Mary Schmich Takes Alden Buyout, Leaves ChiTrib

That didn’t take long.
Less than a month after the Alden acquisition the Chicago Tribune exodus began.
Mary Schmich is the latest to accept a buyout offer.

With the wisdom, humility and grace that shined through every column she wrote, Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Schmich bowed out Saturday after 36 years with the Chicago Tribune.

In posting a pitch-perfect farewell to readers, Schmich joined the exodus of marquee talent to opt for voluntary buyouts under Alden Global Capital, the newsroom-slashing hedge fund that acquired Tribune Publishing.

Other columnists who announced their exits in recent days include John Kass, Eric Zorn, Heidi Stevens and Steve Chapman.

“After 41 years in the newspaper business, I’m taking a buyout and leaving my Tribune job,” Schmich wrote. (Here is the link.) “Forty-one years may sound like a millennium to anyone under 40, but to me, at 67, it seems about as long as it takes to say ‘abracadabra.’”

Schmich had been among the early voices to warn Chicagoans about the consequences of an Alden takeover. In a plea for a benevolent billionaire to rescue the paper in 2019, she wrote: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make your mark on Chicago history, to make yourself rich in honor, to be — no exaggeration — a hero,” she wrote. “But hurry. History won’t wait.”

Mary is among the comic strip creators, authors, and cartoonists who have a Pulitzer on their shelves. Journalist Mary Schmich wrote the eponymous comic strip about reporter Brenda Starr for 25 years.

Mark Carlson-Ghost wrote of her tenure:

Mary Schmich took over as the writer of Brenda Starr in September of 1985. Schmich introduced a new group of characters who provided compelling story opportunities. Gabby Van Slander, the Flash’s new gossip columnist, began as a foil for Brenda but soon emerged as a multi-facited character who added some fun to the narrative. Dancer Godenuf was initially clearly a riff on Rudolf Nureyev, but he soon emerged as a covert government agent who was the first romantic rival to Basil St. John who could give the mystery man real competition. A new female character, Wanda Fonda brought some much needed racial diversity to the cast. But Mary Schmich was interested in doing far more than that.

Schmich wrote the most insightful conversations between Brenda and Basil of all of the strip’s writers, including its creator.

Brenda Starr © Tribune Content Agency

But Mary didn’t win her Pulitzer for the comic strip.

In 2012 Schmich was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary “for her wide range of down-to-earth columns that reflect the character and capture the culture of her famed city.” In 2017 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Headline Club (and she’s been on every list of The Most Powerful Women in Chicago Journalism ever posted).

Read Chicago media reporter Roger Federer’s tribute to Mary’s talent.


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