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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.

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.

Editor's Note: I hope today's column makes sense, I still have a painful throat thingie and will be seeing my doctor later today requesting mucho painkillers or possibly just death.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Now serving Rio.


Posted on April 18, 2007

MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - Climate Deniers' 4 Top Scare Tactics.
SPORTS - The McEnroes In Antarctica.

BOOKS - Foxconned.


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