The Events That Shamed the Tribune | Year In Review | Chicago Reader

The Events That Shamed the Tribune 

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By Fred Camper

The Chicago Tribune celebrated its 150th anniversary this year, and it didn't let anyone forget that for a minute. Part of the festivities included running a piece called "Events That Shaped Chicago" three times a week on page two of the Metro section--news stories that were rewritten, according to editor Howard Tyner, to add historical perspective not possible in daily reporting. It might have been interesting if the paper had added a little historical perspective to some editorials too. Here are a few of the sadder examples of Tribune editorial history that you didn't see in the paper this anniversary year:

NEWS EVENT: Egypt challenges Britain's control of Egypt's armed forces.

TRIB EDITORIAL, June 1, 1927: Great Britain should retain "military control of Egypt." Readers shouldn't give in to "sentimental liberalism" but accept "the realism which recognizes the facts of race character and destiny, and the forces which carry human progress through the world in past and present. British rule in Egypt represents civilization, as does our influence in the Philippines and the Caribbean."

NEWS EVENT: Germany invades Poland, beginning World War II in Europe.

TRIB EDITORIAL, September 2, 1939: "Not Our War," the headline announced. Britain and France "adopted policies which brought them into conflict with Germany, Italy, and Japan. Their statesmen are intelligent. They could count the costs and weigh the risks.... Americans will be told that this is their fight. That is not true. The frontiers of American democracy are not in Europe, Asia or Africa."

NEWS EVENT: A mob in Tampa, Florida, makes attempts over several days to lynch a prisoner who'd confessed to murdering five people.

TRIB EDITORIAL, June 8, 1927: The Tribune condemned the "excesses" of a lynch mob that believed "its own moral impulses were of a higher sanction than government possesses." But the paper also counseled understanding. "Lynch law," while "seldom justifiable...has its root in our American social character and derives from qualities essential, we think, in the American scheme. It is the perversion or excess of a profound instinct of individual responsibility and judgement....It is often the bitter fruit of good motives gone sadly astray."

NEWS EVENT: A youth sentenced to 20 years for armed robbery is paroled after only three years and plans to marry.

TRIB EDITORIAL, June 6, 1934: "A eugenic report on the probabilities [of that marriage] might be suggested," stated the writer, implying that the offspring of this union might be unfit citizens--a position consistent with an earlier editorial endorsing the sterilization of "criminal defectives."

NEWS EVENT: Three years after John Scopes's 1925 conviction for teaching evolution in Tennessee, Arkansas proposes to prohibit the teaching of evolution and jails an atheist who campaigns against the proposal.

TRIB EDITORIAL, October 23, 1928: Most will rightly applaud the Tribune for deriding Arkansas, but was it truly necessary to headline the editorial "Arkansas, Another Monkey State"? The rather vicious editorial that followed insisted that Arkansas "is about as much in the current of normal American life as Liberia is. It seems to have produced about as high grade civilization as that republic."

NEWS EVENT: The American Indian Federation issues a resolution protesting the secretary of the interior's accusation that it swindled Indians and was associated with pro-Nazi German-American groups.

TRIB EDITORIAL, September 1, 1939: "Readers who may have wondered how the word 'ugh' is pronounced will get no help from the resolution," wrote the Trib, quoting the well-written resolution and concluding, "In short, ugh." The headline: "Another Redskin Bites the Dictionary."

NEWS EVENT: China appoints a new "acting minister in the USA," named Dr. Sze.

TRIB EDITORIAL, October 8, 1932: The entire editorial is devoted to jokes regarding the possible pronunciations of Dr. Sze's name. The writer imagines a dialogue between the U.S. secretary of state and the Japanese foreign minister that includes "'Sez who?'...'Sez I and Sze'" and concludes with the comic aside, "After that, what's a war or two?"

NEWS EVENT: A Tribune editorial writer noticed a dispenser for pink powder in a public men's room and saw two men take "the pretty pink stuff and pat it on their cheeks." The writer places the word men in quotes.

TRIB EDITORIAL, July 18, 1926: "It is time for a matriarchy if the male of the species allows such things to persist. Better a rule by masculine women than by effeminate men." The World's Greatest Newspaper, as it then called itself, is momentarily confused: "Who or what is to blame is what puzzles us." But soon the answer is reached: "Hollywood is the national school of masculinity. Rudy, the beautiful gardener's boy, is the prototype of the American male....Why didn't someone quietly drown Rudolph Guglielmo, alias Valentino, years ago?"

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