CHICAGO – Back in the early ’70s, as a cub working off the overnight city desk at the Chicago Tribune, you learned fast that all murders were not equal. Sure, all were listed methodically on the deputy superintendent’s logbook at the old police headquarters at 11th and State streets. But while killings on the city’s predominantly white North Side were almost always pursued by our small band of nocturnal newsmen, the more numerous homicides in the black neighborhoods of the South and West Sides most often were ignored. There was even a winking code word for the latter category. They were “blue.” Blue, as in “cheap domestic,” where a drunken live-in boyfriend kills his common-law mate. Blue, as in someone shot in the face after a street-corner dice game gone awry. Judging by how the other four daily newspapers (yes, four!) covered and displayed their homicides, it’s safe to assume the same double standard applied.
On Jan. 8, 1978, the first of a 25-part investigative series published by the Chicago Sun-Times about corruption in Chicago hit the newsstands. Thirty-five years have passed, but the series is still talked about – not so much as to what was reported, but how it was reported, and its impact not on the crooks that were exposed, but on reporting methods.
Illinois’ toughest in the nation eavesdropping law is partly unenforceable now that a Chicago prosecutor failed to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to revive the law. Citizens now can make an audio tape of Chicago police making a stop without fear of prosecution. The taping of police stops is part of an ACLU of Illinois program scrutinizing police conduct.
The Chicago Headline Club – the largest local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the country – announced the winners of its 2010 Lifetime Achievement Awards. Veteran Chicago journalists Roger Ebert, Richard C. Longworth and Elizabeth Brackett will be honored for their extraordinary work in Chicago journalism at the 34th annual Peter Lisagor…
Just when it looked like the Chicago news media were fixing to focus on the issues – wham! – the Illinois Appellate Court tossed the frontrunner in Chicago’s mayoral race off the Feb. 22 primary ballot. True, that appellate decision only lasted for three days—on Jan. 27 the state Supreme Court restored Rahm Emanuel to the ballot. But the off-again, on-again battle of the ballot has made it hard for everyone—press and public—to re-focus on the stuff that really matters.
With so much sloganeering and mud-slinging leading up to the Nov. 2 mid-term elections, the challenge for Chicago’s news media—print, broadcast, online—was whether to echo the races’ shallow bombast … or cut through to the issues. By and large, the metropolitan press held to the latter, more difficult course. Which is saying something, given the staff cutbacks and news hole shrinkage of late.
For those who study or pay attention to the media and how they work, it is completely fascinating watching the effects of the New York Times’ story about the Chicago Tribune.
Lee Abrams resigned from the Chicago Tribune Friday. It’s not often you get to witness the media eating their own but in Abrams’ case, cannibalism was allowed.
Of course, the press never considered Abrams one of their own. Abrams was a radio guy whose ideas affected the radio business on a number of occasions.