Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Zay N. Smith, who gained lasting fame with his reporting of the Better Government Association/ Sun-Times Mirage Tavern investigation, passed away last night at the age of 71.

Smith later became the host and moderator of the Quick Takes column at the Sun-Times. Like everything else at that paper, "Quick Takes" shrank, to "QT", before being jettisoned, along with Smith, from the Sun-Times in 2008.

Smith continued the QT column on various websites that I've linked to over the years.

The Mirage Tavern stories were riveting stuff for Phil Zukowsky and me back in 1978, when we were students at Loyola Law School. We did a long 'think piece' about the ethics of reporters inserting themselves into a story as Smith, Pam Zekman, and the rest of the BGA/Sun-Times team had done. Assessing our chances of getting our story into the Columbia Journalism Review as non-existent, we settled for publication in Blackacre, then the student newspaper at the Loyola School of Law.

Thankfully, our article seems to be lost to history.

But I do recall quite clearly that, since Loyola had no journalism school, Phil and I thought we should seek a comment for our story from the Dean of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.

Somehow we got the good man on the phone. We explained our quest -- and he responded: "I don't talk to student reporters." This had to make it difficult to conduct classes.

The linked obituary notes that Smith also taught at Medill. He apparently did speak to student reporters.