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The [Monday] Papers

Just hours ago, in The [Sunday] Papers, I noted in reference to the mayor's sudden international travels: "We don't know the rest of the [media] strategy his team has mapped out for presenting Daley as above and beyond the Sorich trial."

In a revised edition cleaning up some typos, I appended the statement "But we will soon find out."

I didn't know it would be this soon. It looks like strategic leaking has begun. To wit:

"In a confidential, sworn statement to federal investigators, Mayor Daley said his Office of Intergovernmental Affairs recommended people for city jobs but did not order their hiring, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

"Daley's statement, made to investigators last year, runs counter to what federal prosecutors say was the case. They say the mayor's IGA office routinely ordered city departments to hire or promote people based on politics.

. . .

"Daley said in the statement - the contents of which were previously unknown - that people did not have to do political work to get city jobs, according to people familiar with the matter."

People familiar with the matter who are sympathetic to Daley, it would seem.

Which is one thing. Another is why the Sun-Times would apparently base a story around such a content-free leak coming from a source sympathetic to the mayor who says, shockingly, that the mayor denies that politics have anything to do with city hiring. Particularly when the paper has been told about the statement, but apparently has not seen it for itself.

My response, as a reporter, might have been, "So what? You'll have to do better than that."

One clue may be in the double-byline of Steve Warmbir and Fran Spielman. Warmbir is one of the paper's ace reporters who has teamed with Tim Novak to break the bulk of the Hired Truck scandal. Spielman is the pliable stenographic City Hall reporter always game for content-free anonymous quotes and trial balloons from Daley aides. (Or, in this case, possibly from the Sorich defense team, whose interests align with those of Daley.)

"Daley's statement supports an argument that attorneys for Sorich and his three colleagues are likely to make at trial: that any hiring lists of people from the IGA's office were recommendations, not demands," the story goes on to say.

And yet, Daley will not comment on the case and tell us this in his own words.

The "statement" is further devalued as news by the very fact noted by the Sun-Times that it is unlikely to come into evidence and ever be heard by jurors - unless they are reading the Sun-Times today.

But there is the media trial and the trial trial, and it's not always clear which is more important and to whom.

Machinations: The Tribune, on the other hand, offers a nice front-page trial preview under the headline, "Chicago Rebuilt Machine, U.S. Says."

More Media Management: The Tribune also fills in a couple details today about the political considerations both home and abroad surrounding Daley's trip to the Middle East.

"On the last day of his trip to the Middle East, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley abruptly canceled a planned visit Sunday to Israel's controversial separation barrier in the West Bank," Joel Greenberg reports.

"Daley attributed the change to a scheduling conflict. But last-minute phone consultations between Israeli army officers accompanying the aborted visit suggested Daley's aides wanted to avoid media images of the mayor against the backdrop of the contentious project."

"The cancellation of Daley's visit to the barrier sharpened questions about the planning of the mayor's visit to Israel, which was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the Israeli Foreign Ministry."

That might answer the question about who is paying for the trip. Press secretary Jacquelyn Heard has said that the city does not pay for the mayor's international trips. Is the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago footing the bill? Either way, as a sponsor, they could surely clear up the matter of when this trip was scheduled and put to rest the notion that it was timed to coincide with the run-up to the Sorich trial. (Left open is the question of who is paying for the mayor's trip to China later this weekend, and how and why that came together so quickly.)

"The mayor's visit to Israel was billed as an opportunity to study security measures that could be applied in Chicago, and it included briefings on urban and airport security," Greenberg writes. "Yet Sunday's trip to the West Bank barrier, a major Israeli security project, was called off at the last minute.

"[A]s the mayor's entourage approached Israel's border with the West Bank, problems appeared to arise.

"An army press officer waiting for the mayor's group talked on the phone with a colleague traveling in the mayor's van, and they discussed changing the venue of the briefing from the settlement to a location inside Israel and separating the media from the mayor.

"The officer, who did not give his full name, said Daley's aides were concerned about what they called 'negative' coverage and did not want the mayor to be seen against the backdrop of the barrier.

"When the mayor's vehicle arrived more than a half-hour late, he did not get out, and reporters were told that time constraints forced the cancellation of the barrier tour."

Which, as we shall see, sounds a bit too convenient.

"Daley did not want to be late for an important briefing on airport security at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport, said Michael Kotzin, executive vice president of the Chicago Jewish Federation, who was accompanying the mayor.

"Daley gave the same explanation when he was asked about the cancellation at a meeting later with Shimon Peres, the veteran Israeli leader who is a minister in the new government.

"'We were going there . . . we were late, and we went right to the security system at the airport," Daley said, dismissing the suggestion that a visit to the barrier would have been problematic."

UPDATE 2:20 p.m.: Steve Johnson has posted bonus items on his Hypertext blog to his Sunday print piece imagining Chicago-style Olympic events. The 1,158,000-meter springboard is particularly good.

One-Man Gentrification Band
Lynn Sweet reports today that U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez moves every couple of years "to cash in on the Near Northwest Side real estate market."

Gas Prices Are All In Your Head
The Sun-Times business page today informs readers in a box labeled "Financial Terms - Defining Money" that price gouging doesn't exist. "Price gouging isn't an economic term," the paper says. "It's a political term invoked frequently by politicians to describe a price that is much higher than what is seen as 'fair' under the circumstances."

Right. Price gouging.

"In colloquial usage, it means that the speaker thinks the price is too high, and it often degenerates into a term of demogoguery."

Unlike the direction this feature is taking.

"There is no such comparable term, such as 'consumer gouging,' when prices drop sharply, such as the price of zucchini in September."

No. But there is reader gouging, which takes place nearly every day.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Media gouging that really exists.


Posted on May 8, 2006

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POLITICS - Bank Profits Soaring.
SPORTS - Chicago vs. Michigan, 1903.

BOOKS - Dia De Los Muertos Stories.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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