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Saddest Ghost Lamp

Monday, February 06, 2006

Quality Over Quantity at the Tribune

Every year, the Chicago Tribune hands out what it calls the Jones-Beck Awards to its favorite employees. It's a big to-do, complete with a wacky White House Correspondents Dinner-style self-mocking short film, and all the sadsacks who've been there for 30 years get a keychain (or something) and a pat on the back. There's a cash component for winners--somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000, if I remember correctly (not that I ever won one).

This year's ceremony was on Friday, and staff reporter Emily Nunn, who occasionally writes about food for features, took home the award for best writer of 2005. First I'll state unequivocally for the record that Nunn, who jumped from the New Yorker to the Tribune a few years ago, is extremely talented and I firmly and wholeheartedly concur with the judgment that she is the Tribune's best full-time staff writer.

And now I will present without comment the number of stories that carried Nunn's byline in the Chicago Tribune during the 2005 calendar year: 38. That's one story every 6.8 weekdays. Total words was 37,632. Average story length was just under 1,000 words. Average output was about 144 words per weekday. This post is already longer than that.

For purposes of comparison, Nunn's boss, deputy managing editor for features Jim Warren, who writes a column about magazines for Tempo in addition to running the features department, managed to snag 33 bylines in 2005, for a total 25,733 words.

My friend Monica Eng, who also writes about food for features, had 86 bylines last year. Metro reporter Gary Washburn had 333. I had 25, and my last day was February 28.

In other words, here's hoping the Tribune deploys its best writer a little more aggressively this year.