The [Thursday] Papers
"As a new runway opens, 6 top airlines break with City Hall and call further construction 'ill-conceived' and 'premature'," the Tribune reports in a front-page exclusive today.
As far as I can remember, this is as big a broadside any portion of the business community has ever launched against the mayor. The language is cutting and the timing embarrassing.
"As the first new runway in Chicago in 37 years is set to open Thursday, major airlines serving O'Hare International Airport have unanimously called for halting the next phase of the ambitious expansion project, according to documents obtained exclusively by the Tribune.
"American Airlines and United Airlines, the two largest carriers at the airport, said the O'Hare plan is flawed, according to the statements sent to city and federal authorities that oppose more spending on the project.
"They called Chicago's effort to move ahead with the project 'premature and inappropriate' because of the decline in air travel and the airline industry's uncertain future.
"Delta Air Lines executives said Chicago failed to do its homework and they accused the city of mounting an 'impulsive grab for [tax] funds'."
The city wants to pay for part of the expansion with about $182 million in passenger ticket taxes.
But the rest of the funding formula remains a mystery.
"Seven years after Daley announced the project, the city lacks a strategy to pay for all of it, despite acquiring hundreds of homes and businesses in Elk Grove Village and Bensenville for runways that may not be built.
"In addition to the airlines balking, the city's efforts to line up private investors have also fizzled."
No one disputes the simple fact that air capacity in Chicago must expand. A third airport (which Barack Obama has supported), be it in the south suburbs or elsewhere, ought to be operating by now. The mayor's plans at O'Hare have never seemed designed to ease congestion in the skies.
For example, as the Tribune report notes:
"The $565 million runway that opens Thursday on the northern flank of O'Hare is designed only to help reduce delays, and it barely will make a difference, according to the FAA. A new $65 million control tower exclusively to serve the runway also begins operation Thursday.
"'Average delays with the new runway are expected to drop seven-tenths of a minute,' FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said."
By my math - and correct me if I'm wrong - seven-tenths of a minute equals 43 seconds. That's $14.6 million a second.
"Further improvements will be seen with additional runways," Cory said.
If those runways are ever built, that is. And even then, putting more planes in the same airspace is hardly a smart delay reduction strategy.
Calling All Victims
"I was recommending that we make a school that's all-inclusive, for kids that are straight, gay, obese and not just target one group of people," a Humboldt Park minister told the paper.
Yes. Just call it Nerd Central.
I'm sympathetic to the idea of a "safe haven," but I've come to believe this isn't the way to do it. Every school should be a safe haven.
And maybe, just maybe, school officials and activists are targeting the wrong folks here: victims. Ten years ago, I reported on a bully-proofing program in Cherry Creek, Colorado, that has always stuck with me for its innovative strategy of not directly trying to change bullies or victims, but to change the peer culture that allows bullying to prosper by transforming the "silent majority" into a "caring majority."
As I wrote:
"The caring majority intervenes, grabbing a potential bully victim by the arm and pulling him into a classroom or a playground game. The caring majority informs a teacher if someone is in trouble but doesn't tattle. The caring majority abides by classroom rules of respect and sharing.
"The result is that bullies find themselves in a world where they don't count."
When it comes to bullying - and you can extend this to all walks of civic life - sometimes the most important thing isn't how the main actors behave, but how the rest of us do.
I miss CTA conductors who made their own announcements.
MA: How can the daily newspaper be saved?
JM: Take the Chicago Sun-Times as an example. The news source can be saved by upgrading its website, promoting its website, and developing a 24/7 mentality. That would make the Sun-Times a must-see site and allow it to be ready when the ad content inevitably starts coming to the website. You keep the paper around for older people, commuters, and people who just like reading a tangible product. Obviously, you run them in tandem, but the paper has to be deemphasized and the website has to be ramped up.
The serious papers are lined up on the Internet to some degree, and the papers that are going to go out of business are half-assing it. That's really the core reason why I left the Sun-Times. I'm looking to the future, and I saw none at the Sun-Times. Meanwhile, I'm looking at other media outlets and seeing great futures. There will always be a place to read about sports. I just don't think it's smart for a writer in his late forties, like me, to be at a newspaper - especially one that's failing. That's professional suicide.
MA: Imagine, then, the fate of the newspaper columnist.
JM: He's going to be a columnist/commentator. He's going to be on the Internet, the radio, and TV. That's why people in this town resent me, because I've done all of that. You've got to branch out. Unfortunately, a lot of [print] guys think that's showboating. No, that's moving on with the times. Sports are as popular as ever. People love to read about sports; they're just going to do it online.
I was trying "Mariotti 24/7" at the Sun-Times. The Bulls make a trade - boom! Two hundred words. Maybe you add a video post and a long-form column. It becomes a multimedia blitz, complete with interactive chat rooms where people can yell at me. To me, it's a new world. Why would I confine myself to this hole in a newspaper?
The Beachwood Tip Line: Up and at 'em.
Posted on November 20, 2008
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