didn’t you? True to form.

  44. Roeper offers hopeful outlook « Write of passage Says:

    [...] Roeper managed to produce an encouraging, 3,000-word blog post on the same day about it. Now, his blog isn’t a cheerleader blog that falsely claims just how [...]

  45. Neil Steinberg Says:

    Very nice Rich and all of it true. I used to wonder, watching Harry Golden Jr. stride into the newsroom, gaunt and dying of cancer, why he bothered, why he was working away to the bitter end, and not sitting on a beach somewhere, and the answer is that it gets in your blood, the newspaper is the place to be, and you can’t imagine being anywhere else. I never thought I’d be like that, but as the years go by, I just don’t feel happy unless I’m writing the column. Anyway, great job.

  46. Darren Says:

    Congratulations on this milestone. I always look forward to reading your column (albeit online) everyday. I actually just went to the local library today and picked up a couple of your books. It’s a shame that the newspaper industry is going the way it is.

    And I whole-heartedly agree with you… Jay Mariotti is an asshole.

  47. Irma CMD Says:

    I loved reading your perspective. It reminds me of how I felt when I worked for promotions and marketing for a record company (back when there were still LPs, cassette tapes and CDs). I loved the history of the labels, and the people that had worked there, some who had been around when these labels were founded, their devotion, and their stories (oh, the crazy stories!). I felt privileged to be a part of this great and wonderful business; meeting famous people and going to the parties and concerts was the cherry on top.
    And then the money people and lawyers got their hands on it and it all changed. It wasn’t a “calling” anymore, it was a bottom-line, numbers crunching business. And of course, it’s been frittered away because the heart and soul was ground out of it. Much like the newspaper business and other companies that became corporations.
    Anyway, not to wax too philosophically, but I completely understand and agree that you write each of your columns with the knowledge of luck at being in a job you appreciate. And I welcome that. Thanks for all the columns and I look forward to many more.

  48. Shelly Says:

    I have to say I buy the paper every morning and look forward to reading your column first. Keep up the good work.

  49. Tom L. Says:

    I’d be lying if I said I’ve never unleashed a bitter, jealousy-fueled rage in reaction to some of your columns or various successes in the past, and I’ve had frequent bar-room debates with a colleague of mine who eloquently describes you as “one of the last great newspapermen.” But I did enjoy this nice piece of writing very, very much. Here’s to the next 20 years, and long-live the Sun-Times.

  50. Max Frost Says:

    I’ll be there. And you know what? I’ll bet if Royko was here today, he’d be there too, reading your column every day.

  51. Julie Guthrie Says:

    Richard,

    I just loved this post! Have been a fan of yours for a longtime. I remember your radio spots especially with Steve Dahl and eventually your own Saturday afternoon show. I particularly remember on Saturday when you did a whole thing about if you took the last trash bag out of the box, the first thing in it would be the box but if you took the first trash bag out of the box, the flap would be the first thing in it. Genious and you got paid for it too!

    Sincerely, Thank you for sharing your memories of the past 20 years and Thank you for actually being the guy you appeared to be!

    Here is to 20 more!!

  52. John K. Says:

    Nice job Rich, as always. I grew up in a Sun Times/Dailey News house also. My dad broke down and subscribed to the Trib as my brothers and I got older. Too many of us to split the Sun Times up in the morning. Been reading the Sun Times every day before you started, and I admit to a bit of head scratching when you got the columnist gig. It seemed wierd to me, because we are about the same age. And I was more used to a Royko or Roger Simon. Obviously they knew what they were doing, and I thank you for the 4000 columns. I’m sure I’ve read over 3/4ths. It will be a sad day in Chicago, if the Sun Times stops printing. As a tradesman in Chicago, at break or lunch, if there are 10 people in a crew, there are about 5 Sun Times. And these days, someone will grab a small handful of Red Eyes, just cause they can. We aren’t going to all bring laptops. Good luck to you and your co-workers in this climate. Still the best paper in town, and yes, I still subscribe. P.S. If anyone wants to read another great column on this subject, by a ST Media columnist, don’t miss Phil Kadners column on the subject. Probably the same day of this post by Richard.

  53. John M Says:

    What a great comment by Neil Steinberg. He is another excellent reason to suscribe to the Sun-Times. I once wrote a rather heated e-mail to him in disagreement with one of his columns, and he took the time to send me a short but thoughtful reply. He even used a snippet of what I wrote in his next column, but by that time I was a bit beyond sheepish, in no small measure because of the courtesy he extended by responding. I might’ve even whipped off a “feeling-a-little-silly-now” message back his way. Just a class act. And Rick Telander completes the trilogy of exceptional writing for me here. Rick, Rich and Neil (Ebert is some kind of Mountain Wizard who lords over them all). There are many others that add so much to this terrific newspaper. I highly recommend that everyone close their browser, take a nice walk outside in the fresh air to the corner convenient store, and buy one. Fits neatly under your arm for the walk back.

  54. Daniel Says:

    Max Frost: Are you still with “The Troopers”? “Nothing Can Change the Shape of Things to Come” frome the motion picture, “Wild in the Streets”.

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