Write Like Mike (Royko)

Chicago Tribune

In my specialty writing class at NDSU I recently learned of former Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko. Here are a few of his columns that I read; I especially liked his story How Slats Lost His Cymbals. I found his style of writing to be interesting; so much that I thought I’d take a swing at it.

You should also know that I am studying Communication Law this semester and am in the process of writing a 25 page paper on cigarette labeling and how it might be seen as a restriction of free (commercial) speech. That gives a little background on my column, here’s my attempt to be Mike Royko and create a character in likeness to Slats Grobnik.

There has been great debate in the higher courts on whether or not the government should be allowed to place graphic images on the packaging of cigarettes. Now, I am not a smoker by any means but I don’t mind having the occasional social smoke while out on the town with friends.

But there is something I actually do believe in all the time and am ‘addicted’ to. Free speech is something I can’t live without and shouldn’t have to. Either should tobacco companies. Granted there will be those who think I am nothing more than a cigarette addict when reading this but those people are the same people that think putting graphic images will directly lead to the prohibition of tobacco products such as cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

You might have read a news story on how the courts are deciding this issue.  I think that the conversation in the lower circles of our society can be just as crucial to determining the final decision. For example I overheard a story at the bar between two regular patrons, my friend Bill and his friend Frank Adiddle. Frank was a tough guy that had been hardened by the first Gulf War and many nights sitting on a barstool.

I was sitting two seats away from Bill; with Frank on the other side of Bill, and with only a few other friends in the bar, I had time to listen in to their ten-minute conversation on cigarettes. It went a little like this:

Bill was talking to me about how he would like to go out and have a smoke when we were done with our beer.

“Those darn things are so expensive nowadays,” Frank chimed in.

Bill sat back in his chair and turned towards him, “I suppose they have gone up a bit since when we started smokin’.”

“Why don’t they just make ‘em illegal already so I can buy ‘em from a drug dealer for cheap?!” said Frank in an annoyed voice.

“Well they keep telling me to stop smoking them with all these commercials and ads it is pretty weird that they actually don’t just make them illegal like pot,” Bill commented in a serious tone.

Frank chuckled and replied, “I say do it then!”

“That will never happen, old Philip Morris’  got too much money for the gover’mint to shut him down,” said Bill.

“Yeah… I suppose there is a lot of money to be made in the tobacco business. Damn. If I had never bought cigarettes think of all the money those people wouldn’t have.”

Bill thought about this for a minute before adding, “My health care costs would probably go down quite a bit if I didn’t smoke.”

What Frank said next surprised me and Bill both. “But if everybody quit smokin’, taxes would go up ‘cause the gover’mint wouldn’t be making no money off the taxes.”

“Wow, I never thought of it like that, I s’pose they do rely on our money a lot to pay their salaries.”

“Ahh screw it. Let’s go outside boys, I’m done with my beer,” Frank fell back into his normal state. “Like my pops said after he came back from the war, ‘smoke em if you got em’.”

To relate this to trends in technology and society, with the decline of newspapers comes a decline in column writers such as Mike Royko. I think blogging has taken away the need for good column writers. Correction: ‘good blogging’ has taken away the need for professional column writers.

Random thought of the day:

Anybody else say “Wed-Nes-Day” when writing the word Wednesday?