The social media firestorm that surrounded the decision by Southern Illinois University’s board of trustees to put off voting on a media fee for the 98-year-old Daily Egyptian newspaper caught university administrators by surprise. DE alumni from as far away as Iraq leaped to the paper’s defense, flooding social media, including the hashtag #savethede on Twitter.
By SCOTT LAMBERT / Jeffrey Sterling is the afterthought. The 1989 Millikin University graduate with a law degree from Washington University is now little more than a footnote as media rush to defend Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen in his battle against the U.S. government.
I fell in love with the Alton Telegraph newsroom. Who wouldn’t, with its dangling cables, stacks of yellowing newsprint, reference books – that’s right, BOOKS – on cabinets with wheels and reporters’ desks adorned with the bric-a-brac from years of school-board meetings, election nights and city council debates?
A bridge! A bridge! Abridged? The recent opening of a new bridge over the Mississippi River at St. Louis got grand coverage from the city’s television news stations. Footage of the sparkling span dominated morning reports by Fox News Channel 2, KMOV Channel 4 and KSDK Channel 5 on the Friday before the official opening on Feb. 9. Cheerleading, in fact, was in top form as anchors and reporters gave testimony to an engineering achievement accomplished with admirable efficiency. It was a good story about civic progress. But the journalists’ day job – reporting – was noticeably, ah, abridged.
While almost all state trial courts allow some level of still and video camera coverage of court proceedings, the rules on usage of modern communications devices and techniques – blogging, tweeting, texting and emailing using cellphones, tablets and other devices – are a wild patchwork of policies which vary from state to state, courthouse to courthouse, and often even courtroom to courtroom. An example of this is in two wildly diverging policies adopted in late 2012 in Kansas and Illinois’ Cook County.
Despite the decline in the number of political endorsements made by Midwest newspapers, editorial editors still think the process is a civic duty. There is some disagreement, however, as to the influence of endorsements on voters.
At a time when millions of Americans have a cell phone with video and audio capability and when videotapes of police misconduct often are the stuff of news reports, Illinois is leading the nation in prosecuting citizens who tape officers in public. Illinois has one of the three most restrictive eavesdropping laws in the country, along with Maryland and Massachusetts. And Illinois police and prosecutors are not shy about using the law to punish the taping of arrests and interrogations.
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.