February 28, 2017



Editor's note: Russ Stewart is off this week. Nadig Newspapers is reprinting a column that was published on July 16, 2008, almost a decade ago, in which Stewart marks 35 years as a political columnist. The views express here are Mr. Stewarts and do not reflect the views of Nadig Newspapers.

This column, as always, delivers political analysis and commentary regarding Northwest Side, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois and national issues.

This column, which commenced in 1973, has appeared weekly, without interruption, for 1,820 weeks.

This column consists of at least 1,500 words per week.

And, over the past 35 years, this columnist has filled this space (and the front page prior to 1977) with a total of approximately 2,730,000 words. That's the equivalent of five books.

My intent is to continue writing this column. It may not make the Guinness Book of Records, but if I'm still around in 2023, my 50th anniversary, that would be 3,900,000 words. Over time, there have been many frequently asked questions. Here are some answers:

(1) Question: If you're such a great writer, why are you still stuck in an obscure Northwest Side weekly newspaper? Why aren't you writing for the Tribune or the Sun-Times?

First, the Nadig Newspapers is not obscure. It has a weekly circulation in excess of 40,000, delivered to homes by carriers. Idt is the last area paper standing, as Lerner, Leader and Peacock are defunct. It is a survivor in a changing environment.

Second, the dailies are disinclined to hire stringers or part-timers. They want full-time writers devoid of any potential agenda, especially in the realm of politics. Having run for state senator in 1978 as a Republican, having run for Circuit Court judge in 1994 and 1998 as a Republican, my objectivity is suspect. I am a conservative Republican in a Democratic environment. So what? Those who read my columns know that I take great delight in being sarcastic, irreverent and incautious, criticizing idiots and incompetents in both parties. Nobody on Chicago's political scene, of either party, is immune from my wrath, and no other political writer makes my analytical predictions.

And third, analysis is not particularly entertaining. The dailies want commentary, not analysis. Look at the sports sections. Editors don't want articles analyzing why the Cubs, Sox, Bears, Bulls or Blackhawks won or lost, or why they will do so; instead, they want commentary about controversy and personalities.

I analyze politics, detailing and predicting why somebody will or did win or lose. That may be enlightening and entertaining for a select array of politicians and political junkies, but it's not a commodity in great demand.

(2) Question: So why do you keep writing?

It's all about power. Not in the context that this column can influence events or public officials. It doesn't. But, more importantly, this column cannot be influenced by events or politicians. There is no limitation on my topics or targets. There is no suppression of opinion or predictions. I write about whoever and whatever I choose. That's freedom. That's power.

There is no doubt that I am despised and reviled by the political establishment - but they read this column every week. Politicians crave information, not gossip, and what is printed is given great credibility. Every article that I write is well researched, topical, provocative and, hopefully, somewhat entertaining, enlightening and even amusing. My goal is to provide a unique perspective.

When I ran for judge in 1998, the Tribune dismissed me as a "gadfly." That's indicative of the arrogance of the dailies: To them, if you don't write every day, then you are not a real journalist.

And they're right. I'm a lawyer with an extensive knowledge of politics, not a journalist.

(3) Question: So why do you keep writing this column? And why do you focus only on politics?

It's part habit and part opportunity. It's also a lifelong investment of time and energy. Every week, I fill a news hole with 1,500 words. That consumes about 6 hours per week, including reading, clipping and filing newspaper articles, doing research and making phone calls to an extensive array of sources, typing the article and then e-mailing it to my "buddy list" and posting it on my Web site.

I understand the evolutionary nature of life, exemplified by the acronym EIFAA. When young, in your 20s, one has exalted expectations of great success and glory. By the 30s, one is irritated by lack of progress toward that goal. By the 40s, one is frustrated. By the 50s, one becomes angry. But by the 60s, acceptance prevails.

This writer will never win a Pulitzer Prize analyzing or exposing the frivolity, insipidity and stupidity of Illinois politicians. But, thankfully, there is never a dearth of subjects. With minimal perceptivity and effort, there can always be found some topical fodder for a political column.

But don't expect me to write about complex scientific or economic issues. Creativity takes time and work. I have an area of competence, namely, politics. At age 58, I accept reality, and I will write about politics, in the Nadig Newspapers, until I die, retire or get fired.

(4) How did you start your column?

In 1972, when a senior at DePaul University, I was the press secretary for Alderman John Hoellen, who ran for Congress and lost to Frank Annunzio. In 1973 I was the campaign manager for the Republican candidate for alderman in the 41st Ward, who lost to Roman Pucinski. Searching for a career, I approached Glenn Nadig, the publisher of this newspaper, in the summer of 1973 and proposed writing profiles of the area's state legislators - state Senators Ed Scholl and Howie Carroll and state Representatives Ralph Capparelli, Roman Kosinski, Roger McAuliffe, Bill Laurino, Bernard Wolfe and Peter Peters.

That done, I continued, as a Nadig "stringer," writing bylined front-page articles on other political subjects, sometimes two per week. And I managed the campaigns of area candidates in 1974, 1975 and 1976. But then came an epiphany: I realized that there aren't big bucks in public relations, politics or journalism. I went to law school, but kept writing.

Once a lawyer, being a columnist became an avocation, not an obligation. I did it for fun, not for income. It also enhanced my visibility for my law practice. Every attorney needs a client base, and my column and ads in Nadig Newspapers provided it.

(5) Question: After 35 years, why aren't you a media celebrity?

What is "celebrity"? I'm on Tom Roeser's radio show every other month. I've done at least 50 cable television shows in the past five years, for no compensation. It was long ago said that the "media is the message." But preparing that message is work. Anybody can have a TV show on CAN (Chicago) or Comcast (suburban) cable, provided that he supplies the production technicians.

It comes down to this: Print versus broadcast; hard copy versus talking head.

Every week, there are 40,000 hard copies of this column. At my Web site, there are 10,000 hits per month. It takes the same amount of time to write an article as it does to produce a 30-minute TV show. The article lasts forever; the TV/radio show evaporates instantaneously.

Question: Why don't you write a book?

I'm in the process of authoring an "Almanac of Chicago and Cook County Politics." It's extraordinarily time-consuming. And, after the final draft, it takes a year to publish. Hopefully, it will in book stores before the 2011 Chicago election.

Question: How can I read your old columns?

My Web site has archived articles since 2002.

Question: You presume to be a political prognosticator. What's your prediction accuracy?

In the 2007 Chicago elections I was correct on over 80 percent of my predictions. That's better than every sports columnist, and better than Oscar forecasts.

Question: When are you going to update that ancient photo? You must be older, grayer and fatter now.

One wants to be ageless and timeless. That photo was taken in 1990. I'm definitely older and grayer. It will be replaced within 2 years.

A final thought: Thank you. To the co-publishers, Glenn Nadig and Brian Nadig, for the privilege of writing for this newspaper. To my editor, Randy Erickson. And to the legion of readers of this column, for your tips, advice and e-mails.