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The [Thursday] Papers

So here's something interesting: apparently only kids get strep throat. I do, however, have some other kind of virus attacking my throat and it's quite painful. OWWWWWWW! Did you feel that? It's like that when I swallow.

I have a bit of a history with this stuff. A few years ago I wound up in the emergency room after I couldn't take the pain anymore, and I was diagnosed with pharyngitis, which I think is Greek for "really bad sore throat."

My friends were a bit skeptical, and even my doctor at the time said during a visit a few days later, "You went to the emergency room for a sore throat?"

Well, it turns out pharyngitis can lead to some pretty serious illnesses, like, oh, scarlet fever or something.

My current doctor, who might very well be the best doctor on the planet - and I'm not just sucking up because of that groovy narcotic cough syrup he prescribed - is more sympathetic. Maybe that's because he's a baseball fan and remembers when Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez came down with pharyngitis. Manny missed an entire Yankees series, though Pedro had it worse.

That wasn't long after my little incident and believe me, I pounced, calling friends and sending e-mails to let them know: "See, Manny and Pedro have it too! They can't even play ball! And they're in a pennant race!"

So I'm taking today off to drown in my meds and get well, though I'm not doing a very good job of taking the day off given that I'm writing this column. I do have some updates on the Sneed fiasco, a little commentary from a contributor on campus security, and, in the rerun of yesterday's column, some further updates including a couple answers to my question about Iggy Pop.

This is also a long way of saying I haven't done our readers and contributors justice in updating the rest of the site as often as usual this week; we've got a lot of great material on tap and I'll get it posted as soon as I can focus on something more serious than The Postman, which I'm reading now as a distraction; it's interesting, though badly-written and not nearly as good as the movie (I'm a fan, critics be damned! I mean, Will Patton as the former copier salesman turned militia general - how great was that?!!)


Being Michael Sneed
1. "In the first serious blunder of the coverage," Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz writes, "Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported yesterday:

"'Sneed hears authorities were investigating whether the gunman who killed 32 people in a rampage on the Virginia Tech campus was a Chinese national who arrived in the United States last year on a student visa.

"'The 25-year-old man being investigated for the deadliest college carnage in U.S. history reportedly arrived in San Francisco on a United Airlines flight on Aug. 7, 2006, on a visa issued in Shanghai, the source said.'

"I suppose it might be true that authorities were chasing that tip, but did that warrant publishing it?

"On the other hand, the Chicago Tribune scored a real scoop at 12:39 p.m. yesterday by reporting that Cho had left a note railing against 'rich kids' and 'debauchery.'

2. "Google Never Forgets."

3. If you missed the update yesterday, check out the report "One American Woman Terrifies China" from James Fallows appended below.

Campus Life
Comment from Beachwood contributor Tim Howe:

We started hearing about "security lapses" even before we got an accurate casualty count on Monday, and the clamor will continue to grow in the days and weeks to come. And perhaps Virginia Tech could have done more, faster. But we need to keep a few key points in mind during the discussion.

First and foremost, accept that fact that a determined spree-killer like Cho Seung-Hui will get past whatever security measures you dream up. Particularly in this case: he was a student living on campus, which gave him access to dorms and classrooms, and he didn't care about being caught, as he intended to die in the process of wreaking his havoc. I suppose you could put metal detectors everywhere, but he still could have just opened up in an outdoor area if he just wanted to kill people.

Second, you can't apply a one-size-fits-all approach in designing campus security. Very few campuses are self-contained, isolated outposts. Most are parts of cities, with public streets and sidewalks cutting through them. Some of those cities are large urban areas, with large and sophisticated police departments that can provide consultation, coordination and assistance. Some are located in small towns which are dwarfed by the school itself. Some consist of a few buildings clustered in a small circle, while others - like Virginia Tech - consist of scores of buildings of varying sizes, functions spread over thousands of acres and upwards of 30,000 people.

Particularly in the case of Virginia Tech, how can you - as some have proposed - "lock down" such a campus? You can't. Not without several hundred police officers and a complex, expensive communications network. And then, imagine what a college campus looks like: hundreds of young men and women in baggy jeans or sweats, on bikes, rollerblades and skateboards, many if not most with backpacks large and small.

Everyone wants to know if this could have been prevented, or if the damage could have been contained. It's human nature to wonder. It's especially easy to look back with the benefit of hindsight, being able to see the entire picture, knowing the end result. But not all problems have solutions, and sometimes bad things just happen.

The [Wednesday] Papers
So I was trying to avoid watching coverage of the Virginia Tech tragedy on Monday night but still managed to come across cable news broadcasters, including Keith Olbermann, citing a Michael Sneed report on the Sun-Times website that the shooter was a Chinese national.

I had a feeling then that I would be writing this now.

The shooter, of course, was not a Chinese national. He was a South Korean.

When will Michael Sneed be held accountable?

To be fair, it's not clear from conflicting reports whether Sneed named the shooter as such or merely described one aspect of the investigation, but either way she wouldn't have reported the story if she didn't believe it would turn out to be true. Criminal investigators follow many leads; reporting on any one of them is irresponsible unless you have confirmation that it's the right one.

Sneed's report spread through the mediasphere as an exclusive. For example, WBBM radio reported it this way: "Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reports the gunman was a 25-year-old Chinese national who came to the United States last year on a student visa. Sneed reports the man arrived in the U.S. in San Francisco on a visa issued in Shanghai."

None of which appears true. According to the Tribune and other reports today, the shooter was 23 and arrived in American in 1992 with his family. So Sneed pretty much got every fact wrong. And national media outlets, unfamiliar with her track record, repeated those errors.

As readers of this column and other longtime media observers know, this is nothing new. Twice in the 90s, Chicago magazine published annotations of Sneed columns showing how riddled they are with error and previously reported news rewritten as "scoops." Sneed "hears" a lot of things just by reading other papers. Or perhaps other people read other papers and then "tell" her things.

Tolerating her lazy, reckless, agenda-driven "reporting" (anxiously awaiting Sneed's next report about good ol' George Ryan doin' chores in Kankakee) is inexcusable. For all the oldstream media grumbling about blogs, almost all of it coming from folks who never read them, it is the traditional media whose accountability lapses are most significant, particularly given that they publish under brands that are supposed to signal a level of authority based on professionalism and skill. Of course, those brands have been eroded from within in ways that could fill up volumes of business school journals. You can blame columnists like Sneed and editors like those at the Sun-Times for that, not bloggers.

Yet, Sneed and the Sun-Times won't even admit they were wrong. Read Sneed's column today and see if you can make any sense of it at all. And then wonder how she still holds her job.

UPDATE 12:23 P.M.: I hadn't seen these earlier. James Fallows on Sneed: "One American Woman Terrifies China," and "Sun-Times vs. China Update."

SNEEDLING: Is it true the Sun-Times went with Sneed's "scoop" despite being waved off by sources contacted by another reporter there playing backstop? Stay tuned.

BREAKING NEWS: on the Tribune home page as I write: "BlackBerry Wireless System Fails."

Right above "A Monster Revealed" and the paper's Virginia Tech package.

At least the Tribune knows its audience.

(Uniquely Tribune: has the news among its wire stories; plays it cool beneath a Motorola story; and,, and don't have it at all.)

Dear New Skin Cancer Specialist
Unlike most doctors, you don't mind throwing the word "dead" around. In Cate Plys's latest Open Letter.

Council Care
Let's take a look at the aldermanic runoffs.

2nd Ward: Not even close. Bob Fioretti swamped Madeline Haithcock, 66-33 percent. I'm not sure the media picked up on how much trouble Haithcock was in, instead focusing on the manufactured stalker issue.

3rd Ward: Barack Obama's endorsement couldn't save Dorothy Tillman. Good.

15th Ward: Toni Foulkes, the Jewel baker, wins handily.

16th Ward: Shirley Coleman goes down. Flipping her big-box vote for the mayor did her in.

18th Ward: Mayoral appointee Lona Lane bests a fictional opponent.

21st Ward: Howard Brookins wins easily. It's interesting how few of these runoffs were even close to being close.

24th Ward: Incumbent Michael Chandler goes down in a race that didn't get much attention.

32nd Ward: Scott Waguespack ekes out a close one against Machine Matlak. Now let's see how quickly he rushes to the mayor's side.

35th Ward: Rey Colon knocks off nemesis and former alderman Vilma Colom. Maybe she'll go away for good now.

43rd Ward: Vi Daley survives thanks to the political establishment rallying 'round.

49th Ward: The business community wanted to beat Joe Moore more than they wanted those South Side seats for Wal-Mart. Moore gets the scare of a lifetime, but appears to have barely survived.

50th Ward: Perhaps the most disappointing result: Bernie Stone, a royal jerk, still had enough of an organization to beat the fresh newcomer Naisy Dolar, if only by about 600 votes.

It appears to me the council now has the votes to override a mayoral veto should the big-box ordinance be reintroduced and passed.

Daley Deal
"An influential black minister who has provided pivotal campaign support for Mayor Daley is a 30 percent managing partner in a pair of lucrative O'Hare Airport concessions awarded by City Hall," the Sun-Times reports.

"Since 1996, the Rev. Clay Evans has been a partner in The Grove, a nut and dried-fruit concession at O'Hare that once counted former Illinois Gaming Board Elzie Higginbottom, Daley's leading fundraiser in the black community, as a part-owner."

Evans justified his involvement by citing the nut and dried-fruit concessions mentioned in the Bible that were also brokered by a pharaoh.

Olympic Media Committee
Sun-Times headline over AP story: "20 Killed In Shoot-Outs in Olympic Hopeful Rio."

Non-Sun-Times headline on same AP story: "Shootouts between Brazil police, gangs leave at least 20 dead"

Sun-Times fourth paragraph inserted into AP story: "Rio De Janeiro is expected to compete against Chicago and other cities to host the 2016 Summer Olympics."

AP's fourth paragraph: "We're not finished wrapping up the operation, the number could rise higher still," she said.

So we're in for a two-year smear campaign against Rio? Somehow I doubt the Rio Sun-Times will report on Chicago violence with a tie-in to the Olympics. Or will the Chicago Sun-Times start publishing stories such as "Four men were killed in the Washington Park neighborhood over the weekend, near the place where city officials plan to build a temporary Olympic stadium . . . "

Memo to Sun-Times: Grow up.

Roeper Doper
According to a Sun-Times ad, Richard Roeper is "on the cutting edge." And according to Phil Rosenthal, John Cougar Mellencamp will join Roeper to review movies on Ebert & Roeper this weekend. So, you know - the cutting edge of Indiana.

Rock Stooge
Greg Kot wrote in his review of Iggy Pop and the Stooges that "In the 60s, the Detroit quartet saw flower power for what it was: a sham."


So, um, one question: Where was Iggy Pop during the war?

ONE ANSWER: At the Hare Krishna Music Fest.

ANOTHER ANSWER: This one rocks more.

Olympic Boys Choir
A Mike Downey column in the Trib carried the headline: "Olympics Brings Out Child In Us All."

Yes, it does, doesn't it? Particularly the mayor and members of the media.

Subhead: "Naysayers Fail to Appreciate Games' Lasting Benefits."

Unused Alternate: "Proponents Fail to Appreciate Games' Lasting Costs."

Summary: Chicago is a great place to have the Olympics in part because of its stellar police department. No kidding. Hey Mike, don't you ever read the news sections?

Downey twice quotes a young boy saying "You feel safe" in Chicago.

This is your media.

The Beachwood Tip Line: A groovy ride.


Posted on April 19, 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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