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posted: 4/19/2010 12:01 AM

A 30 and out retirement plan? Hardly

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This symbol: - 30 - is something you will never see at the beginning of a new story.

For generations of reporters, it signified the end of a story they had written.

Most never knew what it meant, but writing - 30 - at the end of a story was a nice connection to "The Front Page" days when journalism was better defined and better regarded than it is today.

That was an era before anyone with one eye, one ear, one Blackberry and half a brain, can be considered a "journalist."

There were actually numerous meanings of - 30 - over the years. Some considered it the quota of daily news stories that had to be written by Associated Press reporters. When they reached that number, they would type - 30 - and then head to the tavern.

I like the explanation provided in the "Writer's Market" that goes back to the Civil War "-when news was transmitted by telegraph. The first message sent to a press association in the U.S. contained thirty words, and so its sender, as was the practice, indicated this with the number 30 at the end. The 30 was retained for all telegraphed news, and eventually, for news stories in general."

Regardless of its origin, - 30 - always signified an ending.

But, as with most rules in journalism - such as never start a sentence with "but" and don't dare dangle your participle in public - there are exceptions.

Today, for me, - 30 - is not an ending.

It is the number of years I have toiled in TV, where alliteration is sometimes king and I have no plans to stop.

Of course this comes as no surprise to my creditors and those who still collect college tuition for some of my children. They know that 30 years has not been nearly long enough to underwrite such lavish necessities.

Personal sustenance aside, there are other reasons to continue in the noble effort of broadcast and print reporting. I am reminded of them and rejuvenated by them every day.

• Corruption: It is the news story that keeps on giving in Chicago and in Illinois. As long as there is public dishonesty, there has to be publicly-minded reporting.

• Organized Crime: Has been around for three times 30 years in Chicago and will be here future multiples of that. It is not just the Outfit either. There are Asian syndicates, Jamaican gangs, the Russian Mafia, outlaw motorcycle gangs, Colombian drug cartels and Mexican drug cartels. Don't let anyone tell you the organization has been taken out of Organized Crime.

• Street crime: 23 people shot during one bloody overnight in Chicago last week. Of the 23, seven were killed and 16 wounded. So far, as the city heads into a nasty summer, not one public official is taking responsibility and the public really doesn't seem to care.

• Financial fraud: you don't think Bernie Madoff was the only one out there, now do you?

• Government accountability, transparency and change: How's it going so far?

• Terrorism: the wild card in our future. Every day that ends without an attack on America brings us closer to the next attack on America. Simplistic? Not according to the experts who have been saying since Sept. 12, 2001 that radical Islamists were undeniably patient in preparing for the first attack and that there will be another.

• The unexpected and the unexplained: a week doesn't go by in Chicago that something significantly odd or appreciably abnormal doesn't happen. Whether it is a first-of-its-kind accident, a quirk of nature or a quack in industry, some mystery is always surfacing in the Naked City that requires more than a Google search to solve.

To readers and viewers who don't understand the nuts-and-bolts reporting that I do, and would prefer that I take the "30 and out" retirement plan, I am sorry to disappoint you.

For now, as long as news can last as a business, there is more than enough work to be done.

For how long?

At least another - 30 -.

• Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by e-mail at and followed at