Our new slogan – “To inform, challenge and celebrate” – implies that we’ll be doing some cheerleading, as well as making some catcalls.
We kicked off our new “Thumbs Up…” / “Thumbs Down…” feature on page 6A, and from now on, each week we’ll give the proverbial “thumbs treatment” to local happenings, groups, elected officials and government bodies in recognition of something done well…or, if it’s the case, done poorly. The feature will be limited to the editorial page, of course, but we invite readers to submit ideas for “up” and “down” items to Editor Billy Liggett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Thumbing” has a noble lineage. I read the other day that Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, was in a dispute with Disney-ABC television about the use of thumbs – thumbs-up to signify a movie worth seeing, thumbs-down for a dud.
Ebert, who’s recovering from cancer, is in negotiations with the network to extend the “At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper” program. During the 23-year run on the show’s predecessor, “Siskel & Ebert at the Movies” – Gene Siskel, the late critic of the Chicago Tribune, died from cancer in 1999 – the use of “thumbs” became a copyrighted trademark in the use of reviewing movies. Ebert is the copyright holder, and hopefully he’ll be healthy enough (he’s cancer-free, but recent operations have left him unable to speak) to appear on his program soon. Meanwhile, in recognition of “good faith negotiations,” Ebert has allowed the “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” part of the program to continue in his absence.
We’re not infringing upon Ebert’s innovation. Actually, “thumbs” was popularized during the gladiator days of Julius Caesar, although not like it’s portrayed by Hollywood. Gladiators weren’t supposed to fight to the death, but occasionally if the crowd was unhappy with a particular performance by one of them, historians say they’d raise a fist with a thumb extended. A thumb “compressed,” or inside a fist, said, “let him live.” In some cultures in Europe, extending the thumb up eventually came to signify life.
We hope you’ll find our “thumbs” feature insightful and thought-provoking. In short, we hope you’ll give it (with apologies to Roger Ebert and the ancient Romans) a thumbs-up.