The fragile legacy of literary journalism

By Michael Miner
The Chicago Reader

Smith_Cavalcade coverWhen all better subjects have been exhausted, perhaps some scholar will compose a dissertation charting "The Evolution of Literary Fashion in the 20th Century Chicago Newsroom." Some important spadework has already been done by Chicago exile Peter Smith, whose ancestors occupied the newsroom of the Daily News virtually nonstop from 1899 until that paper folded in 1978.

Peter Smith has preserved a key document in this saga, a memo posted on the newsroom bulletin board in the early 50s by crusty city editor Clem Lane. Lane must have decided one day that enough was enough. "By and large, your writing is clean and sharp," his note began. "But not always. And there are still laggards among you."

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