Inside Media: Clarence Page

June 28, 2009

By Lesette R. Heath, special programs coordinator

The name Clarence Page has been familiar to Chicago Tribune readers for more than 25 years. His nationally syndicated column offers views on politics, culture and everything in between.

But Page almost left a void at the Tribune. Being a part of the "Sputnik generation,” he once aspired to go into space. That is, until he took high-school courses in physics and calculus. Luckily, his other interest was journalism.

Honing his craft at the school newspaper, Page learned that "your first obligation is to the reader. To get the story out, get it right and try not to get sued.”

Over the years, he has followed a variety of topics, from the time he covered music in the 1960s, to today as he writes, makes frequent TV appearances and blogs about Washington politics. 

"Yes, I was Mr. Multimedia before multimedia was cool,” he said.

Page admittedly gets a lot of his news from the Internet but also appreciates "the serendipitous value” of newspapers.

"There’s a joy that comes with reading a newspaper. You don’t know what you’re going to find as you’re flipping through the pages,” he explained.

The Pulitzer winner also noted that newspapers are a source for reliable information and cited a Washington Post story on the recent Metrorail collision as an example. But new media isn’t too far behind.

"Look at what happened the other day when TMZ was first with the news about Michael Jackson’s [death]. It’s a gossip site. Then look at what’s happening with Twitter in Iran,” he said.

By no means is Page a fan of Twitter.

"It urges us to do exactly what we shouldn’t be doing — to think in little sound bites. There are some great thoughts that take more than 140 characters.”

Nevertheless, Page looks forward to what’s ahead, whether it’s the next big story or the next big trend in reporting.

"I enjoy it [all],” he added. "This is definitely more fun than physics or calculus.”

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