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The [Monday] Papers

BREAKING NEWS 8:12 A.M.: "Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington," the New York Times reports.

BREAKING COMMENTARY 8:04 A.M.: (Our very own Natasha Julius is that good; this arrived before the Times story): "As the Weekend Desk Editor, I just want to say that I am going to miss Alberto Gonzales. He could be relied upon to do something ridiculously villainous on an almost weekly basis. As a U.S. citizen and ardent fan of the Constitution, I just want to say it's about frickin' time. Geez.

"Are we seriously going to have to live through 17 more months of this? Seriously? It's like W is the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He's just a head and a torso, rolling around and screaming at everyone. And guess what? His torso just resigned!

"Come back here! I'll bite your legs off!"

Neurotic Nation
"Flour at IKEA Leads to Terror Alert."

Look, if al-Qaeda wanted to strike again in America, they wouldn't target an IKEA in New Haven, Connecticut. They'd go after Home Depot.

ALTERNATE: They'd buy up a bunch of subprime mortgages and not pay them back.


The point of terrorism is to put fear into one's enemies. al-Qaeda has done that quite nicely, no? We have given control of our safety, our politics, our sense of well-being to the enemy. We have been terrorizing ourselves for six years, scared witless by cartoon characters and baking ingredients. Let's put the color code at Gray Matter, meaning All Citizens Should Return To Their Senses, and get a grip.

Master Plan
"Waukegan Eyes Artist Colony."

Would be replaced by Yuppie Colony once property values rise.

Instructional League
A CTA train derailed Sunday near 14th Street and Wabash. "No customers were on the train, which was on an instructional trip for employees," the Tribune reports.

Workers practiced not keeping invisible riders informed.

Bridges Blagojevich
"Gov. Blagojevich apparently wants to repair half a bridge," the AP's Christopher Wills reported on Sunday. "Blagojevich's cuts to the state budget include at least two cases where he rejected a request for half the money for a bridge repair project but approved another request for the other half of the money.

"That wasn't the only odd result of his budget decisions."

Page 24A, Sun-Times.

Front page? Exploiting personal tragedy to sell papers.

"How a Marriage Spiraled Into Murder" isn't unworthy of a story, but its front page presentation is strictly a commercial decision by amoral editor Michael Cooke.

Hillary Hating
On the Tribune's front page on Sunday: "Vast Army of 'Hillary Haters' Has Claws Out."

I'm wondering how vast. The story is centered on the site and its proprietor.

This site, the Trib says, gets 3,000 hits a day, which is hardly impressive enough to merit a story except that it fits into the media's predetermined narrative.

Hits is a meaningless term, though uninformed reporters insist on using it. A "hit" is recorded each time an element - text, image, what have you - is called up. So if a site has one story and four images, five hits get recorded. Which means that, for a site with as many elements as StopHerNow, basically nobody is reading it. Or was until it was featured in the Chicago Tribune.

Just to illustrate further, the Beachwood had about 50,000 hits on Friday, pretty much a typical day, but only about a thousand unique visitors (we've had 34,000 unique visitors this month - a Beachwood record!). So this guy isn't gettting much for the $400,000 he says he's spent (On what? Tech help isn't that expensive.)

Compare for yourself. Just plug in in the second box.

You could fairly speculate that our Obamathon series has more readers. But the media loves Hillary Haters stories.

Standard Disclaimer
Memo to Obamaphiles: I am not voting for Hillary Clinton. But as a matter of objective analysis, your man has gotten the freest ride of any presidential political candidate in memory while Hillary Clinton - and Bill - has been battered more severely than any political figures in memory by a right-wing media machine with the aid of a compliant press.

Beyond Politics
Sun-Times outdoors writer Dale Bowman turns in the best BP commentary I've seen.

Winning the War
The surge is working.

Target Market
"There's no doubt about it: Reality television is changing, in ways both trashy and desperate," Paige Wiser reports. "And that's not to say I'm complaining. That's my favorite kind of TV."

Dress Code
Illinois State's business school is instituting a dress code - for its students. While the Sun-Times story fails to, ahem, question the premise, I have to wonder if ISU administrators have been asleep since the 80s. These days folks in the most exciting sectors of the economy are likely to wear T-shirts to work, and even Bill Gates doesn't wear a suit.

Old Playbook
Newspaper folk have a list of stories they write every year regardless of reality. For example, flooding? Let's wheel out the everyone-is-calling-a-plumber story! And the Sun-Times put it on front page on Saturday - a photo of a plumber with his tools. And not even a funny photo. (I wonder if it was a file photo of a plumber)

Meanwhile, on page 3, the S-T had a pretty amazing photo of a tall tree split right in half, presumably by lightning. That should have been front page.

Speak of the Devil
I wrote that before seeing the Trib's front page with a photo of the same split tree - described as a 70-foot elm. And a couple folks pushing a canoe filled with sandbags down a waterlogged street, and a half-sunken bicyclist trying to pedal through a flooded intersection.

I would have had a mind to run a front page photo gallery, skip the stories, and put the pertinent facts in a few boxes and graphics. Traditional weather stories are usually filled with nonsense. No offense, but do we really care that Kathy Marston of unincorporated Lombard, as noted in the S-T, was in "a good mood" but facing a power outage for the next couple of days.

Humanizing stories is nice, but useless trivia is a waste of precious and dwindling space.

Weather Channel
The Trib also ran a series of storm radar shots on its business front. Here's the thing about a newspaper: It's a visual medium. See, people look at.

My new hero.

Liquid Diet
So that's what's wrong with the Sun-Times: It's subprime.

Vick's Vapor Rub
At what point did we equate athletic ability with model citizenship? I thought high school taught us all otherwise.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Rub it in.


Posted on August 27, 2007

MUSIC - Spring Awakening Wake-Up Call!
TV - Exclusive! Rahm's New TV Gig.
POLITICS - The Political Odds UPDATED.
SPORTS - NHL: CTE Not Our Fault.

BOOKS - Stan Lee, Flawed Hero.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: I Am Iron Man.

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