THE BLOG
08/18/2013 12:12 am ET Updated Oct 17, 2013

The Experience of a Lifetime

He's the nation and world editor at the leading newspaper in Chicago. He carries the pressure of great responsibility with ease. He tells great stories, and informs people about what's most important in the world. He's Mr. Kerry Luft, of the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

My tour of the Chicago Tribune newspaper building took place on July 23, guided by the intelligent, confident, and comical Mr. Luft himself. The coincidental relationship that led me to the Tribune was the friendship between Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Mr. Paul Salopek (you can find my interview with him here). Mr. Salopek arranged the whole tour for my family and me!

The Salopek-Luft friendship started when Mr. Luft had just returned from an assignment in South America and heard there was a new reporter doing a story on Colombia. Having learned Spanish, Mr. Luft naturally offered help. This new reporter was (who would have guessed?) Mr. Salopek. What Mr. Luft didn't know was that Mr. Salopek was fully fluent in Spanish because he grew up in Mexico, one of the largest Spanish-speaking countries in the world (population wise).

"Being the polite guy he is, Paul didn't tell me to buzz off," Mr. Luft remarked with a chuckle.

Mr. Luft wouldn't have even been there to offer Mr. Salopek help, if it wasn't for Mr. Luft's father. Because his father worked for a New Orleans newspaper, but in the advertising section, Mr. Luft literally grew up in the newspaper's offices. This gradually led to Mr. Luft's first job... at 14 years-old!

From New Orleans, Mr. Luft gradually wove his way to Chicago. To work his way up to be a senior editor of the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Luft had to know the basics. He started as an intern, and learned the ropes such as separating opinions from facts. This is something really important to know how to do if you're writing an article for the newspaper. That's why they train people to do so, and all the editors have to be very vigilant about it. You have to be careful what words you use, and be very clear what the difference is. Don't try to be a reporter without knowing these things!

Some articles you have to be careful about will end up online. I was curious to know if newspapers were panicking about the rapid conversion from papers to computers. Apparently, it's not supposed to happen for a long time because people still like to buy papers. It's an expensive business though because of all the money spent on ink and paper. Going online is a huge saver, though, because then they won't have to spend any money at all for ink and paper. That also means that they don't have to make as much money.

I thought ink and paper was why the Chicago Tribune had gone bankrupt, but that was far from the answer. It wasn't really the Chicago Tribune itself that went broke, but the larger Tribune Company, as the result of a financing plan used to buy the company some years ago. However, the company is bankrupt no longer.

"Newspapers have always made money," said Mr. Luft. The newspaper is part of a larger holding that includes television and radio stations too. It seems to be a large media holding, even expanding into online.

That doesn't mean that the paper has lost its focus though. It concentrates specifically on what's happening in Chicago. When they report something concerning the whole world, it's reported through a Chicago point of view. It's about making a paper unique. The Tribune tries to give you stories that you can't find anywhere else.

Mr. Luft summed it up, "A story is great when it has lots of emotion and history." Chicago provides that lens from which the Tribune provides its reporting and perspectives with facts, emotion, and history as required.