he Tribune Tower, like the newspaper
it houses, is august, sturdy, historic, and bears an air of self-importance
that borders on holiness. The Gothic tower--the winnner of an international
competition held by the Tribune in 1922--looks like a cathedral, and among
reporters (including this one) it is indeed regarded as a cathedral of
journalism. The lofty lobby, bearing inscriptions of famous quotes about
freedom of the press, does little to dissuade this notion. The sanctimony
suggests that the newspaper within these walls is propping up the republic
itself--and not just making gobs of money for a
major corporation (a corporation that bought the Cubs in the 1980s, seemingly undermining the newspaper's notions of objectivity and righteousness.)
The Tribune Tower appears on the cover of a book of essays by a German philosopher entitled Objective
Idealism, Ethics and Politics--a highfalutin title that fits the building
to a T.
I don't mean to bite the hand that feeds me; I contribute articles
to the paper and hasten to say that I have met some of the most gifted writers in the profession while working as
an intern here. But the subculture of the company and tone of its flagship
paper--which are both defined by their bureaucracy and aloofness--don't
always make for great journalism, and are noticeably out of place in a city known
for the most down-to-earth big-city people alive.
One of my favorite
features of this building is its fleet of stones from famous buildings
around the world. Soon after the tower was built, Tribune czar Col. Robert
McCormick put his personal stone collection on display and told his reporters
to add to it. It's the only such collection that I'm aware of (and of course,
if every newspaper did this, the world's most famous buildings would look
like swiss cheese). Today, the Tribune Tower is ornamented with chunks
of the Parthenon, the Great Wall of China, the White House (pictured at
left), The Alamo, and a few dozen others.
its souvenir-laced walls, the most intriguing part of the Tribune Tower, which is also home to CNN's Chicago bureau, may be the basement. Once the
printing press for the newspaper, the lower three levels of the building
have been converted into the offices of the Tribune's multimedia departments.
The 1999 renovation gave a nod to the floors' history by leaving many of
the steel beams and printing cart rails exposed, while throwing in some
futuristic touches including halogen lighting and glass-walled rooms. The
result is an effective physical expression of the paper's ink-stained past
and byte-sized future.
the Tribune Tower from the Chicago
Landmarks Division, Skyscrapers.com,
of the Tribune Tower from Dawn
Mikulich and Mary
of the Tribune Company from Tribune.com