Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nick Shuman

Posted By on 03.18.09 at 01:13 PM

Nick Shuman died Tuesday at the age of 87 (obituaries here and here). After fighting in World War II he joined the Chicago Herald-American, later moved to the Chicago Daily News, and in 1969 became its foreign editor, the last chief that paper's storied foreign service would have. After the Daily News folded in 1978, he switched to the Sun-Times and wrote editorials until Rupert Murdoch took over the Sun-Times in 1984.

And here my story begins.

Like so many other writers and editors at the Sun-Times, Shuman felt he could not work for Murdoch. On his last day there he found himself sharing an elevator with Marshall Field, who kept an office in the Sun-Times Building even after he and his brother Teddy sold Murdoch the paper. Field made a joke about not having to worry any longer about such things as maintaining the elevators.

Shuman told Field he was, and remained, an asshole.

Feeling the point needed amplification, he then sent Field a memo.

"In your incredible insensitivity to other people," it said, "you probably did not understand the meaning of my outburst....I was arriving for my last day of work after 32 years of employment on the Daily News and the Sun-Times, having resigned because you -- yes you, in spite of your protestations that Teddy did it -- sold an honorable American journalistic enterprise, a precious voice in the community, to be sodomized by Rupert Murdoch.

"Now you have put an end to this career -- prematurely. I go losing money [he was taking a teaching job at Columbia College]...many others are leaving far more self-sacrificially, quite a number of them without other employement. Scores of others in other departments here are being cut loose without notice...

"They are leaving, as you are not, with their integrity intact. Over the years, you have often prattled about your 'legacy,' by which you meant your money. You never understood. The legacy left by Marshall III [founder of the Chicago Sun] and Marshal IV [former owner of the Sun-Times and Daily News] was honorable, creative service to their community. You have pissed on that legacy."

I knew Nick Shuman slightly. I know his daughter Betsy well. His kids couldn't be prouder of his legacy.

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