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The [Thursday] Papers

In the wake of the Chicago Tribune replacing its movie critic with its theater critic, a faithful reader tipped me to something I dearly wish I had noticed first. See if you can spot the problem with this lineup:

Architecture: Blair Kamin

Art: Alan Artner

Dining: Phil Vettel

Jazz: Howard Reich

Internet: Steve Johnson

Movies: Michael Phillips

Music: John Von Rhein

Rock music: Greg Kot

Theater: Chris Jones

Yup. All men. (And all white.)

The Tribune is not oblivious to this. "His sex aside, Mike Wilmington should turn out to be just what the Tribune wanted in a film critic," Chicago Reader media critic Michael Miner wrote in 1993, upon the hiring of Wilmington.

The paper was still thinking about it a decade later.

"The Tribune's looking for a new movie critic, preferably a woman," Miner wrote in August 2004.

At that time, Mary Elson, who was then associate managing editor for features, told Miner that an ad the paper posted on resulted in a "tidal wave . . . hundreds of responses . . . a pool of really, really spectacular people."

None of them, apparently, a spectacular woman (or non-white), though the Tribune's moves this week also smell a bit budget-constrained--all in-house maneuvering.

To be fair, Julia Keller is the paper's "cultural critic," though other papers might call her a "general assignment" writer. Maureen Ryan's (new) title is "television reporter," though she is critic-ish. And temporary movie-reviewer Allison Benedikt now becomes temporary televison-reviewer, according to the Tribune's memo announcing the changes.

But still. In the Tribune's universe, reviewers and reporters are not as elite (or well-paid) as critics.

Plus, Keller, Ryan, and Benedikt are also white.

For the record, Chicago is a majority-minority city. Whites make up 41.97 percent of the city's population, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Blacks make up 36.77 percent of city's population, while Hispanic/Latinos make up 26.02 percent of city's population.

Women make up 51.5 percent of the city's population.

UPDATED FRI APR 14 Tribune Critics Update/Clarification
These two paragraphs appeared in yesterday's column about the white-maleness of the Tribune's arts critics:

"At that time [August 2004], Mary Elson, who was then associate managing editor for features, told Miner that an ad the paper posted on resulted in a 'tidal wave . . . hundreds of responses . . . a pool of really, really spectacular people.'

"None of them, apparently, a spectacular woman (or non-white), though the Tribune's moves this week also smell a bit budget-constrained--all in-house maneuvering.'"

Just to be clear, my comment following Elson's quote was in no way directed at her. A trustworthy source tells me that "Nobody worked harder to bring minorities and women into this building than Mary Elson."

My comment was directed at the Tribune as an institution, though I think we can safely target the higher-ups in the paper's chain-of-command for apparently not being as enthused about the hiring pool as Elson. The Tribune seems able to attract many of the best and brightest women and minority journalists in America. Apparently actually hiring them is a different matter.

Burke Watch
My faithful Burke Watcher adds this to the new state supreme court judge's contention that winning a single unopposed election somehow confers her as the people's choice (see Burke's Law item in link):

"She ran in 1996 for a ten-year term, meaning that this year, 2006, she should be up for retention. Retention means facing the voters in a uncontested election, but three-fifths of the voters have to vote 'Yes' to retain you. It's rare that judges don't get retained but by jumping to the Illinois Supreme Court, she effectively dodges the retention vote.

"She doesn't seek retention in 2006, and won't have to face the voters until 2008 at the earliest (assuming she seeks the state supreme court seat in her own right)."

And do you suppose that Burke might be unopposed in 2008?

Couric's Case
On the other hand, Katie Couric has struck a blow for women by proving that you can break into the Old Boys Club of network news as long as you are a perky entertainment host known more for being cute than for your intellect. Way to go, girl!

Gender Reversal
Matt Lauer, on the other hand, would never be seriously considered for a network anchor job because his journalistic credentials are too thin, right?

Women's World
Katie Couric is now an historical figure in America, enlightened beacon of the West. I wonder what these women think.

Daley Also Girlish
Now that's more like it.

Good to see the Tribune questioning on the mayor about the latest details in a federal investigation into City Hall patronage, even if answers aren't forthcoming.

The mayor doesnt' seem to care that dodging and disrespecting the press is the same thing as dodging and disrespecting the public. The notion that he can't comment on the ongoing federal investigation is ludicrous. Obviously he may not be at liberty to discuss details of a criminal investigation, either at the request of prosecutors or on the advice of his lawyer. But the idea that he can't comment at all is absurd and obviously disingenuous.

For example, instead of bizarrely (or craftily as a distraction) assuring us that the 911 center still works despite the investigation into how patronage in his administration, he could have said: "I can't discuss the details of an ongoing investigation, but I can say that I have no knowledge of the kinds of activities alleged in the most recent court filing."

That is, if that's true.

Or, he could simply say: "I welcome the investigation and I am cooperating fully because I care enough about this city and its people that I think we all deserve clean government."

That is, if that's true.

Or, he could say: "Look, we're only getting one side of the story right now, the side from prosecutors, and we're going to learn a lot more in the coming weeks and months. There may have been some wrongdoing, but there may also be some explanations to all of this and I want to know as much as you what's going on in my own administration."

That is, if that's true.

There are any number of things he could say.

That is, if he wanted to. He could just tell us the truth.

Doublemint Twin
"It's a serious legal matter that we've got to be careful in making public statements about it."

- George W. Bush about a different court filing from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald

Doublemint Triplet
Judy Baar Topinka's campaign wants to know: "Governor, how many days have you been in Springfield since you announced your budget on Feb. 15th? Newspaper reporters have questioned the governor's staff for more than one week, but the Blagojevich Administration is stonewalling the media and the public on that question."

True? Yes, according to the Daily Herald, which says it asked the governor's office last week for the information and repeated the request this week "to no avail."

- via Capitol Fax Blog

UPDATE 11:15 a.m.: The Daily Herald has the answer.

The Daily Herald's John Patterson also fact-checks the governor's recent statements about his voting record on tax caps as a state legislator here.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Where it's alright to talk about ongoing federal investigations.


Posted on April 13, 2006

MUSIC - Who's Next In Chicago Rap.
TV - Tribune-Nexstar Deal Is Bad News.
POLITICS - Big Soda Hates You.
SPORTS - Harold vs. the Haters.

BOOKS - Wright Brothers, Wrong Story!

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Go Ahead, Eat Raw Cookie Dough!

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