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The [Friday] Papers

You get the feeling that the Chicago Tribune, which got the ball rolling when it discovered criminal cases in the backgrounds of two jurors in the George Ryan trial who were then dismissed, would now just like to see the whole mess go away.

Once again, the paper today fails to see the mess surrounding the jurors in the trial of the now-convicted former governor as the biggest story of the day.

Instead, the Tribune goes with a story headlined "Ryan Jury Feels It's On Trial Now" on the bottom of its front page, clearly outlining where its sympathies lie.

The angle of the story - of many undeveloped angles left to choose from - and the almost always telltale final paragraph, which newspapers often use as a conclusion telling readers how to feel after exiting the story, make clear that the paper thinks the Ryan defense team and those of us deeply disturbed by the jurors' false answers on their questionnaires are nitpicking fine and dutiful citizens who don't deserve scrutiny.

"I feel bad for the people whose lives have been exposed because of their community service," reads the quote by juror Karen James that the Tribune places above its front page headline.

"Panel Members Upset As Lawyers Dig Up Past," reads the subhead.

"I'm waiting for them to go after me for the three library books I forgot to return," says the quote under juror Denies Peterson's front page photo.

"Case May Hurt Jury System, Expert Says," reads the headline on the back page, where the story is continued.

And at the end of a story that doesn't address the public's legitimate interest in the jurors' integrity but instead manages to feel sorry for jurors who didn't tell the truth when they were chosen for the panel, this quote from controversial forewoman Sonja Chambers:

"A lot of us work. We have young children. And we took the time to do our civic duty. And today, now we're on trial ourselves. So I just think it's unfair and I think it's very unjust that they're treating us this way. Everyone may have something in their past."

Get it yet?

The Tribune and jurors James and Chambers continue to miss the point. This isn't about overdue library books, or even about jurors whose pasts include arrests for drugs, assault, DUI, and theft. It's about the failure of jurors to disclose those things on their questionnaires when being considered for the panel.

As Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer said in a closed hearing last month, if a juror does not disclose their past "in order to be chosen for a particular jury, then one wonders whether the motivation might have been to achieve a particular outcome in the case."

That quote can be found not in a front page narrative of the behind-the-scenes flurry in the closing weeks of one the state's most historically significant trials, but near the end of the Tribune story "Ryan Lawyers Called Jurors Liars" tucked away on page six.

The Chicago Sun-Times doesn't do much better today, but it doesn't seem so willful about it. The paper weighs in with "Backlash Against Jurors Questioned," and an editorial that doesn't know what it wants to say, but that's just the Sun-Times. We don't expect as much from it, and frankly, by and large, the staff doesn't seem to expect as much from themselves; that's why it's always so much fun when it actually delivers.

Debra Pickett manages once again, though, to be thoroughly offensive on multiple levels as the underrepresented voice of the unbearably unaware and undeservingly arrogant yuppie whose ignorance and snobbery is astonishing.

"Basically, I was assuming that people who buy their coffee at Dunkin' Donuts would be inclined to serve on juries, while those who prefer Starbucks would not," she writes, in a column titled "Want To Clean Up Juries? Bring In The Yuppies."

It's as painful to read as it sounds.

You can read more today about the travails of the Ryan jury in our latest installment of Ways & Means, on our Politics page.

Sun-Times Buy Byes
Sources tell The Beachwood Reporter that eight to 10 Sun-Times editors, reporters, and photographers have received buyouts from the paper, and three to seven people who asked for them were rejected. If you can confirm the names we have received and nail down the rest for us, send me a note via the Tip Line. Longtime books editor Henry Kisor appears to be the biggest name leaving the paper.

Freshmen Follies
Both papers lead their front pages today with results from a new study that shows just one of six* freshmen entering a Chicago public school will earn a college degree by the time they are 25.

"Researchers say they're not exactly sure why Chicago schools alumni graduate from college in such low numbers," the Tribune reports.

Yeah, that's a real head-scratcher.

*CORRECTION: It's even worse than my sloppily worded assessment: The study found that of every 100 freshmen entering a Chicago public school, just six (technically, 6.5) will earn a college degree. My apologies.

Whether it's a good idea to abolish the City Clerk's office, as the Sun-Times advocates in an editorial today, the paper ought to think twice about the evidence it offers in favor of its argument (second editorial on the link). After all, the Sun-Times would keep coming out, stocked with yuppie columns, "smart girl" book reviews, Sunday lunches, and a limping blog, each more aggravating than the last, by Debra Pickett, long after the the editor-in-chief's chair was vacated.

Back To You, Chuck
"It's looking like a blood-soaked, explosive weekend
ahead. The five-day forecast is coming up."

- WGN-TV Thursday morning

Back To You, Susie
Not really, but plausible, no? Submitted by Tim Willette.

Governor Baloneyvich
The Tribune's Rick Pearson and John Chase get to the bottom of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's new "Straight Talk" television ad by discerning that the "Town Hall Meeting" where a camera captured the governor attacking challenger Judy Baar Topinka's stance on an assault weapons ban wasn't a real town hall meeting at all but a fake town hall meeting staged to film the commercial.

Looking for Love
You still have to hunt for it every day, but Cheryl Lavin's Tales From The Front rarely disappoints.

There is a new Website in town that is "already the most literary and winningly whimsical," says Steve Johnson of the Tribune.

Thirty-Second City Syndrome
Was it really necessary for the Sun-Times to publish a box the other day of Condoleeza Rice's likes and dislikes of a Chicago she barely seems to know, including such gems as "[Hyde Park] has a spectacular university in the University of Chicago," and "This is a great city culturally, architecturally, obviously"?

Friend or Foe
President Bush declared this week that he is The Decider. Debate at Beachwood HQ ensued about whether that made him a Star Trek villain or the name of a Judas Priest song.

The Beachwood Tip Line: It would die 4 U.


Posted on April 21, 2006

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