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The [Thursday] Papers

Predictably, both the Tribune and Sun-Times editorial boards are up in arms about the state of today's "young adults," this time because of their apparent lack of geographic knowledge.

The familiar editorials they each run on the matter today seem to come from stock files in their libraries right next to the clip art, sprinkled anew every few years with pained attempts at updated cultural references and sent out to the masses as the wisdom of the elders.

(Note to Tribune: It's "borrrrrring," not "boriiiing." Note to Sun-Times: The Daily Show is a popular satire on the news that is in large part making fun of you.)

Are today's young people (18- to 24-year-olds) less geographically knowledgeable than those of previous generations?

We don't know, because the newspapers haven't offered a comparison.

Are they less geographically knowledgeable than older generations?

We don't know, because the newspapers haven't offered a comparison.

A cardinal rule of using statistics in journalism is that they are meaningless without comparison which provides context.

So it's hard to know what to make of the fact that a bunch of 18-year-olds don't know that English isn't the most widely used language in the world. It's Mandarin Chinese.

Did you know that? I didn't.

The Tribune editorial steps back for half a second to say that "We're not sure a sample of Americans older than 24 would score one whit better on a geography test."

That's as much as the paper will concede before lamely arguing that "In not that many years, though, today's young people will be running this country."

Okay, I'm a little more concerned about the people running the country right now. The adults. They're the ones who worry me, especially a president endorsed twice by the Tribune and a phony, misguided war still supported by the Tribune - gymnastically - in disregard not only of this administration's intellectual shortcomings and lies but of the lessons of history.

I'm also a little more concerned about the adults running our newspapers. I'm pretty sure the majority of 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed could have produced something vastly better than the Sun-Times's loopy editorial today (second item).

Let's break it down.

"Remember the days when geography was such a popular subject?"

Um, no. But I remember the days when editorial writers knew a little something about English usage.

"When kids would happily complete projects designed to teach them the locations and shapes and capitals of all the states, as well as their resources and rivers and such?"

On what planet?

"Well, those days appear as lost to history as the TV dinner, judging by a new poll that reveals an amazing lack of geographic awareness on the part of Americans ages 18 to 24."

You mean the TV dinner is dead? Then what are these Lean Cuisines and HealthyChoice things I've been eating in front of the tube all these years?

"There is no single explanation for this trend, but we have to wonder whether one cause is the decrease in young people watching TV news, with all its maps and other tricked-up visual cues."

So now you want kids to watch more TV? And, um, tricked-up visual cues?

"If that's so, it's incumbent on their preferred source of information, the 'Daily Show,' to beef up the graphics."

Obviously the editorial writer (and editor) has never seen The Daily Show, because this statement is beyond absurd on multiple levels.

"At least many viewers could learn the difference between Washington, D.C., and Washington state."

Ha-ha-ha-ha! Can't stop laughing! Good one.

The kids are alright. The media clearly isn't.

Book Smart: Maybe it's those textbooks we adults give them.

Juror Jujitsu
Now comes George Ryan juror Leslie Losacco filing a motion asking that Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer not allow interviews of her and her colleagues on the panel.

Here's what caught my eye:

Dismissed and aggrieved juror Evelyn Ezell has said that juror Denise Peterson "quoted chapter and verse of case law that said jurors could be thrown off the jury for not deliberating in 'good faith,'" the Sun-Times reports today. "Ezell said after that, Losacco told Peterson to read Ezell a different case about 'bribery.'

Now, Ezell has her own credibility problems. But still.

"In her motion filed Wednesday, Losacco never denied that case law was read aloud during deliberations, but she argued that the case law 'had nothing to do with charges against Mr. Ryan and Mr. Warner.'"

If the case law had nothing to do with the case, why was it read aloud in the jury room? To pass the time?

If the inference is that the case law was generic, with no specific relevance to the Ryan/Warner case, well, that's just plain impossible. The relevance is obvious; that was the point.

The Sun-Times's Abdon Pallasch notes elsewhere in his story that "Federal appellate courts have ruled that such 'outside influences' on a jury are among the few grounds they consider for overturning convictions."

City Raccoons
The Sun-Times has the big story today about a raccoon rescued from the top of the 43-story federal building downtown, where it was living. The Beachwood Reporter believes it broke the story first.

State Weasels
"As the House stamped its approval on a $56 billion state budget," the Sun-Times reports, "lawmakers Wednesday still had not killed off a proposal to boost the pay of Gov. Blagojevich and other state officials by more than 12 percent."

Please give the governor and your other elected representatives a friendly call today and suggest they forego the raises and direct the money to new textbooks instead.

A Bunch of Pussies
So let me get this straight. The city engages in what federal prosecutors allege is "massive fraud" in hiring, including willfully breaking the law by ignoring a decree imposed by a federal judge, forcing hiring to come under the oversight of a federal monitor, and it's the monitor's fault that the terribly urgent hiring of sign hangers to warn of street sweeping has supposedly been slowed and that the city must pay the monitor's legal fees to boot?

Let's give the pay raise aldermen want to the monitor, Noelle Brennan, instead. Sounds like she's just getting started.

Strip Tease
"As a second village credit card bill reveals an additional trip to a Chicago strip club by New Lenox Mayor Mike Smith," the Sun-Times reports today, "trustees are backing off his request for a salary increase."

However, one trustee slipped a $5 bill under Smith's thong.

- Tim Willette

Stroger Tease
How is Cook County government operating without its president, the ailing John Stroger?

Stroger chief of staff James Whigham says Stroger is in charge. Stroger's son, though, has said his father is still too sick to be running country government.

"Asked if he could name one county-related decision Stroger has made in the last seven weeks, Whigham said he could but he refused to say what that decision was," the Tribune reports.

"'I'm giving you a very fair answer. I'm not going to disclose confidentiality,' Whigham said.

"Whigham said there is a 'transfer of information that occurs' when he meets with Stroger."

Board member and defeated Stroger challenger Forrest Claypool called Whigham's comments "vague and not very reassuring."

He meant bullshit.

Metro Mediocrity
The centerpiece of the Tribune's Metro section today is a RedEye story (!) about the blurring of neighborhood names and boundaries, particularly by unscrupulous real estate agents. You know, one of those stories the paper re-runs every couple years, along with how bikers are not the greasy mean men you think they are, about how tattoos have gone mainstream, and about how young people are stupid.

Hey Trib Metro, if you're out of ideas, just give me a call. I've got about a hundred of 'em I haven't gotten out the door here yet.

And if you want to avoid further "cost containment," you might want to prove the value of your existence.

Chicago: Contract City
The Illinois Bureau of Tourism spent $113,000 to come up with the tagline "Simply Magnificent" to promote Chicago to overseas tourists.

There wasn't room to fit in "Except For Our Textbooks And Newspapers."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Magnificently Simple.




Permalink

Posted on May 4, 2006


MUSIC - The Week In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - Trailer: Swing District.
SPORTS - Ryan Pace's Narratives Are Killing Us.

BOOKS - Chicago For Dummies.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - The Sears Motor Buggy.


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