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The [Thursday] Papers

I haven't had a chance to watch Chicago police Supt. Jody Weis's appearance on Chicago Tonight last night yet, but my initial instinct is that, unlike what some griping aldermen are saying, Weis and Daley are right about meeting with gang leaders. It seems to me that there are times when you have to go to the people responsible for so much havoc in the city and say, effectively, cool it. It's in everyone's best interests; gang leaders don't want the heat that heightened public sensitivity brings anymore than the police want the public all up in their behinds. A useful exchange of information could also take place; what's behind the current violence, police may ask, and is there anything we can do to help tamp things down?

Doing that doesn't have to signify any level of acceptance or condoning gang behavior, but if lines of communication can be opened and the cops aren't ham-handed or foolish about it, that's for the best.

My one reservation, though, is that this is being driven by awful reporting. We aren't experiencing a surge in violence no matter how many times the media keeps reporting that we are. Daley and Weis are right about this, too.

My instinct is that this meeting took place because of a PR nightmare brought upon the city as a result of that horrid reporting - national and international outlets have been doing stories all summer now about the purported wave of violence here - and was then leaked to let the public know the city is "doing something."

I could be wrong about that - it's a controversial measure to take and then leak - but those are my initial thoughts.

Manny Vision
I know it's a big and inappropriate leap from youth violence to Manny Ramirez, but I just don't understand - still - why my profession sucks so bad. Oh, I have a few ideas. Some concrete theories, actually, about why journalism is in such disrepair. And by that, I don't mean the business models but the actual quality of reporting, which no one seems to want to talk about.

Here's what the Tribune's David Haugh wrote on Tuesday:

"Perhaps Ramirez will generate more buzz Friday night in Boston than he did in his first major-league city, where only 12,006 showed up."

Numbers are rarely meaningful if not presented with something to compare them to. Is 12,006 bad?

Well, the night before the Indians drew 10,633. Haugh didn't tell you that - probably because he didn't bother to check.

And on Wednesday, the first game Ramirez actually started, the Indians drew 12,563 for an afternoon game.

If Manny is good for an extra 2,000 fans on the road and twice that at home, you can see how his salary gets pretty close to being offset in a hurry. If Haugh's point was that Ramirez wouldn't be a draw.

But then, you can always find someone to validate your premise if you ask enough people.

"It was amusing to ask a group of teenagers holding tickets along Ontario Street if they were excited to see Manny Ramirez again," Haugh wrote.

"Who?' said a boy wearing a Browns cap. 'We're here for the Jonas Brothers.'

"That concert played at adjacent Quicken Loans Arena. Across the street, there was no question who was starring in the debut of a Ken Williams production unlike any other."

Ramirez last played for Cleveland in 2000. If the boys Haugh stopped on the street - identified only as "teenagers" - were, say, 15, that means they were five when Manny last wore an Indians uniform. See Manny again? They probably didn't see him the first time.

The Tribune's Dan Pompei also made a fool of himself talking about Manny on Chicago Tribune Live on Wednesday.

The Sox had just won another game with a home run hit while Manny was on-deck. In baseball parlance, he was "protecting" the batter at the plate because pitchers who would rather not face Manny could no longer pitch around, say, Paul Konerko and go after a weakling like Mark Kotsay instead. So:

POMPEI: I just don't understand how he makes this team better.

HOST DAVID KAPLAN: He makes them better just by standing in the on-deck circle!

It's also hard to see how Pompei can't see that Manny's numbers are significantly better than the team's other DHs.

But then, Pompei, who like Haugh and the crime reporters in town and their editors, make a lot more money than I do, can't be bothered to look up the stats.

POMPEI: What's he hitting this year?

What, you don't read your own paper?

POMPEI: This is not the Manny who's going to hit .340 with 40 home runs.

KAPLAN: You don't know that!

Besides, Mark Kotsay isn't the Manny who's going to hit .340 with 40 home runs either. But Manny's current numbers over a full season would equal 101 RBIs. Not good enough for you?

The floundering Pomei then attacked Manny for not getting his long braids cut. Kaplan pointed out that just that day Manny said he was flying in his personal barber cut his hair.

POMPEI: That's a bad indicator, that he's not willing to go along with the team. Can you imagine Ted Williams saying 'I have to have my personal barber come in?'

You mean the Ted Williams who refused to tip his cap to Boston fans?

Besides that, I don't understand how reporters can be on the side of White Sox management's policy demanding short hair. What is this, 1950? Let the man wear his hair whatever way he wants. This isn't the Army.

Minor Threat
"A Chicago Reporter analysis of court data found that 17-year-olds convicted of felonies defy the perception of some that these teens are violent criminals who deserve to be punished alongside adults," the Chicago Reporter reports. "A majority, 54 percent, of 17-year-olds prosecuted in Cook County's adult courts were convicted for drug deals and property theft alone, according to the analysis.

"Of all the convictions, 58 percent were for nonviolent offenses. Include robbery without a gun, and nonviolent offenses are 71 percent of all convictions. The single largest number of convictions was based on low-level drug offenses.

"An overwhelming majority of these 17-year-olds . . . are black - 77 percent. And most hail from just five impoverished areas, some of which are home to the highest long-term unemployment rates in the country - including Austin, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, Roseland and West Englewood.

"Once these teens were charged and their cases headed to court, the odds were they'd plead guilty and end up with an adult felony conviction, regardless of whether they had a private lawyer or public defender, according to the analysis."

Thank you, Chicago Reporter, for actually doing your job well. The news is depressing, but the work is inspiring.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Inspire us.


Posted on September 2, 2010

MUSIC - Madonna vs. Moderna.
TV - Sundays With The Military-Industrial Complex.
POLITICS - Private Equity In The ER.
SPORTS - Suspicious Betting Trends In Soccer.

BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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