More Sun-Times layoffs: Quick Hits columnist Harris loses ‘best job at the paper’
Wed Aug 3 2011
Quick Hits, the Sun-Times sports column that showcased the sparkling wit of Elliott Harris along with photos of some of the sports world’s most beautiful women, has taken a hit.
Harris, 64, a 32-year veteran of the Sun-Times, was one of three editorial employees whose jobs were eliminated Tuesday. The others were sports columnist Mike Mulligan, who continues as morning co-host on CBS Radio sports/talk WSCR-AM (670), and photographer Keith Hale. Mulligan’s departure was classified as a retirement.
By my count that brings to 17 the number of newsroom layoffs since March in wave after wave of cuts that have devastated morale and left the Sun-Times a shadow of its former self. Even the $10 million savings reportedly achieved by contracting printing operations to the Chicago Tribune and cutting an estimated 400 production jobs has not brought stability to the troubled Sun-Times Media parent company.
Few of the losses were as surprising as the demise of Quick Hits, which Harris had been writing since September 1998. In a profile/interview of him just last month, I wrote that his column was “both a destination and a guilty pleasure for fans,” adding: “The sheer exuberance with which Harris celebrates the ultimate middle-aged man’s fantasy — spotlighting beautiful women who love sports (or at least have some connection to sports) — is what keeps readers coming back for more.”
But not any longer.
“Quick Hits was something special,” Harris told me Tuesday night. “It was fun. It was work. The lines between the two tended to blur. That’s not a complaint, merely an observation. I like to think I brought a little something to make Quick Hits special. Some might say it was an obsession with Anna Kournikova. I’d like to think it was more than that. Not that I’m admitting to an obsession with Anna. Unless maybe it’s a healthy obsession.
“People — friends, acquaintances, other media folk, strangers — always would tell me I had the best job at the paper. And I certainly couldn’t disagree. I enjoyed my job, which put me light years ahead of a lot of people on the planet. I got to write about fun people and events and put together photo galleries featuring beautiful women. What’s not to like — other than the state of the newspaper industry, as we see at the Tribune as well as at the Sun-Times?
“One of the best parts of the job was being out and having complete strangers tell me how much they enjoyed my work — even if I think what they really were saying was: the bigger the photo, the better writer you are. Something like that. I tried to inform and/or entertain. If I could make you smile a bit, I felt I had done my job to a certain extent. I especially liked it when women would come up and say how much they enjoyed Quick Hits. I never was quite sure what their reaction would be. And I was always relieved when they didn’t hit me with a heavy object. Or even with a light one.”
Happily, Harris won’t be out of the public eye for a moment. His ElliottHarris.com website (which includes a touching farewell column to his Sun-Times readers) is up and running. And he continues to host Sports & Torts, a weekly online talk show for talkzone.com, with attorney David Spada.
Of his 32-year run at the Sun-Times, Harris quipped: “I outlasted Michael Jordan and Sammy Sosa, among others, on the Chicago sports scene. Not that I’m comparing myself to MJ. Nor have I ever corked a column.
“I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life and my career. Will I miss the Sun-Times? Yes. Will the Sun-Times miss me? I’d like to think so. Especially when it comes to Lingerie Football League coverage, if nothing else.”