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posted: 9/29/2011 5:00 AM

How breaking sports news affects other decisions

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The news of Ozzie Guillen's abrupt departure from the White Sox had an interesting impact this week even beyond the confines of the Sports pages.

For one thing, and I'm speaking very selfishly here, it robbed me of an idea for an editorial. As I left the office Monday evening, I was hearing radio reports of the Sox manager complaining about his pay and how difficult it was to discuss that with owner Jerry Reinsdorf. With a year remaining on Guillen's contract and that situation reminiscent of contract complaints of Bears stars Lance Briggs and Matt Forte, I was mulling a pitch to our editorial board for a piece suggesting that if government operated the way professional sports do, we'd all be rushing for the torches and pitchforks. Can you imagine if our highest-paid government employees underperformed -- or performed up to our highest expectations, for that matter -- and demanded to have their contracts renegotiated upward in midstream? (And that's setting aside the question of whether we'd ever pay millions of dollars to the people who protect our lives, build our roads and teach our children.)

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It seemed like a reasonable question to explore with other board members and might have given me a topic for an editorial I was scheduled to write later in the week. But, when Guillen's news broke literally as I was formulating what ideas to propose, the focus changed entirely. More to the selfish point, the story's urgency also played into the hands of another editorial board member whose scheduled writing day preceded mine.

So it goes. Lots of things worth comment are happening in the suburbs, and I quickly found a different cause to propose. But, more to everyone's benefit -- perhaps even yours, in a way -- the Guillen departure also solved a dilemma with Page 1. During the news meeting to select Tuesday's Page 1 stories, editors found themselves with several stories vying for one remaining vacant position. Should we play a government shutdown story because it was important, even though by now even we, much less our readers, are all but benumbed by government shutdown threats? Or, should we go with a state-of-the-culture story about using Facebook in the workplace? We also had to consider that the scheduled sentencing of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (remember him?) had been indefinitely postponed.

We were leaning toward Facebook, but the departure of the only manager to bring Chicago baseball fans a World Series championship in 88 years quickly made that decision moot and moved the other stories inside.

The Guillen development left me with one other impression, too. When my son blurted out in shock that he'd just been tweeted by a sports channel that Guillen had been traded to the Florida Marlins for two minor league players, I was almost as incredulous as he. A manager traded? For two minor leaguers? I immediately pulled up the Daily Herald on my smartphone and found Scot Gregor's story, which contained the key information on a story that was rapidly developing. The sources were clearly referenced. Rumors were identified as rumors and verifiable facts as facts. I was struck by the importance to me -- as a consumer and White Sox fan, not to mention as an editor -- of both reliability and immediacy.

It was interesting to watch the range of details, rumors and speculations at various online and broadcast sites throughout the evening, but gratifying also to have one place I could count on. Ozzie's departure may have cost me an editorial topic, but it solved a news dilemma and demonstrated the pluck and credibility of the Daily Herald and its sports staff.

All in all, it was a welcome trade.

• Jim Slusher, jslusher@dailyherald.com, is an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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