On Nov. 25, John Fountain resigned as a columnist after Sun-Times Executive Editor Jennifer Kho told him in a telephone conversation that she would not run a column he had written after he did not agree to one of her two revisions or revise that column in the way she had suggested. The editor's revised versions included restructuring of Fountain’s original column as well as revised sentences and the insertion of the editor’s own words. Fountain subsequently published that column, a tribute to the life and memory of a former journalism student Aaron Lee, on Fountain’s website.
Days after resigning verbally, Fountain sent two other Sun-Times editors a letter on Nov. 29 about the exchange with Sun-Times Executive Editor Kho. One of those editors followed up with Fountain by telephone, saying that Fountain, who has written a column as a freelance journalist for the Sun-Times since January 2010, would be allowed to write a final farewell column. After Fountain submitted that column Friday, Dec. 2, that editor called again to inform Fountain that the executive editor had made the decision to not run it.
The column, as Fountain wrote it, with a few minor insertions, appears below. The print in italics represents excerpts from the aforementioned letter Fountain wrote to Sun-Times editors after resigning.
|Aaron Timothy Lee, director and producer of |
Dream Chaser, which airs this weekend
on Marquee Sports Network, starting
Friday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. CST
I first glimpsed that smile in what now seems like a lifetime ago, and after countless emails, texts and letters, office chats and telephone conversations shared between professor and student, mentor and mentee. Still hear the excitement in his voice, always detectable even when Aaron tried to bury the lead while delivering the latest news of some new job, journalism project or award.
Aaron has some really big news this week. And I know he would call or text or email so that I could shout it from the rafters, celebrate. If he could...
We both knew this day would come. That time waits for no man. It is a truth that Aaron arrived at in life much earlier than I did.
He was always young at heart. A dream chaser.
|Ancestral Slave River in Assin Manso in Ghana is the historic site where shackled Africans |
were forced to bathe before making the final journey to slave castles
Peace. Into the night, the children smile. Their voices rise above the steady whir of bouncy house fans and the deep incurable pain that is not as easily detectable here, though its presence too is undeniable. Like the water that ripples in soft waves at a nearby park fountain.
Like the mothers of murdered sons and daughters who don “Purpose Over Pain” T-shirts--decades of grief shared between them. Like the enthusiasm of Khalil White-EL, 18, who bubbles with excitement over his new job--his future as bright as his infectious smile.
Peace. It flows here, on an August Friday night at Renaissance Park on West 79th Street. Drifting upon a premature autumn wind is a sense of the way life is supposed to be, even on this side of Chicago, where gunfire and murder confiscate childhood.
"Don’t we all bleed the same? Doesn’t every human soul carry the same worth?"
|John W. Fountain as a Cubs reporter at the Chicaho Tribune circa 1991|
They say that "the people" appreciate my pen as a voice of Chicago. I pray this is true.
It has been my joy and honor for the last nearly 13 years as a freelance columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. I do not know where my pen will land. But know this: I will continue speaking truth with purpose and passion as I seek to tell "our" stories with all my heart--as I have for the last 30-plus years as a journalist at places like the New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.
But there comes a time when every writer/journalist must treat themselves with the respect their work and craft rendered deserves.
I've always lived by: Never Internalize Their Disrespect.
I now say: "Never Accept Their Disrespect"
Thank you, everyone, for your support, love and even your criticisms over these years. This is not goodbye from my pen but the start of a new beginning, even if the road and destination are, for now, unclear.
A Google search will always find me or my website: www.johnwfountain.com
I will be writing. I pray you will keep reading.
John W. Fountain