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The [Monday] Papers

1. To steal a line from Zay Smith, author of the fabulous Quick Takes, add Doomsday to the list of things that aren't what they used to be.

2. "Helium is the talk of the party balloon industry these days, and it is not a discussion being carried out in high-pitched giggles," the Tribune reports this morning.

"The second most plentiful element in the universe is suddenly in short supply on this planet, and that means soaring prices for a lot of things, balloons included."

Yep, we have a helium shortage. Who knew?

3. Onion or Sun-Times:

"Craig Stebic Feels Drew Peterson's Pain: 'I know What He's Going Through.'"

And on the entire front page no less!

How perfect! What took you guys so long?

Next: How Natalee Holloway's family feels about Drew Peterson! And how that might affect our Olympic bid!

4. Actually, it wasn't even the Sun-Times that produced what turns out to be a measly little page 5 story. It was the Joliet Herald News, it's minor league affiliate. Promotions may be in order!


That's what I mean about exploiting tragedy to sell newspapers. The Sun-Times ought to be ashamed of itself, except that I'm pretty sure editor-in-chief Michael Cooke lacks that emotion.

5. We talked about the media's obsession with missing persons cases on Week in Review last Friday. Of course, the two broadcasters on the panel - Stacey Baca of ABC7 and Mary Ann Ahern of NBC5 - disagreed with my assessment that such coverage is exploitive voyeurism with little news content. People want to know! they said.

Well, if that's the case, why are local news ratings going down?

Not only that, but people want to know who the neighbor is boffing, but that doesn't make it news.

My suspicion, anyway, is that dwindling newsroom budgets have more to do with an increase in soap opera crime stories - as well as a boomerang effect from all the coverage they get on 24/7 cable news shows - than what people want (or need) to know. These stories are cheap, requiring very little real reporting or resources.

But people are scared! they also said.

You're scaring them! Studies have shown for years that people have a disproportionate fear of crime due to the disproportionate amount of crime news dispensed by the media.


I don't mean to unfairly criticize the affable Baca or Ahern after-the-fact, just to extend the discussion. Comments welcome.

1. Scott Smith writes:
"I'd disagree with (Baca's) assertion that people 'want to know' but it's something that's tough to prove. What isn't tough to prove is she sat there and claimed as true the fact that Leticia Barrera was killed while she was out trick or treating when she was killed, even though a Trib story mentions that she was standing in front of her house when it happened. But both instances point to a tendency by television news to create a narrative and stick to it because of its frequency of use, not because of actual facts."

(Smith also doffs his cap to Eric Zorn, who wrote about this this last Thursday.)

2. Garry Jaffe writes:
"I'm glad you complained about the idiotic and excessive coverage of missing people. Last week one night, I was watching some program and at 10 p.m. wasn't able to change the channel. It was another night of whether the CTA would get money, an issue for a couple of hundred thousand people. What led the news on all the stations? This sad, but ultimately unimportant story to everyone else about this missing woman! I, of course, just turned it off!"

6. Lynn Sweet writes it so I don't have to:

"Living in a Glass House: Obama's push for Clinton to disclose her first lady papers raises questions about his own transparency."

For example, Obama's state senate records are curiously unavailable.

7. Sweet left out this classic moment in Obama transparency.

8. Neil Steinberg, who was so gung-ho about Obama's candidacy in the early-going, dreaming of propping his feet up on Obama's desk in the White House and popping nuts into his mouth, and who so often rails against an ignorant populace, once again advises us to skip all the political news and just read a paper the day before the primary. That's what he's doing. So his political pronouncements will that much more special in the year to come.

1. So-Called Austin Mayor writes:
"There is empirical evidence that this method works. Last time around, if you skipped all the political news and just read the paper the day before the primary you would have missed out on all the indications that Cook County was circling the financial drain. But would have been treated to the controversy and outrage over Steinberg's allegations that John Stroger had faked his debilitating illness. You simply can't argue with political outcomes like the Toddler."

2. Tim Howe writes:
"I'm used to his political idiocy, but the 'chuckle' was a bizarre juxtaposition. 'Hey, that young guy who collapsed and died the other day reminds me of a joke . . . ' Sheesh."

9. Abdon Pallasch has an interesting story today about federal judge Richard Posner's contention stated in his dissent in the George Ryan case that long trials are inherently unfair.

What's interesting is that, as far as I can tell, Posner offers no evidence, research, studies or anything other than his own instinct to support his view that jurors cannot handle long trials - an issue Ryan's lawyers did not raise.

Besides that, Posner fails to parse out how much of an advantage a long trial is to the defense - and how much the defense accounts for the length of trials.

Posner is an interesting thinker well-suited for a university faculty but wholly and inappropriately miscast as a sitting judge.

10. "I am not running for this office to fulfill any long-held plans."

All evidence to the contrary.

11. "Obama Says Foe Clinton Can't Unite."

And he'll destroy her campaign using Republican talking points to prove it!

12. Eleanor Clift on The McLaughlin Group: "The Democrats have legitimized Republican attacks on Hillary."

13. "Another Inside Deal For Governor's Wife."

"Gov. Rod Blagojevich's wife received the real estate commission in a $650,000 condominium sale from a businessman who since has won $10 million in no-bid state contracts," the Tribune reported on Sunday.

Well, that could just be a coincidence.

Except that:

* "The buyer was John R. Wyma, [the seller's] longtime tollway lobbyists and a longtime Blagojevich insider."

* "It was the third time the Tribune has disclosed similar commissions earned by the first lady and her home-based real estate business, revealing a steady income to the Blagojevich household from key political supporters, fundraisers and state contractors."

* Patti Blagojevich got the commission despite the fact that the buyer and seller found each other without her help.

* "The governor's chief spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the deal."

* "The governor and his wife have declined to personally answer questions or provide a detailed accounting of Patricia Blagojevich's real estate income and clients."

* The seller, Mark T. Wight, issued a written response to questions.

* "Wyma has repeatedly turned up as the lobbyist for groups that would benefit from some of the governor's most high-profile proposals . . . Wyma declined to be interviewed for this report."

* Patti's previous clients include the indicted Tony Rezko and the indicted Anita Mahajan.

One thing is for sure: As promised, Rod Blagojevich has rocked the system.


Is it just me, or does Brian Urlacher get more flak for not talking to the media than our public officials?

The Beachwood Tip Line: Commissions available.


Posted on November 5, 2007

MUSIC - Lyric Opera Strike Settled.
POLITICS - USA Today's Op-Ed Disaster.
SPORTS - SportsMonday: Come On, Vic!

BOOKS - Chicago Book Haul: The Dial.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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