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The [Thursday] Papers

Note: I futzed around with this opening paragraph a bit throughout the day. My original gnawed at me because while I said the elephant in the room (and I hate using cliches, but I'm not above being lazy when tired) wasn't race, it was the media, the example I used was all about race. For example, I could have examined the Duckworth-Cegelis contest for Congress and argued that in the analyses so far (and in those to come) about why the results came in as they did, the impact of the media was (and will) be missing. Duckworth, after all, received international publicity and the bulk of the attention from the print and broadcast accounts I read, saw, and heard ( which did not include the Daily Herald or other suburban media, so don't write me moaning if the coverage out there was different.)

Are we to believe the media had absolutely no impact on that or any other contest?

The example I did write about below was meant to show the media's unrecognized impact, but of course it involves race. So just to be clear. Feel free to disagree with a posting in our Forums or send me a Letter to the Editor. - SR

When it comes to the myriad analyses now appearing purporting to explain Tuesday's primaries, there is a proverbial elephant in the room, something right in front of us but ignored by virtually everybody: The impact of the media itself on election outcomes.

For example, Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Thomas G. Lyons says in today's Chicago Tribune that the illness of embattled county board president John Stroger galvanized Stroger's African-American, South Side base.

"They didn't want to see their guy pushed around," Lyons said. "He's kind of an iconic figure, and when they think people are coming at him, they're going to rally around him."

Despite challenger Forrest Claypool's aggressive campaign, I never got the sense that he was energizing the opposition by "pushing around" Stroger.

But it sure felt like the media was pushing Stroger around.

The endless parade of editorials, columns, and news stories detailing Stroger's incompetence and alleged corruption reached a tipping point. And then, perhaps, folks pushed back.

I don't vote in primaries because I don't think it's appropriate for journalists to participate in party activities (another column for another day), but I did hope for a Claypool victory. I agree with the criticisms of Stroger. He's a hack.

But to many African-Americans, he's their hack. A certain measure of equality has been reached in Chicago politics when all ethnic and racial groups get to be hacks and divvy up the proceeds from the Machine.

So when we're all ready for reform, let's start with the white guys first. Has John Stroger's leadership been any more egregious than Rod Blagojevich's?

I certainly think four more years of Blago (or Topinka) will have more negative impact on our lives--and in the long-term prospects of the state--than four more years of Stroger, or whoever the ward bosses choose to replace him with.

So it is perfectly understandable that the fever pitch of--let's face it--white media and white columnists and white reporters finally touched a nerve.

"The message of what John Stroger means for the African-American community began to resonate [when he was hospitalized]," Ald. Howard Brookins told the Tribune. "I don't know why it wasn't resonating before."

If the audience of WVON-AM is any indication, the tipping point for that resonance was Neil Steinberg's lazy, vitriolic column in the Chicago Sun-Times. From that day forward even I felt an inner backlash to Claypool and his moralizing supporters, who seemed to want to take away the punch bowl just when it fell into the hands of an old black man who worked his way up through the regular Democratic organization, playing by the white man's rules. And mainly because they're upset about their tax bill, not, say, about the medical care of the poor under the county's purview.

I don't agree with it, but that's the way it felt.

The attacks on Stroger and his supporters also felt racist in their underpinnings. I'm not accusing any individual of bigotry. But the collective media tilt attacked Stroger voters for stupidity, cynicism, or (unironically) racial divisiveness. Those attacks never reached Sen. Dick Durbin or Mayor Richard M. Daley, though, whose "late strong pushes for Stroger" were cited by Claypool campaign manager Mike Quigley as a significant factor in the outcome.

Somehow, Durbin and Daley have escaped the wrath of those pundits despondent over Stroger's win.

Stroger's unofficial margin of victory stood at just under 23,000 votes this morning, out of about 500,000 votes cast. With a combined daily circulation of about a million papers, I'd say the Tribune and Sun-Times constitute as large a factor as any other to be included in any post-election analysis, not to mention the rest of the press and broadcast outlets.

Instead, outcomes we don't like are the fault of the voters. Those in the media who inform the voters--and the professional consultants and operatives they depend on for insight -- never think to look at themselves when it's time for the post-mortems.

Forrest Finished: An independent run for Forrest Claypool in the fall is out, according to the Sun-Times. The paper reports today that state election codes forbid someone who loses a primary from returning to the ballot in the general election as an independent, or a representative of another party.

Huh. That doesn't sound right. But it does sound Illinois.

Daley Watch
"HBO, HDO. I watch it every day," the mayor was quoted by the Sun-Times as saying yesterday, in response to a question about the influence of the controversial (and scandal-plagued) Hispanic Democratic Organization. "There's nothing wrong with Hispanics gaining political power."

I'm pretty sure the question wasn't, "Mr. Mayor, what's wrong with Hispanics gaining political power?" Or, "Mr. Mayor, Hispanics have been gaining political power. Should we be concerned?"

Why do reporters put up with this?

Follow the Money
Just so we know what we're talking about when we talk about what terrible straits newspapers are in these days:

"In 2005, publicly-traded U.S. newspaper publishers reported that newspaper operations produced operating-profit margins of 19.2%, down from 21% in 2004, according to figures compiled by independent newspaper-industry analyst John Morton. He says that figure is still more than double the average operating-profit margin of the Fortune 500 companies."

Go Goth
"Most youth subcultures encourage people to drop out of school and do illegal things," reports the London-based Guardian. "Most goths are well educated, however. They hardly ever drop out and are often the best pupils. The subculture encourages interest in classical education, especially the arts. I'd say goths are more likely to make careers in web design, computer programming . . . even journalism."

If only.

From Beachwood HQ
We don't need market research or insane profits to know how to serve you better. You will be amused, enlightened and informed by the fresh postings we already have prepared for every section in the coming week. Our coverage will only get deeper and wittier as we go along, and we will never allow our profit margins to overwhelm our sense of duty. When we get profit margins.

So stick with us, we're all in this together.

Tipping point Tip Line: When you've had enough.




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Posted on March 23, 2006


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - An Odd Call From Bermuda.
SPORTS - All Is Not Forgiven, Bears.

BOOKS - Turning Points Of The Civil War.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Baxter's IV Bag Shortages.


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