Monday, September 11, 2006

Gronk's last stand

Lon Grahnke's obit ran when I was in Kansas City, and I finally learned through Dave Hoekstra's blog of Grahnke's death at 56. But Gronk would have appreciated that I was off on a White Sox road trip.

Better known as the Sun-Times' TV critic in the 1990s, he was also a meticulous editor whose style influenced mine, if for no other reason that it was right out there in red ink on copy paper stacked on my desk. As a copy editor in the suburban bureau I had to check that manuscript against what was in the computer, even though the reporter who had typed it for computer entry had made the same "CQ" checks.

Lon in fact taught me copy editing. He hired me from minimal clips, even knowing that reporter Jim Ritter, for whom he had been spilling much of that red ink, was my college editor. Lon lectured me about the gravity of the three errors I had made on his hiring test, never telling me that other applicants had performed abysmally.

Before I wrote my first headlines in the Sun-Times I practiced in pencil for Lon's review, at his instruction rewriting every line that ended with a preposition. His concern with such egregious breaches of style held me in good stead later in the downtown newsroom, even if hanging prepositions didn't seem to trouble the slot men there. By then Lon had graduated from reviewing movies for Suburban Week to editing Roger Ebert.

Lon's slide into Alzheimer's (he left the Sun-Times in 2001) was truly tragic. He likely remembered much more about those days 25+ years ago than I did, and much more than he knew of his own final years.

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