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Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Goodbye, Chicago: The other shoe has dropped

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Enjoying tea backstage at the Pitchfork Music Festival.

Many years ago, Mark Brown -- not our Mark Brown, a different journalist (go figure, I've known four Mark Browns in this business) -- signed off from his post as pop music critic at California's Orange County Register with a column describing something of an epiphany he had after being konked in the head with a shoe thrown from the stage by the singer for Candlebox.

"It was a sign from God: time to get out," he wrote.

My own decision to depart journalism has evolved over some time.

I'm leaving the Sun-Times at the end of this week, suspending a two-decade, full-time career in journalism. As I wrap up a master's degree in new media communication at Univ. of Illinois-Chicago, I've decided to pursue a Ph.D. in the same field at the Univ. of California-San Diego.

As Brown asked, "Why walk away from the greatest job in the world?"

Make no mistake, I am not fleeing. I'm running to, not from. The timing of my departure -- amid journalism's alleged decline, and within days of the Sun-Times' brutal amputation of its photography staff -- is merely curious. I've had a hand in academia as a lecturer and an adjunct instructor for a dozen years, and it's been a longtime goal to steer my full-time career in that direction.

Believe it or not, I remain an optimist about the future of journalism. The current crisis is one of obsolete business models, not reporting standards -- and as long as draconian solutions for the former don't completely eviscerate the practice of the latter (a point on which my optimism has wavered a bit of late), a potential remains for another golden era ahead for America's fourth estate. Yes, even arts criticism.

My own bottom line: I can contribute more to the world -- and, hopefully, some of those solutions -- by adding to the leadership in communication education and via my own burgeoning research than I ever would by writing another summation of One Direction or the Rolling Stones.

It's been a blast. I've been one lucky bastard for a great many years, worked alongside and spoken with some outstanding individuals, listened to a lot of fine music and seen some great shows. (If anyone cares, I recently rounded up a very subjective list of my 50 favorite all-time concerts.) Withdrawal from the free-music pipeline, I fully suspect, will be, like, "Basketball Diaries"-bad.

Going forth, should anyone be interested, my various writings and natterings can be found via and by following @thesonginmyhead.

So long, Chicago.

Since I'm often rightly accused of liking Beatlesque bands more than the actual Beatles, this is an easy choice for my parting theme song ...

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Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.


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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on June 12, 2013 5:00 PM.

Kanye West debuts more 'Yeezus' tracks in concert was the previous entry in this blog.

Music makes the best of Chicago summer street fests is the next entry in this blog.

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