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The [Tuesday] Papers

The words "North Korea" have yet to appear on the Sun-Times's front page this week. But the screaming words "PAY UP, PAPA BEAR" next to a huge photo of Brian Urlacher constitute today's attempt by the paper to be a New York-style tabloid without the benefit of New York-style tabloid news. You might as well try publishing the New York Post in Kansas City.

For example, the GIANT Urlacher story about the purportedly GOSSIPY DETAILS of his paternity agreement can only muster the hot scoops that the Bears linebacker will increase the financial support he pays for the boy he fathered out-of-wedlock but will get to see him more - PERHAPS AN EXTRA DAY a week, though the mother says Urlacher is free to see his son whenever he wants. And the story is all based on the word of the mother, so whatever, though both parties agree they are both GOOD PARENTS.

This is the big Urlacher story.

As a Beachwood reader remarked to me recently, "The Sun Times has indeed plummeted since [returning Editor-in-Chief Michael] Cooke got back in the saddle (can you plummet from a curb?)."

Yes, we've just learned that you can plummet from a curb. The only question now is how low they will go.

Low-Grade Effort
The Sun-Times's Kate Grossman compiles the evaluations by 16 experts of the CHA's mayoral-driven Plan for Transformation to give the housing authority a grade of B -, which seems quite generous for a 10-year plan that is five years behind schedule, don't you think?

Meanwhile, a team of 16 experts examining Grossman's two-page feature give it an F for its lack of knowledgable reporting and analysis.

Grossman is predictably kinder to the CHA than the facts support - and predictably kinder than the two publications that have done the most considerable reporting on the Plan for Transformation: Residents' Journal and The Chicago Reporter, not to mention the reports of independent monitor Thomas Sullivan.

For example, Grossman herself writes that "only 25 percent of CHA's original families are in new or rehabbed housing . . . the rest are still waiting or no longer eligible."

That's pretty much a failure. Grossman also fails to fill out her "report" with any data from the studies and reporting that have come before.

It's not clear if the survey experts were asked to respond to consists of the simple questions/categories listed in the story, but not a single category gets less than a C - which means meeting minimum expectations. Please. The fact that the plan is five years behind schedule automatically puts it below minimum expectations, not to mention the by-now well-documented problems with resegregation and poor social service connectors.

Not only that, but how does the CHA itself measure itself against its objectives?

I just shake my head when I see work like this that, as I have said repeatedly, wouldn't be acceptable at many college papers. But then, this is Chicago: If your mother says she loves you, you ask a few officials if it's true and then print it.

Outgoing CHA chief Terry Peterson - now the mayor's campaign manager - does some damage control by taking Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown on a special tour of the projects. Brown's resulting column shows his complete lack of understanding the Plan for Transformation, and stands as a missed opportunity to ask Peterson the tough questions a better-informed reporter would have asked.

Alternative Media
Polyamorists explain how their intimate networks function on The Tyra Banks Show today, 4 p.m., Channel 50. If you're in need of intellectual sustenance after reading today's Sun-Times.

The Rod & Judy Show
Both papers frustrate over the fact that Gov. Rod Blagojevich and challenger Judy Baar Topinka will not have any more debates, with both candidates blaming the other side for failing to come to agreements on future meetings and reporters failing to related to readers what the supposed sticking points were in order to see whose right.

Is it the governor when he says, "We wanted to being doing them in May, June and July and August and September and October . . . and for seven months nothing but delays, excuses, complaining and then refusing to accept our offers"?

Or is it Topinka when she says "You can't negotiate with someone who doesn't keep his word?"

Or was it mutually-assured debate destruction?

Club Trib
Both candidates are scheduled to appear in a private meeting today with the Tribune's editorial board, which Blagojevich accurately characterized as akin to "appearing before the Republican National Committee."

Though appearing before the Sun-Times editorial board must be like appearing on the Rush Limbaugh show.

Still, it's the most truthful thing that's come out of the governor's mouth in a long time. It's a disingenuous exercise on the part of the Tribune. There is no chance the paper will endorse Blagojevich.

Mayor's Message
The Sun-Times reports that the mayor did not ask the head of the police department's Office of Professional Standards to step down, believing Daley's assertion that Tisa Morris is leaving the job for personal reasons. The Tribune, however, reports that a city official says the move resulted from a "mutual agreement that she should probably move on . . . she didn't do enough to undue the things that were wrong."

The committee assembled by the mayor to name a replacement includes Andre Grant, an African American lawyer who has sued the police department more than a dozen times and is one of the OPS's staunchest critics.

The move is just one in a series of moves the mayor has made to shore up support among black voters - particularly in light of anger over the Burge report and the mayor's still fuzzy role in the police torture that occurred while he was Cook County state's attorney - and co-opt voices of dissent.

That's why the mayor named Peterson, an African American, his campaign manager, though his closest white advisors will really be running the show, and why the mayor preposterously accused proponents of the big-box ordinance of being racists, and why he covered his ass with a hurried and ill-thought Olympics plan by suggesting a stadium in Washington Park.

That's what is also behind the appointment of progressive, independent-minded state Sen. Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago) to the city clerk's position. Both Grant and del Valle vow they will not be used by the mayor, but in fact, that's exactly what is happening. The question for the mayor is: Why now? Do you only accommodate people such as Grant and del Valle when you need votes? Aren't you disingenuously exploiting race for your own political ends? Why shouldn't we think you are simply a cynical bastard who has ignored the concerns of Grant and del Valle for 17 years and now turn to them when you need them?

Clerk Smirk
The press bought into the idea that the mayor will now turn to del Valle for advice on education issues, but he didn't have to name del Valle city clerk in order to use him as an education advisor. In fact, it would have been more productive to take del Valle's advice prior to now when he was the vice chairman of the education committee. Reporters might want to ask the mayor how he came to just discover del Valle after all this time.

Clerk Perk
The Tribune editorial page, among other media folks, can't figure out why del Valle would want the clerk's job. Well, you don't have to travel to Springfield, for one thing. For another, it's a $133,545 annual paycheck. Finally, it will give del Valle mucho name recognition and put him into the mix in city politics. Could be good for his future - as an alderman, congressman, or even mayor. What's so perplexing about that?

The Beachwood Tip Line: Underground testing undetected.


Posted on October 10, 2006

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