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The [Thursday] Papers

BREAKING NEWS 4:56 P.M.: It's a bloodletting at the Reader, and a sad, dark day in Chicago journalism. Four of the best folks they have are no longer there, as the consequences of the new ownership makes itself known. And while all are a big loss, the loss of John Conroy is most stunning. My God, the man has produced perhaps the most important journalism in the city in his time at the Reader. This is wrong and unconscionable.

Here's the memo.


From: Alison True
Date: December 6, 2007 4:40:02 PM CST
Subject: Reader news

Dear Reader staff--

Despite the considerable challenges we've faced recently, you've continued to make a newspaper and Web site we can all be proud of. Unfortunately the financial pressures of our industry continue unabated, and I'm very sorry to announce that as a cost-cutting measure we eliminated several positions in editorial this week.

The people we cut--John Conroy, Harold Henderson, and Tori Marlan, as well as Steve Bogira, who's been on a leave of absence--are all staff writers, and as you might guess, this move represents a shift in the financial structure of our relationship with contributors.

Over the years John, Harold, Tori, and Steve have produced some of our most important and exciting stories. Their achievements have included brilliant investigative work, prestigious awards, and possibly most important, spurring social change in a city that always needs it. (Their Reader e-mail addresses are intact through Friday if you'd like to communicate with them.) I can't emphasize enough that this action in no way reflects a judgment on the value of the work of these particular writers, and in fact it's my fervent hope that they'll continue to work with us on a contractual basis.

As the publishing environment changes, we'll need to continue to make strategic decisions about where to place our resources, but we remain committed to our mission of presenting meaningful reportage, not to mention robust listings and intelligent and entertaining arts criticism, and thanks to all of you we manage to do it well week after week.


Alison True
Chicago Reader
11 E. Illinois
Chicago, IL 60611


The [Thursday] Papers
"Instead of treating off-duty shootings as matters deserving rigorous inquiry, Chicago police officials have viewed the shootings as administrative issues and treated officers with deference," the Tribune reports today in the second part of its "Shielded From The Truth" investigation.

Here's Exhibit A:

"In some cases where officers might have been under the influence of alcohol during a shooting, officials leading those investigations delayed administering Breathalyzer tests for hours.

"In the case of [Phyllis] Clinkscales, records and interviews indicate, investigators didn't administer one at all, although she was returning from a wedding reception at a tavern at 3 a.m. when she shot [17-year-old Robert] Washington."

This is no surprise, of course. But now the Tribune has documented it beyond question. And it's an outrage.

"Hours after Officer Phyllis Clinkscales fatally shot a young man trying to steal her car, Chicago police investigators and commanders ruled the shooting justified," the Tribune reports in its lead example today.

"They have stood by that conclusion even as she gave differing accounts of what happened the night she shot 17-year-old Robert Washington in June 2000.

"They stood by her even though all four of the gunshot wounds were on the back right side of Washington's head and neck, including a 'muzzle imprint' that suggested the gun barrel had been pressed against his skin.

"They stood by her even after the department's civilian oversight agency found her account didn't square with the autopsy on Washington and initially recommend she be fired."

And the mayor lectures citizens in the most aggrieved neighborhoods for not cooperating with the police. Maybe it's the mayor who should cooperate with them.

Daley Time
"There has been a chronic internal failure to deal fairly with complaints against rogue police," the Tribune says in an editorial today.

Welcome aboard. We've been expecting you.

Daley Crime
Richard M. Daley was the Cook County state's attorney from 1981 to 1989. Since then he has been the mayor.

"Daley seemed to defend the use of roundtables," the Tribune reports separately today. "Asked if officers involved in shootings are treated differently from other citizens, he replied, "I hope not. No, because you have a roundtable discussion with prosecutors there and everybody else there. You have all the parties there.'

"When he was told that no one is sworn and evidence is not presented, Daley, a former state's attorney, replied, 'Well, I don't know all about that.'"

Daley then had to rush off to Washington to prepare the next National Intelligence Estimate.

Daley Mime
"Recently, the oft-criticized [Office of Professional Standards] was given new powers and a new name, the Independent Police Review Authority, as part of its makeover," the Trib notes.

"'At one time it was within the Police Department,' Daley said. 'Now it is separate, which is very important to us.'

"Although Daley has given the civilian oversight agency some expanded investigative powers, its recommendations are subject to review by the police superintendent," the Trib notes.

So it's more like the Independentish Police Reviewable Authorityless agency.

"And the agency will continue to deal with staffing problems for the foreseeable future. Budgeted for 85 positions, the agency is short 24 people. The current caseload for investigators is about 30, [new director Ilana] Rosenzweig said, about three times what she thinks is reasonable."

But we're [supposedly] getting new libraries!

Nothing illustrates a public official's priorities more than their budgeting and spending.

Change Agent
From the The Papers on March 5, 2007:

"Word on the street is that Chicago police chief Phil Cline will hang it up soon. The city could do worse than to consider Miami's top cop, John Timoney, featured in the current New Yorker [abstract here]: 'In the decade before Timoney's appointment, Miami police had killed twenty-eight people and fired at another hundred and twenty-four. During his first twenty months on the job, no Miami cop fired a shot, a phenomenon that appears to be unique in a city of Miami's size. In the four years of his tenure, police have shot at seven people, killing two and wounding four. The murder rate in Miami has dropped from about twenty to fourteen per hundred thousand in the years since 2003. (Although major crime over all dropped in 2006, there was an increase in the number of killings in Miami.) Credit for the drop certainly does not belong solely to Timoney; there has been a nationwide renaissance in police work and in attitudes toward policing, and crime in many American cities, including Miami, fell steadily during the nineteen-nineties. In New York, where much of this change was pioneered, Timoney held several top jobs with the N.Y.P.D.'"

And how did Timoney do it: He simply told his officers to stop shooting people.

That's only an ever so slight oversimplification. He rewrote the department's general orders too.

Change starts at the top. But you have to want it.

Does the mayor?


"[Incoming police chief Jody] Weis is . . . an organization guy who sought to protect the FBI from internal criticism following the terrorist attacks of 9/11," John Kass writes this morning.

So Weis has just the skills the mayor is looking for.

See, Daley wants those cops on that wall. He wants them to rough people up and, if necessary, shoot a few of them. Let's be realistic. He believes in bullying that leverages power to maintain order. That's who he is. He isn't going to change.

How in the world anyone can think - after watching this guy for 18 years - that he's ever sincere about reform is beyond me. Apparently our media has even shorter memories and more naivete than even I ever thought.

Good Start!
"Weis returned a phone call from the Chicago Sun-Times today, but refused to answer questions to avoid muddying the waters prior to his City Council confirmation hearing. He is scheduled to take office Jan. 16 after celebrating his 50th birthday and qualifying for an FBI pension," the paper reported this week.

"'Out of respect for the 50 aldermen, I don't want to come across as presumptuous. That could be perceived as ignoring or assuming the process is already in place,' he said."

The last thing he wants to do before a confirmation hearing is answer a bunch of questions!

In An Alternate Universe
Phyllis Clinkscales, Jody Weis and Richie Daley get as much scrutiny as Drew Peterson. A universe where marketing hasn't trumped journalism - and reporters and editors know the difference.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Be the difference.


Posted on December 6, 2007

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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