Impact of Mirage series still felt 35 years later

Editor's note: This is a preview of a story that will appear in the spring 2013 print issue of Gateway Journalism Review.

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.

“The Sun-Times series certainly was the most inventive (undercover project) and maybe the longest in modern times,” said Brooke Kroeger, a New York University researcher and author of “Undercover Reporting: the truth about deception,” which examines nearly two centuries of undercover reporting.

Triggered by decades of reports and rumors of shakedowns of businesses by city inspectors, the Sun-Times, in tandem with a civic group, the Better Government Association, opened a tavern named the Mirage and painstakingly documented what it encountered.


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