MIKE ROYKO Biography - People in the News and Media


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Name: Mike Royko                                                                           
Born: 19 September 1932                                                                   
Died: 29 April 1997                                                                       
Michael "Mike" Royko (September 19, 1932 - April 29, 1997) was a longtime                 
newspaper columnist in Chicago, Illinois.                                                 
Royko grew up in Chicago living in an apartment above a bar. His mother was of             
Polish descent and his father was of Ukrainian origins. Once he became a                   
columnist, he drew upon his childhood experiences to become the voice of the               
everyman Chicagoan. Although he could use biting sarcasm, he never spoke down to           
his readers, always remembering that he was one of them.                                   
Royko began his career as a columnist for the Naval Air Station Glenview                   
newspaper and the City News Bureau of Chicago before moving to the Chicago Daily           
News. He worked for the Daily News as a political reporter and was an irritant             
to the city's machine politicians with his penetrating and skeptical questions             
and reports.                                                                               
He covered Cook County politics and government and wrote a weekly political               
column. He soon supplemented that with another weekly column on Chicago's active           
folk music scene. These columns were successful, and soon he was given a regular           
slot writing on all topics for the Daily News, an afternoon paper with a strong           
liberal slant. Royko was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary while with             
the Daily News in 1972.                                                                   
Boss (1971), Royko's unauthorized biography of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley             
spent 26 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list.                                     
When the Daily News shut its doors, Royko moved to its allied morning newspaper,           
the Chicago Sun-Times. In 1984, however, he left the Sun-Times after it was sold           
to a group headed by Rupert Murdoch, for whom Royko said he would never work. He           
famously claimed, "No self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Murdoch paper"           
and that, "His goal is not quality journalism. His goal is vast power for Rupert           
Murdoch, political power." He quickly found employment writing his column at the           
rival Chicago Tribune, where he wrote until his death of a brain aneurysm at 64           
. Royko's columns were syndicated in more than 600 newspapers across the country,         
and he wrote more than 7500 columns over a four-decade career. He also wrote or           
compiled dozens of "That's Outrageous!" columns for Reader's Digest.                       
Many of his columns were collected in book form, although his most famous book             
remains the best-selling 1971 unauthorized biography of Richard J. Daley, Boss.           
In the book, Royko portrays Daley as corrupt and racist; it has become one of             
the principal books regarding the lifetime of Mayor Daley and Chicago under his           
administration. Mayor Daley forced 200 Chicago bookstores to stop stocking the             
book, but demand from the public forced them to start stocking them again, after           
which Mayor Daley's wife was caught vandalizing copies.                                   
As with many columnists, Royko created several fictitious mouthpieces with whom           
he could hold "conversations." Perhaps the most famous of these was Slats                 
Grobnik, the epitome of a working class Polish-Chicagoan. Royko's Grobnik                 
columns generally took the form of the two men discussing a current issue in a             
neighborhood Polish bar. In 1973, Royko collected several columns in the book             
Slats Grobnik and Other Friends. Another of Royko's characters was his pseudo-psychiatrist 
Dr. I.M. Kookie (title character of the collection Dr. Kookie, You're Right!,             
1989). Kookie, purportedly the founder of the religion of Asylumism, according             
to which Earth was settled by mentally insane individuals rejected by a higher             
civilization, was used to satirize both pop culture and pop psychology.