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March 31, 2021

Illinois Prisoners' Health Care Still Unconstitutional

The latest report on health care in Illinois state prisons (PDF) was released to the public earlier this month. This report was created by Dr. John Raba, an independent, court-appointed monitor, as a result of the class action lawsuit Lippert v. Jeffreys, brought by ACLU of Illinois, Uptown People's Law Center, and Dentons. This lawsuit alleged that the health care provided to prisoners in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is unconstitutional, and was settled in January 2019.

Five reports by independent experts have now been submitted to the federal court, each one finding serious defects in the health care Illinois provides to the people it imprisons. The latest report notes very little has changed since IDOC entered into an agreement to improve two years ago. The federal monitor suggests that the crisis needs the governor's personal attention, a call shared by the lawyers for the prisoners.

The health care system in IDOC employs 31 physicians to care for more than 30,000 people. In the chart review of deaths in 2020, the monitor found patients whose needs for care exceeded the prisons' capabilities, particularly skilled geriatric and hospice care. In this report, the court monitor continues to ask, "Why are these men and women incarcerated when they are so overtly and obviously no longer a danger to society?"

The report found that the COVID-19 pandemic "exposed critical weaknesses" in IDOC's health program. While the monitor acknowledges the difficulties the pandemic presented, he says "even before the pandemic started the IDOC had not created an implementation plan satisfactory to the requirements of the [settlement] . . . the IDOC lacks the internal resources to complete this task . . . this requirement is a year-and-a-half overdue."

Other findings from the monitor's report include:

  • Many patient deaths related to untreated or poorly-treated diseases;
  • "[P]atients who should have been hospitalized rather than admitted to the [prison] infirmary;"
  • "[P]hysicians who practice in an unsafe and clinically inappropriate manner" and a "lack of quality medical leadership at the facility level;"
  • Numerous medication errors, including giving the wrong medication, and "continuing to administer medication that has been changed or discontinued;"
  • "[I]nsufficient physician staff," and "nurse staffing deficiencies, infection control staffing deficiencies;"
  • "IDOC does not have a strategy for how to manage its health program;"
  • Patients' deaths did not have death reviews, rather "a death summary which is mostly a death announcement with . . . no critical analysis and no recommendations for improvement;"
  • Numerous "structural and environmental deficiencies [that] have the potential to negatively impact the health of the [prisoner] population and the staff," including crumbling walls and ceilings, missing floor tiles, broken toilets and sinks, standing water, peeling paint, and much more.

"While the report is written in the unemotional clinical language of health professionals," Uptown People's Law Firm Executive Director Alan Mills says, "I have personally met with people suffering from this medical neglect. Being in prison is bad. Being seriously ill in prison, forced to rely on this broken system to protect your health, is terrifying. Though Illinois abolished the death penalty, we have a de facto, slow-motion death penalty inside our prisons, because the health care is so bad that it actually kills people. The people of Illinois must demand better."

Camille Bennett, director of the corrections reform project at the ACLU of Illinois, says that "More than two years after the State promised to address the problems with health care in Illinois' prisons, this report is disappointing. COVID-19 exposed the incredible fragility and inefficacy of IDOC's healthcare system, which remains understaffed, underfunded and undertrained, and was completely unequipped to handle a serious outbreak of infectious disease, let alone a global pandemic. People suffered and died as a result. It is time for the State to step up and increase the resources for this system and further dramatically reduce the population so the system can finally move towards treating people in custody with a minimum degree of humanity."

Says Harold Hirschman of Dentons: "We have yet another expert report on the state of healthcare in IDOC, and they all tell the same story: the health care that is provided routinely kills people. This report describes a system which is no better than it has ever been, despite the state signing a federal court agreement to make changes. Wexford, the IDOC's for-profit healthcare vendor, whose care has been criticized by every expert who has evaluated it, remains the sole care provider. It is time for Governor Pritzker to make IDOC live up to its contractual and Constitutional obligations."



* May 2017: Federal Court Certifies Lawsuit Charging Unconstitutional Illinois Prison Healthcare.

* May 2018: Mentally Ill Prisoners Win Injunction; Judge Declares IDOC's Failure To Provide Mental Health Care An "Emergency Situation."

* October 2018: Judge: "Deliberate Indifference" Of IDOC Mental Health Care Requires Federal Oversight.

* December 2018: Federal Judge To IDOC: Get Your Unconstitutional Shit Together.

* January 2019: Overhauling Illinois' Unconstitutional Prisons.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:58 AM | Permalink

To Destroy White Supremacy, Interrogate The Canon

If we want to fight white supremacy, a good place to start is by interrogating how it seeps into canonical texts like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Whiteness, meaning the institution that upholds white culture and affirms white ways of being as superior over other ways, seeks to sustain and protect itself. That's how it survives.

Identifying its tactics is a necessary skill for understanding it. Understanding it is necessary if you seek to destroy it, as I, a Dominican woman and educator, do. I do not seek to destroy white people. I do seek to destroy white supremacy as the ideology and structure that has oppressed, killed and destroyed the rest of us since its inception.

Whiteness's power is expressed in many ways, one of which is as property. For example, Whiteness claims ownership of the soil that is the United States today, but that land was stolen from the Indigenous nations that lived here. It claims ownership of government buildings, for example, that were built by enslaved Africans. We saw it in action in August 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white men marched, chanting statements like "You will not replace us" and "The South will rise again."

No one is trying to replace them. In fact, their ancestors are the ones who have committed genocides and erasure and replaced people. We heard similar cries when insurrectionists raided the Capitol in January 2021. They, too, were aiming to "take back" their country and plant their flag. They, too, expressed an irrational fear of a monster seeking to devour them and take away their material belonging - materials and belongings their ancestors stole, and therefore they do not rightfully own it today.

We see similar sentiments expressed by people who blindly defend the American literary canon.

We hear their fear when they ask, What, instead, would there be to read? - as if no other writers have written anything worthy of reading or studying. We hear their claim of power when they cannot fathom someone not listening to or reading the words of their beloved white authors.

If we want to destroy white supremacy, we must teach our children to interrogate the white supremacy they encounter in the classroom. If we want to dismantle white supremacy in the imagination and work against the idea of Whiteness as property, we need to see how supremacist values have operated in our schools. Specifically, in books. Canonical texts are a great place to start.

Canon defenders, among other concerns, are worried about losing their beloved pieces of writing, for which they have nostalgia and which they have concluded are iconic, classic, universal and the pinnacle of craftsmanship. To question this positioning in academia and schools is seen as blasphemous, disrespectful and anti-intellectual. To ask that these books be put aside to welcome others is deemed "cancel culture."

To demand that our young people learn about global writers, multicultural stories and other nations and see them in their own power is perceived as a direct threat to white supremacy and Whiteness as property. If we no longer want to maintain the supremacy and power of Whiteness, what will we sustain? What will we center? An openness to new answers to these questions inspires fear in canon defenders - and hope in the rest of us. To ask that, if those books are to be taught, that they be taught through a critical lens, is deemed racist and must mean that those making the request never understood the books.

Consider teaching To Kill a Mockingbird by analyzing the way that Atticus, the beloved white savior, ends up protecting the (in)justice system due to his respect for it, instead of directly questioning its racist foundations and operation. Consider how, although he knows the names of the men in a lynch mob, he doesn't report them or get them arrested for their violent threats and actions. Consider, also, how he lets the system kill Tom. He doesn't pull the trigger, but he doesn't fight the system that leads to Tom's death, either.

He protects Whiteness through his inaction. His respect for his peers, for his town, for Whiteness, prevails. Don't believe me? Let Harper Lee tell you herself in Go Set a Watchman.

What if students read The Great Gatsby and then were challenged to study how F. Scott Fitzgerald, by way of Gatsby, commodifies Whiteness, packages it in parties and materializes it as property? How he takes Whiteness and shapes it into an American identity belonging only to white people? Whiteness is a currency in Gatsby, and also in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In that novel, Jim, the formerly enslaved African American, now a fugitive, is juxtaposed with Huck, an adolescent. Huck's Whiteness is currency for Jim, who needs to be with him in order to get through towns and past other white people. Whiteness is property in this book in that it affords credibility, freedom and quite literally life.

While all of these books are fiction, they very much reflect the cultural values present in our nation, both at the time they were written and today. These authors are not without fault, their writing is not void of cultural bias and Whiteness has seeped into their stories in many ways.

Interrogating these canonical texts is the right thing to do if we want to destroy white supremacy.

Questioning them, interrogating their authors' biases and pushing back on the white gaze at the center of their narratives is how we help readers to develop a critical eye and not perpetuate the same mindset and actions. Instead of using the 1776 Commission (a textbook example of Whiteness attempting to protect itself), let us dream. Let us imagine what it's like to welcome all people, voices and stories into our schools and curricula. Let us let go of Whiteness as a property or material that needs defending and put down the weapons of curricular violence; let us instead work toward love, toward the future that we want our children to flourish in. A future our nation so desperately needs.

Lorena Germán is a two-time nationally awarded Dominican American educator focused on antiracist and antibias education and co-founder of #DisruptTexts and Multicultural Classroom.


This post was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:31 AM | Permalink

March 30, 2021

You Turn Me On, Again

This is cool. Bellwood native RJ Griffith has remade "You Turn Me On," a 1970 song by The Fabulous Turks, a Chicago group that included his uncle, Thomas Williams. Check it out.

The original:


The uncle's reaction to the remake:


The remake in full, which was just released Sunday night:


You can also find the song on various other platforms here.


Here's the press release for the new "You Turn Me On" and more about about RJ Griffith.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:34 AM | Permalink

March 29, 2021

The Eloy Canal

We saw some really dumb stuff last week. For openers, there was that poor sumbitch who steered his cargo ship - as large as the Empire State Building according to reports - into the bank of the Suez Canal, grounding the behemoth crosswise so that all traffic has been disrupted, affecting commerce throughout the world.

Those photos of the itty-bitty steam shovel - or whatever they're called today - attempting to free the huge vessel would be like using a soup spoon to dig a swimming pool. Judging from the paltry equipment employed, the time required for the ship to become buoyant could be five or six months.

Which is the predicted time frame for the recovery of White Sox leftfielder Eloy Jiménez, the victim of his own folly last Wednesday in a meaningless spring training game. I never was fully aware that my pectoralis major - what we all know as our "pecs" - have tendons connected to clavicles and sternums and then meeting up at the humerus. Now that Eloy has ruptured his, we can only imagine the resulting misery.

The multitalented 24-year-old Jiménez launched his big league career the past two seasons by hitting .276 and launching a home run every 15 at-bats. When questioned recently how many home runs he could hit this season, he nonchalantly answered, "Forty," as though he was being asked whether rain was predicted for tomorrow.

He's that confident in his ability and comports himself not so much with a swagger but with a wide smile and a friendly, endearing demeanor. Apparently he thinks nothing is beyond his grasp, including the long fly ball last Wednesday that easily cleared the eight-foot barrier at the Sox' Camelback Ranch facility in Glendale, Ariz. Manute Bol couldn't have reached it. Check that. Manute Bol standing on the shoulders of Wilt Chamberlain would have had no more than an even chance of getting a glove on the ball.

So Eloy was left hanging over the fence by his left arm in a game that the Sox lost 14-4 to Oakland and which, of course, occurred more than two weeks before the genuine competition ensues.

Jiménez is no stranger to the sick bay. This is the seventh time he'll be idled by injuries ranging from a quad strain to concussion protocol. Most often his maladies have been the result of outfield collisions with walls, nets, and teammates, although Eloy sprained his right foot rounding third base at the end of last season. He missed the year's final series against the Cubs and was only available for Game 3 as DH in a losing cause to Oakland in the playoffs.

In addressing the sad news about Jiménez, general manager Rick Hahn said, "We'll talk to him [about] a plan perhaps making some better decisions."

Perhaps, Rick, but this is a guy who plays the game with unbridled exuberance and energy. Putting a damper on his ebullient personality would be messing with the very quality that makes him a unique talent. It would be like telling Tim Anderson to lower his voice.

Chances are this won't be the last time Eloy gets injured. Making him a permanent DH might protect the kid, but where does Eloy place all of that positive energy and enthusiasm between at-bats? No, I think he's got to be part of the entire game at this point in his career. He might hurt himself, but in between injuries, he'll hit 400 homers or maybe lots more than that.

The immediate dilemma is how the club proceeds without its premier power hitter until the leaves change colors.

Most of the talk revolves around Jiménez's replacement, but that's misplaced. The Sox figure to score fewer runs without Eloy, so the answer must lie in how to limit the opposition. The lineup still will be formidable, and let's face it: There is no one who can replace Jiménez.

So the starting pitchers will need to be more effective; the bullpen must live up to its preseason hype; and the defenders will need to catch and throw with greater proficiency than in the recent past.

If end-of-the-rotation starters Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodon have felt pressure to this point, the needle just rose a few ticks because of Jiménez's absence. Cease led the American League last summer in issuing bases on balls while yielding almost two homers per nine innings. Improvement is required.

Meanwhile, Rodon has a new lease on major league baseball life after the Sox released and then re-signed him. He deserves applause for his strong showing this spring to nail down the fifth starter role. In 13-plus innings this spring, he's walked just one batter while fanning 16. Now we'll see whether he can continue his resurgence while staying healthy for an entire season.

After Lucas Giolito's 95-pitch prep on Saturday against the Rockies and a five-inning stint by Dallas Keuchel on Sunday, the Sox starting five this spring have a combined 2.24 ERA with 86 strikeouts and 29 walks in 76-plus innings. That, my friends, is a promising first step in compensating for the loss of a prodigious power hitter.

As far as left field is concerned, rookie Andrew Vaughn, a first baseman by trade, has been trotted out there even though he hasn't played the position since he was 15. Manager Tony La Russa claims Vaughn can be "above average," but we don't even know as yet whether Vaughn can excel against major league pitching.

Vaughn, the third overall pick in the 2019 amateur draft, was the nation's top college hitter at Cal, and he followed that by slashing .278/.384/.832 with five homers in A ball two years ago. Prior to Jiménez's injury, no one in the universe had visions of Vaughn patrolling left field.

Of course, there are other options, led by inserting Adam Engel in right field and moving Adam Eaton to left. Engel is nursing a strained hammie and won't be available until mid-April, but he's coming off a 2020 shortened season in which he hit .295, and he was having a strong spring before he got hurt. A superb outfielder and at age 29, Engel is by far the most logical answer to the gaping hole left by Jiménez.

In the meantime, Leury García has appeared in 92 games in left field during his eight-year career, and Billy Hamilton and Nick Williams, both with major league experience, remain in the Sox spring camp.

The Sox lineup is left-handed-challenged, and García and Hamilton are switch hitters while Williams bats from the left side. Those factors will be considered when final decisions are made before Thursday's opener against the Angels in Anaheim.

Meanwhile, that container ship has been partially freed thanks to the aid of high-powered tugboats and high tides. Let's hope that Eloy also can beat the timetable set for him. Wanna buy a ticket?

You can still get a seat for the Sox' first homestand, April 8-15, but the phrase "good seats available" doesn't apply unless you want to spend $375 for a seat right behind home plate in the Wintrust Scout Seats. Fans are required to buy two seats together to comply with COVID-19 protocol, so that would set you back $750 if you'd like to watch the Sox and Indians tangle on April 13 at 7:10 p.m., when the temperature probably will hover in the mid-40s if it's balmy for mid-April.

Anyone with the faintest interest in the start of the baseball season knows that the city is allowing 20 percent capacity at The Grate, or about 8,200 fans for what will almost certainly cover the first two homestands in April.

Returning to that April 13 contest, there are a few - no more than a couple per section- twosomes available this morning in the last few rows of the upper deck. Those cost $28 apiece, but, again, fans must purchase both ducats.

My friend Chuck Hempfling has been a season ticket-holder for 34 years along with a small group who split the schedule. Chuck is responsible for organizing his pals for what have been four seats close to the diamond behind third base. Because of limited seating, the Sox are using vouchers that can be redeemed for seats, which include the entire schedule for folks like Chuck.

I purchased 24 vouchers, good for seats in the lower deck between first and third base. I prefer to wait until the weather cooperates, but I could use one voucher for 24 games, 24 vouchers for one game, or anything in between, depending on COVID protocol.

To describe this process, Hempfling e-mailed his group a couple of weeks ago about ticket availability for Opening Day and the first homestand. "I got on the site OK which showed available seats around Section 144," he wrote. "I could have navigated almost anywhere but chose to stay close to where we normally are. It started with buying two seats, and there was a good selection available. Then I clicked up to three seats; still good selection. Then went to four seats, and selection was not as good with closest seats to ours being in 145 row 25.

"So I went back to three seats and was successful. We are in 144, row 6, seats 1-3 for all seven games. I had to decide within minutes otherwise the site would time me out. We can draw numbers out of a hat for who goes first. If we do not fill all seven games, we will put any tickets left on Stub Hub or Craig's List. I am sure they will go fast. I, for one, am ready to see a live baseball game."

You're not alone, Chuck.


Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:57 AM | Permalink

March 26, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #349: New Bulls Regime Had Seen Enough

Didn't need a full season to evaluate the mess GarPax left behind. Plus: Cubs Trade Looking Slightly Better; Ramblin' Men; Wildcat Women; Blackhawks Back; Cubs Going Backwards; and Bears Sign Backups.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #349: New Bulls Regime Had Seen Enough



* 349.

* Artie Explains It All:

* K.C. Johnson: Karnisovas Isn't Done.


27:22: Cubs Trade Looking Slightly Better.


37:33: Ramblin' Men.

* Schnable, Phoenix: The Ramblers Have The Best Defense In The Nation, Here's Why.


48:53: Wildcat Women.


52:25: Blackhawks Back.


54:13: Cubs Going Backwards.


58:01: Bears Sign Backups.

* Rhodes: "Depth signings about people I don't really care about."


59:17: Perhaps The Last Chicago Fire News We Will Bring You In A Very Long Time.

* MLS Soccer: "Chicago Fire FC winger Stanislav Ivanov underwent successful knee surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear, the club announced Tuesday. He is expected to miss roughly four months, carrying through late July."




For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:35 PM | Permalink

March 22, 2021

AT&T's HBO Max Deal Was Never Free

When it launched HBO Max, it was discovered that usage of the service would not count against the data caps of AT&T customers, a practice known as "zero-rating." This means that people on limited data plans could watch as much HBO Max content as they wished without incurring overage fees. AT&T just declared that it would stop this practice, citing California's net neutrality law as a reason. No matter what spin the telecom giant offers, this does not mean something "free" was taken away. That deal was never free to begin with.

It should be noted that net neutrality doesn't prevent companies from zero rating in a non-discriminatory way. If AT&T wanted to zero rate all video streaming services, it could. What net neutrality laws prevent is ISPs from using their control over internet access to advantage its own content or charging services for special access to its customer base. In the case of HBO Max and zero rating, since AT&T owns HBO Max, it costs them nothing to zero rate HBO Max. Other services had to pay for the same treatment or be disadvantaged when AT&T customers chose HBO Max to avoid overage fees.

This is why AT&T is claiming that it's being forced to stop offering a "free" service because of California's net neutrality rule. Rather than admit that the wireless industry knows zero rating can be used to shape traffic and user behavior and that perhaps users should determine the entire internet experience, they want to turn this consumer victory into a defeat. But this basic consumer protection is long overdue having only taken this long because of former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's decision to abandon net neutrality and terminate investigations into AT&T's unlawful practice in 2017, which prompted California to pass S.B. 822 in the first place.

You Already Paid AT&T To Offer The HBO Max Deal

American internet services - mobile and to the home - are vastly more expensive than they should be. We pay more for worse services than in many other countries and practices like zero rating are part of that.

A comprehensive study by showed that after zero rating was banned in the EU, consumers received cheaper mobile data over the years. This is because if the ISP can not do things like drive users towards its verticals through artificial scarcity schemes like data caps, it will need to raise its caps and be less willing to penalize usage of its network simply for using the service they purchased in order to appeal to customers. In fact, the infrastructure being laid out for modern wireless, fiber optics, has so much capacity that data caps really make no sense if the market was more competitive.

It is also very important to understand that the cost of moving data is getting cheaper and easier. As we move to fiber-backed infrastructure, the cost of moving data is coming down, speeds are going up exponentially, and the congestion challenges of the early days of the iPhone are a distant memory.

As a result, even though moving data is cheaper, AT&T prices haven't changed accordingly. Profits for the companies grow, but consumers aren't seeing prices that match the lowering cost of data. You have essentially paid the price of a real unlimited internet plan for one with data caps, which continue to exist so that telecom companies can charge more for unlimited plans and collect overage fees. We know problem isn't actual capacity, since AT&T lifted data caps at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. If data caps and related data scarcity schemes were necessary for the operation of the network, then a time when usage is on the double-digit rise should have meant AT&T needed to keep its data caps intact and enforce them to keep things running. They didn't because fiber-connected towers have more than enough capacity to handle growth, unlike older non-fibered cable systems who now throttle uploads.

AT&T's Zero Rating Favored Big Tech And Was Anticompetitive

Competition among video streaming services is fierce and should be protected and enhanced. User-generated content on things like Twitch and YouTube, premium content from Netflix, Disney+, or Amazon Prime are all competing for your attention and eyeballs. AT&T wanted to give HBO a leg up by simply making the other services either more expensive via a data cap or to have them pay AT&T to be exempt so even if you were not watching AT&T's product, money was coming to them. Such a structure makes is impossible for a small independent content creator to be competitive as they lack the resources to pay for an exemption and would need to provide content compelling enough for AT&T customers to pay extra to watch.

Furthermore, as the study discovered, it took a lot of resources from internet companies to obtain a zero rating exemption making it something only the Googles, Facebooks, and similarly large internet companies could regularly engage in but not medium to small companies. AT&T doesn't mind that because it just means more ways to extract rents from more players on the Internet despite being fully compensated by users for an unfettered internet experience.

Low-Income Advocates Fought Hard To Ban AT&T's Zero Rating

During the debate in California, AT&T attempted to reframe its zero-rating practice as "free data" and came awfully close to convincing Sacramento to leave it alone. But advocates representing the low-income residents of California came out in strong support of the California net neutrality law's zero-rating provisions. Studies by the Pew Research Center showed that when income is limited, consumers opt to use only mobile phones for internet access as opposed to both wireline and wireless service. Groups like the Western Center on Law and Poverty pointed out that for these low-income users, AT&T was giving them a lesser internet and not equal access to higher-income users.

And that is the ultimate point of net neutrality, to ensure everyone has equal access to the Internet that is free from ISP gatekeeper decisions. When you take into consideration that AT&T is one of the most indebted companies on planet Earth, it starts to make sense why in the absence of federal net neutrality, AT&T started to seek out any and every way to nickel and dime everything that touches its network. But with California's law starting to come online, users finally have a law that will stand against the effort to convert the Internet into cable television. Whether or not we have federal protection, it seems clear that the states are proving right now that they can be an effective backstop and the work in preserving a free and open Internet will continue not just in D.C. but in the remaining 49 states.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:40 AM | Permalink

March 20, 2021

As Elite College Applications Soar, Legacy Admissions Still Give Wealthy And Connected Students An Edge

Few elite colleges in the midst of choosing their freshman classes like to admit how often they give preference to legacy applicants, a practice that largely benefits higher-income students and by some estimates can double or even quadruple an applicant's chances of getting in.

That's why I should not have been surprised that most colleges I asked about this wouldn't talk about it or release their data. They have reasons: giving preferential treatment to the children of alumni who can most afford to pay clearly benefits colleges, and is not something they want to broadcast when the pandemic is complicating budgets and enrollment predictions.

And let's face it: Exclusive colleges and universities with annual costs as high as $80,000 have already endured an awful lot of bad publicity. Weren't the lies and cheating of the Varsity Blues admissions scandal supposed to usher in a new era of transparency, with all those promises of an overhaul to follow?

Was I wrong in thinking that these colleges should have plenty of reasons to revisit legacy preferences, amid new diversity and inclusion efforts?

That they'd want to counter fears about the pandemic widening the class and race divides that deny low-income and minority students entrance into the very schools that boost social mobility?

That they'd want to address high-profile calls to end the practice, including student-led petition drives like the one at Georgetown University last summer, signed by hundreds of faculty, students and administrators? Or the push-back from students at Brown and Harvard universities, and the proposal that colleges practicing legacy admission lose their eligibility for federal student aid?

Hard as I tried, I could not find out how many legacy applicants were accepted early decision this year at some of the most sought-after colleges in the country, even though decisions were made by December. Most claimed they did not have this information available, including Yale University, Harvard University, Duke University, Stanford University, Hamilton College, Amherst College and Cornell University, among others.

Related: After 'Varsity Blues' scandal, lots of talk about overhauling college admissions. Will there be action?

"Colleges are kind of in a bind about this," Richard Kahlenberg, author of Affirmative Action for the Rich: Legacy Preferences for College Admissions, and a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, told me. "I'm not surprised that they don't want to talk about it."

Neither is Natasha Warikoo, a sociology professor at Tufts University and the author of The Diversity Bargain. "I really don't understand why it hasn't ended already, because it is so absurd," Warikoo told me. "It kind of destroys the legitimacy of admissions. We say it's a meritocracy and fair, but clearly it is not."

There are arguments on the other side, too. While legacy admission policies overwhelmingly benefit white, wealthy students whose parents can afford full tuition or can give donations, the practice can also build the kind of loyalty and enduring connections that help colleges over the long run.

And admitting legacy students also helps fund scholarships, said Angel Pérez, chief executive officer of NACAC, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which just formed a commission on redesigning admission and financial aid through a racial equity lens.

"If I am sitting in the [admissions] chair, I would not be doing away with legacy, because all of my goals to admit more low-income kids would be in jeopardy," said Pérez, who previously oversaw admissions at Trinity College in Connecticut and Pitzer College in California. Legacy admissions foster lifelong loyalties and are a direct result of the way colleges are financed, with so much dependence on tuition revenue, he added.

The pandemic has dealt additional economic blows to colleges during a time when they were already worried about declining enrollment and the fiscal health of their institutions. Following years of building booms, spending sprees and tuition discounting to attract students, most colleges need full-pay students now more than ever, something The Hechinger Report's financial tracker tool makes clear. (Just plug in the name of a college to see how it is faring.)

Related: How higher education's own choices left it vulnerable to the pandemic crisis

But not elite schools. They have seen a boom in applications this year, at a time when the number of applicants to less-selective colleges and universities is dropping and there are worrisome signs of more trouble ahead, including a 9.1 percent decrease in the number of students who filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and a drop of 2 percent in the number of early-decision applicants whose family incomes were low enough for them to request fee waivers.

Selective schools like Tulane University in New Orleans are touting record numbers of applicants - more than 45,000 at Tulane, some 4,000 of them early decision, for what will ultimately be a freshman class of about 1,820. Tulane's president, Michael Fitts, called them " . . . the best and the brightest young scholars from around the country."

Tulane would not answer how many admitted students in the early applicant pool were legacies; a spokesman saying it was "just one of many factors considered in our holistic review process."

Before applying to Tulane, Ayana Smith, a 17-year-old from Oregon, spent time on several online discussion boards with students and other applicants trying to figure out her chances (she has been deferred until April).

willen-legacy-1.jpgAyana Smith, 17, was deferred early decision at her first-choice school, Tulane University in New Orleans, and is not a fan of legacy admissions. Credit: Tony Sibley

"The main thing I kept coming across was the only way to get in was to apply early decision, and I kept hearing that if I had parents or family members who went there it would be a lot easier," Smith said. "It's really frustrating that you can get a leg up just because your parents went there."

Tiffani Torres, a first-generation freshman at Georgetown University, also opposes legacy preference in admissions. "It just perpetuates the cycle of inequity and continues to put students of color and low-income students at a disadvantage," said Torres, who grew up in New York City and is attending Georgetown on a full scholarship.

IMG_2887-scaled.jpegTiffani Torres, a freshman at Georgetown University, thinks legacy admissions offer an unfair advantage. Credit: Megan Owusu

Torres lives on campus but takes most classes online due to the pandemic, and she's in a cohort with other full-scholarship students who, she says, are acutely aware of the privileged students around them, along with the sacrifices it takes many others to get to and through college and catch up.

Georgetown said it did not have legacy numbers available for its early admits, but said 9 percent of the class of 2024 has legacy connections. That's low compared with places like Cornell, where legacies have made up as much as 22 percent of early admits in recent years.

One of the few schools that publicly released its number of early-admission legacy admits was Dartmouth in New Hampshire: 15 percent.

Related: As admission season descends warning signs appear for low-income applicants

While they did not want to talk about legacies, the country's most exclusive colleges did release plenty of data on the vast increases they've had in the number of early admission applicants from last year to this: 38 percent more at Yale, 45 percent at Amherst - and a stunning 57 percent more at Harvard. Many of the top flagship public universities also saw big jumps in early-admission applicants: 38 percent at the University of Virginia and 28 percent at the UCLA, for example.

The elite schools are also reporting big jumps in the number of low-income applicants from underrepresented groups, which they credit largely to test-optional policies for admission adopted during the pandemic, along with virtual recruiting events. Another reason is the generous financial aid packages these wealthier schools can afford to offer.

Overall though, binding early admission still disproportionately benefits wealthier applicants, who are three times more likely to be white than applicants who vie for whatever seats are left in the regular pool. Also, early applicants allow colleges to lock in some full-paying students who don't have to wait and compare financial aid offers.

For the record, there are some elite colleges that don't consider legacy, including MIT and Cal Tech. The University of California system hasn't given legacy preferences since the 1990s. I heard a lot of calls to join these institutions and end legacy admissions as a way of making the process more equitable last year during a seminar run by Jerome Lucido, executive director of the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice at the University of Southern California.

Progress has been slow. "The pandemic has really hurt finances, so it's understandable they will lock in more of their class [early] and have them pay in full," said Lucido, who now believes it will take federal policy to end legacy admissions.

The hypocrisy of colleges' silence about the policy angers John Branam, who helps students navigate the college admissions process as executive director of Get Schooled, and who sees firsthand how many low-income and minority students find themselves at a disadvantage accessing top schools.

"It's just a stunning situation, that here we are knee deep in a powerful Black Lives Matter moment and it doesn't feel like our most prestigious universities across the country are taking a hard look at it," said Branam, who is also a member of the advisory committee at The Hechinger Report.

Torres could not agree more. She is one of eight siblings, the first in her family to attend a four-year-college, and acutely aware of how different the backgrounds of her and those in her cohort are from many other students at Georgetown - especially from those whose family ties to the institution go back for decades.

"There are students who can't afford to go to a place like Georgetown who are taking out loans and have multiple jobs just to receive a prestigious education, when their peers already have the added advantage of parents that attended college and understand the [admission] process," Torres said.

So, while there are many good reasons to talk about eliminating legacy admissions, Pérez of NACAC admits that colleges really have little incentive to do so. After all, who wants to face the wrath of generous alumni and watch their dollars go elsewhere?

"It's extremely complicated,'' Pérez said. "There is a secret handshake between institutions and alums: You be faithful to us and we will be faithful to you."

This post was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.


Previously by Liz Willen:

* College Presidents Enable Abuses Of Greek Life.

* Rez Ball.


Comments welcome.


1. From Steve Rhodes:

Maybe the answer is to shun and cancel elite, private colleges and universities instead of trying to shame them into addressing their role in perpetuating structural racism.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:17 AM | Permalink

March 19, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #348: Pace De Resistance

If anyone thinks they know what the Bears are doing, can you share it with the rest of us? Plus: Illinois Madness; Leitao Out; Bulls' New Lineup; Bullish On Blackhawks; Catching The White Sox; and Crappy Cubs.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #348: Pace De Resistance



* 348.




* Rhodes: "They've got two of the best backups in the league!"

* Rhodes: "In Chicago, the backup guy is the starter - either way!"


36:19: Illinois Madness.



45:09: Leitao Out.


48:10: Bulls' New Lineup.


50:44: Bullish On Blackhawks.


57:01: Catching The White Sox.

101:30: Crappy Cubs.




For archives and other Beachwood shows, see the Beachwood Radio Network.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:59 PM | Permalink

March 16, 2021

Wilson Unveils New Official Game Ball Ahead Of WNBA's 25th Season

Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods Co., in partnership with the Women's National Basketball Association, unveiled Monday the league's new official game ball before the start of the milestone 25th WNBA season.

"We are thrilled to be tipping off our partnership with the WNBA in advance of a historic 25th milestone season," said Amanda Lamb, Global Marketing Director, Team Sports at Wilson. "Introducing the Evo NXT to the pinnacle of the women's game, and announcing our first WNBA Advisory Staff member, all in the midst of Women's History Month, is truly a momentous occasion for Wilson."


Made of 100% composite leather, the official WNBA game ball integrates Wilson's Evo NXT construction featuring an enhanced grip and a soft moisture-minimalizing feel.

"As we head into our 25th season with more momentum and energy than ever, we are excited to be partnering with Wilson on our new official game ball," said Cathy Engelbert, WNBA Commissioner. "We're grateful for Wilson's partnership and commitment to women's basketball, and the updated white and fire orange look signifies a new chapter for the WNBA brand and our game."

To coincide with the game ball reveal, Wilson also introduced its first WNBA Advisory Staff member, three-time WNBA All-Star Liz Cambage. As an official Wilson Advisory Staff member, the Australian center for the Las Vegas Aces will playtest, provide feedback and collaborate on Wilson basketball products.

"I'm so excited to be the first WNBA player on Wilson's Advisory Staff," said Cambage. "It's beyond important for women like me to have a seat at the table to influence creative ideas and provide performance insights."

Cambage joins renowned skills coach Chris Brickley and FIBA 3x3 star Dušan Bulut on a growing Wilson Basketball Advisory Staff team. Comprised of more than 10,000 professional athletes, coaches, teaching pros and advisors, Wilson's Advisory Staff program was established nearly 90 years ago, representing a wide variety of sports around the world.

The Wilson WNBA game ball will be available exclusively on beginning May 3, and through select retailers, including, on May 17. Following the start of the 2021 WNBA season, Wilson will also reveal first-of-its-kind collaborations with the WNBA, including three launches throughout the year featuring designs from artists and collaborators ranging from Cambage to tastemaker Beija Velez and more.

Wilson's partnership milestones with the National Basketball Association will continue to roll out throughout 2021 with announcements and activations across the WNBA, NBA G League, NBA 2K League and Basketball Africa League, and into the NBA's 75th anniversary season in 2021-22.


Previously: Chicago-Based Wilson Now The Official Game Ball Of The NBA.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:08 PM | Permalink

Southern Illinois' Snake Road

"Twice a year, spring and fall, numerous species of reptiles and amphibians migrate between the LaRue-Pine Hills' towering limestone bluffs and the Big Muddy River's swampy floodplain in southern Illinois. Snakes, especially great numbers of Cottonmouths, give the road that separates these distinct environments its name.

"Although it is one of the best places in the world to observe snakes throughout the year, spring and fall are the optimal times to see a greater number and variety. Among the many activities that snakes can be observed doing are sunning themselves on rocks, lying in grasses, sheltering under or near fallen tree limbs, or crossing the road. In this engaging guide, author Joshua J. Vossler details what to expect and how to make the most of a visit to what is known around the world as Snake Road.


"Vossler catalogs 23 native snake species by both common and scientific names, lists identifying features, and estimates the probability of spotting them.

"Throughout this book, stunning color photographs of each species' distinctive physical characteristics enable identification by sight only, an important feature, since Illinois law prohibits the handling, harming, or removal of reptiles and other wildlife on and around the road."


See also:

* National Geographic, Snake Migration "Snake Road is the only road in the world closed every year (from March 15 - May 15, and again from September 1 - October 30) for its biannual migration of snakes and other reptiles."


Snake Road Migration 2020.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:34 PM | Permalink

March 12, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #347: Slow Jamming The Bears News

How their QB search is like a CNN breaking news event. Plus: Spring Training Fever; Colliton Can Coach; Billy's Bulls; and Whining Illini.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Network #346: Slow Jamming The Bears News



* 347.

1:38: How The Bears Quarterback Search Is Like A CNN Breaking News Event.

* Cam Newton.

* Dak Prescott.

* Ben Roethlisberger.

* Russell Wilson.

* Deshaun Watson.

* Fitzmagic!


* Allen Robinson.

* Cairo Santos.

* Kyle Long.

33:35: Spring Training Fever.

* Joc Pederson.

* Nico Hoerner.

* Michael Kopech.

45:12: Colliton Can Coach.

* Emily Kaplan's Power Rankings.

52:55: Billy's Bulls.

* He can coach, too.

58:39: The Whining Illini.

* Morrissey, Sun-Times: Josh Whitman's Sob Story.


* Loyola.

* DePaul.

* Northwestern.




For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:15 PM | Permalink

Thank Trump For Your Stimulus Check

Stealing is wrong. I get that, but then I've never been close enough to a large pile of cash as to be tempted.

So I have cheaply bought morals.

But let us assume that stealing is wrong. On that valid and traditional proposition, we all should be aghast that Donald Trump, hereafter to be known as The Former Guy, persuaded Americans to give him $200 million to win several elections he already had lost.

This is "past posting" on a grand stage. Past posting allows a skimmer who knows who won the televised horse race to bet against others who don't know who won when the replay comes on air.

It's the Barn Fire Fund After The Horses Left.

Why did TFG's small contributors do this?

There are several ancient Latin phrases that name this phenomenon. The most pertinent is caveat diuinator stultus - which translates roughly as "beware blithering idiot."

Of course, blithering idiots seldom are aware in real life, which is one reason they are blithering idiots. Blithering and idiot seem to be linguistic twins joined at the hip.

Whatever the etymology, the American patrons who gave TFG his $200 million since last November where not effectively caveating their stultus.

He has put it all in his pocket and walked away, though the main motive ostensibly was to stop Democratic skullduggery from stealing the Georgia Senate special elections. Records show he never spent a dollar on Georgia, though his campaign sent out 40 solicitations begging for money for that specific cause.

How is this relevant aside from proving TFG is always going to be TFG?

When you spend your $1,400 stimulus check this month from Washington, thank TFG for that. Had he spent the money to win the Georgia seats, the COVID relief bill would never have passed the U.S. Senate this week. No Republican in this galactic nebula voted for it.

The total margin for its existence was the two Senate seats TFG let twist and die on the vine.

Had TFG not kept the money in his pocket, there likely would be no enhanced childhood tax credits for parents; no millions for restaurants; no money to open schools; no $10 billion for emergency mortgage aid; no $25 billion for emergency rent aid.

This might be the most ostentatious con, as in obvious, in the history of cons. This is almost a Matisse.

Or maybe the givers were betting on an insurrection that would make them traitors as well as schmucks.

Though unconscious in TFG 's mind, the mechanism is plain enough. It's like betting on the World Series after your team has lost in seven games. Can we also still get 21 points, and still bet on the Chiefs winning the most recent Super Bowl? After all, the 31-9 score could have been a media illusion. Or a lie. Or Tom Brady stole it.

Trump spent $13 million of his haul on Giuliani-Level legal expertise and black hair coloring for Rudy, and put the other $187 million in his pocket. None of it was his. But he gets to keep it.

The law says he can do that because the law was written by legislators who would want to do the same thing some day.

This manipulation clearly is a bad thing. This is stealing. I am appalled.

Except that I am only partially, superficially appalled because cons always hide in plain site, which affords some protections for the con-Quistador. Hey, he might say, I told you it was a con job, and only schmoes won't believe what is obvious.

TFG's con was always like giving money to strippers on the theory that really loved you. It was always a con. The strippers think you're creepy.

Americans, at least many of them, are witless schmucks with their money and must be protected from their schmuck tendencies. You have to help where you can. I always have been in the liberal interventionist camp because I'm a buttinsky. Also, it seems humanely sound to protect dopes from their dopiness.

But there are limits, even to feckless helpfulness for those who need "caveat" but don't want it.

You can sympathize with them, but only in general philosophical way. In fact, I have come to an alternate natural selection point of view.

What if nature has created genetically designated crooks whose main predatory function is taking money from people unfit to have it?

Have you never encountered a rich person who seemed too stupid to have accumulated that much money?

TFG never has been master of a project - financial, governmental or personal - that was not a scam and did not ultimately fail. That's an empirical fact. He is the master of mass hypnosis and modified Ponzi schemes.

But he always made others pay for his bad investments.

There can be no other plausible reason why Deutsche Bank among other institutions bankrolled him with millions of dollars. It has to be a money-laundering operation by a national state with tons of smudged dollars to hide. It's a Tootin' Putin deal.

But there is another way of looking at this transfer of wealth from middle-class wallets into TFG's bank account.

He does not seem the sort who saves up for a rainy day. He's a spender - big houses, big hotels, big-haired women. He has spent his millions on the same things for 60 years. It's what a poor person thinks he should buy if he were rich.

Big spenders like TFG have their function in a capitalistic economy. After all, it was never money he actually earned.

The cash goes right through their hands and back into the economy in some path. Shit through a goose. Nazis bury their gold; TFG spends his. He becomes ironically useful to the system.

Eventually, real people get the money he stole and then spend it on food, clothing, homes and schools.

This is the natural order at work.

It's the only benefit to TFG's entire existence.


David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. His most recent piece for us was How Mark Giangreco Blew Himself Up. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:27 PM | Permalink

March 11, 2021

Turtle Wax® Celebrates 75th Anniversary With Introduction Of Scholarship Program To Train The Next Generation Of Detailers

The original car wax that put Turtle Wax® on the map was developed in founder Ben Hirsch's bathtub. The company at that time was called Plastone, which later evolved into the celebrated Turtle Wax brand it is today. From its humble Chicago roots to distribution in more than 120 countries, Turtle Wax products continue to outshine the competition, providing car enthusiasts with formulas to meet their ever-changing needs.

From city streets to country roads, Turtle Wax has been an integral part of American culture for the last 75 years and has solidified its place in the hearts and minds of car enthusiasts as the No. 1 brand across multiple categories including carpet/fabric care, spray wax, lens restoration kits, compounds/polishes, scratch removers and bug/tar/sticker removers.*

To kick off car care season, Turtle Wax is celebrating its past while laying the groundwork for the next 75 years with the announcement of The Healy Family Scholarship Program and Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Graphene Paste Wax, a new paste wax featuring the brand's patent pending graphene technology, one of the top, new ingredient trends in car care.


"It's been an incredible journey over the last 75 years, and I'm so lucky to have had a front-row seat to it all," said executive chairman Denis John Healy. "The fact that we continue to expand to new channels and territories - yet stay true to our values - and make sure our products continue to be easy to use, are grounded in technology, and always come at a great price, is a testament to the foundation built by my grandparents and parents. I'm honored to continue their legacy and excited for what we have in store for 2021 and beyond."


Setting the industry standard for superiority in car care is what Turtle Wax has and will continue to do. An important part of that commitment is supporting the future generation of car detailers and giving them ample resources to succeed, and that starts with training, which is paramount to growing this industry.

The Healy Family Scholarship Program will support training and educational opportunities for future detailers and chemists. To start, the brand is donating $75,000 worth of trainings led by a Turtle Wax International Detailing Association (IDA) Recognized Trainer over the next three years to support and further their careers without the worry of financial investments.


With innovation at its core, it wouldn't be a 75th anniversary celebration without new products. Beginning today, Turtle Wax is offering fans the opportunity to purchase the commemorative 75th anniversary Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Graphene Paste Wax available in the U.S. at or and is coming soon to Amazon - retailing for $35 while supplies last.

The commemorative paste wax features a unique blend of 10 waxes that are infused with silicon dioxide (SiO2) ceramic and graphene technology. The combined key benefits of this limited-edition wax include incredible gloss, slickness, water repellency, chemical resistance along with heat dissipation for increased UV protection, and helps keep water and contaminants from sticking to the vehicle resulting in a clean, protected and easier-to-maintain finish.

Graphene technology within the paste wax has been an industry game-changer and a key factor in the early successes of the brand's Hybrid Solutions Pro line. Having launched in December 2020 with Turtle Wax's proprietary patent pending graphene technology, the Hybrid Solutions Pro line was one of the first graphene-infused products available at mass retail. The product line - which includes 1 & Done Compound Correct & Finish™ To the Max Wax™ and Pro Flex Wax™ - holds a No. 1 Amazon New Release Badge and has Turtle Wax as relevant as ever in the car care industry.


Fans can also get their hands on a birthday kit which includes the 75th anniversary Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Graphene Paste Wax, professional-grade car care accessories and a modern-vintage style capsule apparel collection, available for purchase now at

Current members of the Chicago-based car detailing subscription service GloveBox will be receiving the entire kit as part of their April box.

For fans not already subscribed, those who sign up before April at can use the code 'TURTLEWAX75' when checking out to receive 30 percent off a monthly subscription package.

For more details on Turtle Wax's 75th anniversary and to learn more about the brand's history, visit and follow the brand on social at @TurtleWax and #TurtleWax75 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

* NPD units 12 months ending Dec. 2020

About Turtle Wax
The Turtle Wax story started with the launch of the first-ever bottled car wax in 1944. More than 75 years later, the 'Most Innovative Brand in Car Care' is still capturing the attention of the auto appearance industry with a cross-category assortment of No. 1 selling products. With product distribution in more than 120 countries, the Turtle Wax brand resonates around the globe, but the brand's heart remains in its hometown of Chicago, where award-winning innovation is developed to this day. For an inside look at the brand's breakthrough product development process or how Turtle Wax supports car culture worldwide, visit

Media Contact: John Manzo, Zeno Group,


Previously in Turtle Wax: "I'm against the annual slaughter of turtles just for their wax."


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:12 PM | Permalink

After Democracy

Following recent years of turbulent developments in politics, economics and social media around the world, one might assume these events inspire University of Illinois Chicago researcher Zizi Papacharissi to have an ominous view about what the future holds.

That would be an incorrect assumption.

It was during the Obama administration when she began to consider whether democracy is not the idealized final stop on the world's civic journey, but rather a springboard to superior government practices.

"What if there is something better out there, and technology can help us uncover a long-hidden path to it? We change and so does our technology, but we cling to past iterations of democracy like a dream we desperately try to remember after we wake up. Life is not static. Neither is democracy," said Papacharissi, UIC professor and head of communication and professor of political science.

This outlook and 100 interviews with citizens from 30 countries about what they want from their government have led to her latest book, After Democracy: Imagining Our Political Future.


The publication, which was recently released by Yale University Press, draws on the feedback the scholar of political communication and digital media received during an interview process with everyday people that examined what democracy is, what it means to be a citizen, and what can be done to improve democracy.

Unsurprisingly, she found people have a significant distrust of politicians and mechanisms for governance, but there was a bright spot. People want to be involved in community-level conversations about the issues and feel that is where they can be most impactful.

"I was pleasantly inspired to hear that people find experiences of micro-governance the most meaningful. I used those experiences to map out a model of democracy structured around connecting the earnestness of micro-governance with the heavier obligations of representative democracy," she said.

People want to contribute, but they often feel the avenues for civic participation are outdated and leave them counted, but not heard, Papacharissi reports. She says citizens shouldn't be expected to be formally engaged with representatives and others seeking public office every few years when officials fail to earnestly engage with constituents in between elections.

"Apathy does not communicate lack of caring. It is better read as a lack of interest, a sense of fatigue in the modes of engagement our democracy offers, and the options our elected representatives present us with," she said.

"Forget Messiahs" is among other key ideas shared in the book to help consensus building, government evolution and better serve citizens.

Papacharissi is mindful that the path to change is gradual, revolutions are long and people's own expectations can be misleading.

"We are often swayed by the speed with which news is reported and by the virality with which information is shared across social media. And when change does not follow in an equally speedy manner, we are disappointed in our politicians, our media, our institutions," she said. "We are going through a long process of change right now, and in order to make the most of it, it is essential that we realize that."

After Democracy also covers the social and political consequences of online media and how platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, can play positive roles in civic literacy and government's evolution.

While social media and communication technologies have had a large role in political divisions, conspiracy theories and echo chambers, the effort to unify or elevate discourse can't be done solely by the platforms, according to Papacharissi.

"Technologies network us, but it is the stories that we choose to tell on those platforms that unite us, identify us and potentially divide us. There is no perfect platform," she said. "Leaders in both big tech and governance can lead by example, by setting a tone of civility and civil discourse when using these platforms and when connecting with the public and by showing us how to use these to connect, no matter how different we might be."


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:43 AM | Permalink

March Morning

The 9 a.m. hour on Thursday, March 11, 2021.

9 a.m.: "We Have A Technical" / Gary Numan & Tubeway Army


9:08 a.m.: "My Machines" / Battles (featuring Gary Numan)


9:14 a.m.: "Free" / Sault


9:18 a.m.: "Johnny and Mary" / Bryan Ferry & Todd Terje


9:26 a.m.: "Deadly Valentine" / Charlotte Gainsbourg


9:32 a.m.: "The New Normal" / Madlib


9:34 a.m.: "Baqi Manda" / Farhot


9:38 a.m.: "Walk Away" / Bobby Would


9:41 a.m.: "Holy Rose" / Fruit Bats


9:46 a.m.: "Le Couloir Du Soir" / Maraudeur


9:49 a.m.: "Age Of Consent" / New Order


9:54 a.m.: "We Will Become Sihouettes" / The Postal Service


9:59 a.m.: "Terminal Wigwag (Bananas)" / Cavern of Anti-Matter


See the Playlist archive.


Submit your own!


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:35 AM | Permalink

Like The Diana Story, Meghan's Fight With The Royals Will Ensure Nothing Really Changes

Oprah Winfrey's interview with Meghan and Harry is a perfect case study of how an important political debate about the corrupting role of the monarchy on British life gets shunted aside yet again, not just by the endless Royal soap opera but by supposedly progressive identity politics.

As so often, a focus on identity risks not only blunting our capacity for critical thinking but can be all too readily weaponized: in this case, as the media's main take-away from the Oprah interview illustrates, by providing an implicit defense of class privilege.

meghan.jpgHarpo Productions handout

The racism directed at Markle - sorry, the Duchess of Sussex - and baby Archie is ugly, it goes without saying (but maybe more to the point, must be stated to avoid being accused of ignoring or trivializing racism).

The concern expressed by a senior royal during Markle's pregnancy about Archie's likely darker skin color does indeed reveal how deeply ingrained racism is in the British establishment and how much it trickles down to the rest of British society, not least through the billionaire-owned media.

Princely 'Birthright'

But more significant is how the racism demonstrated towards Markle and Archie has played out in the media coverage of the interview and the resulting "national conversation" on social media - nowadays, the only real barometer we have for judging such conversations.

The problem is that, via Oprah, the Sussexes get to frame the significance of the House of Windsor's racism: both in the threat that, when Charles ascends to the throne, grandson Archie will be deprived of his princely "birthright" because he is of mixed race; and in the fact that Harry and Meghan have been hounded from Palace life into celebrity-style exile in the U.S.

In the process, an important, democratic conversation has yet again been supplanted about why Britain still maintains and reveres these expensive relics of a medieval system of unaccountable rule based on a superior (if no longer divine) bloodline.

Instead, the conversation initiated by Oprah is a much more politically muddled one about whether it is right that a "commoner" woman of color and her mixed-race son are obstructed from fully participating in this medieval system of privilege.

Image Makeover

A real political debate about privilege - one that demands greater equality and an end to racist presumptions about bloodlines - has been obscured and trivialized once again by a row of the kind preferred by the corporate media: whether most of the Royal Family are too racist to realize that a woman of color like Meghan could help them with a 21st-century image makeover.

As a result, we are presented with a false binary choice. Either we cheer on the Royal Family and implicitly condone their racism, or we cheer on Meghan and implicitly support her battle to better veil the feudal ugliness of the British monarchy.

It ought to be possible to want Archie to live a life equal to "white" babies in the UK without also wanting him to live a life of pomp and circumstance, designed to ensure that other babies - white, black and brown - grow up to be denied the privileges he enjoys by virtue of royal birth.

Divisive And Enervating

What the Oprah interview does - is designed to do - is derail the intersection of class and race in politically damaging ways.

A meaningful democratic struggle prioritizes class unity as the battering ram against establishment power that long ago learnt to protect itself by dividing us through our competing identities. Class struggle does not ignore race; it embraces it and all other socially constructed identities used by power to rationalize oppression. Class subsumes them into a collective struggle strengthened by numbers.

Struggle based on identity, by contrast, is inherently divisive and politically enervating, as the Meghan Markle case illuminates. Her challenge to Royal "tradition" alienates those most invested in ideas of monarchy, "Britishness" or white identity. And it does so while offering no more than a sop to those invested in breaking glass ceilings, even of the kind that aren't worth smashing in the first place.

Meghan's fight for the first mixed-race British prince is no more politically progressive than the celebration by the media two years ago of the news that for the first time women were in charge of the military-industrial complex - the one that rains down death and destruction on "Third World" men, women and children.

Value For Money

Strange as it is to recall now - in an age of social media, when anyone can comment on anything, and the "mainstream" media's billionaire gatekeepers have supposedly been sidelined - ordinary Britons discussed abolishing the monarchy far more in the 1970s, when I was a child, than they do nowadays.

Getting rid of the Royal Family - like getting rid of nuclear weapons, another topic no one talks about seriously any more - was mainstream enough then that Royalists were often forced on to the defensive. As the mood soured among a vocal section of the population, the Queen's defenders were forced hurriedly to switch from arguments rooted in deference and tradition to more utilitarian claims that the Royals offered "value for money," supposedly boosting commerce and tourism.

Prince Charles' engagement in 1981 to a beautiful, demure teenage "English rose," Princess Diana, looked to many, even at the time, suspiciously like a move to reinvigorate a tired, increasingly unpopular brand.

The media spectacle of a fairy tale romance and wedding, followed by years of controversy, disillusionment and betrayal, culminating in divorce and finally Diana's death/murder, very effectively distracted the British public for the next 16 years from the question of what purpose a Royal Family served. It became only too clear what role they played: they kept us engrossed in a real-life, better-than-TV drama.

Champions Of Identity

Diana's supposed struggle to grow from adolescence to womanhood in the glare of media intrusion and under the strictures of "The Firm" created the prototype for a new type of apolitical, Mills and Boon-style identity politics.

Following Diana's escapades - from the secular saint who cleared landmines to the raunchy princess who had illicit sex with her riding instructor, an army major no less - was far more thrilling than the campaign to end the monarchy and the regressive landed class it still represents.

Diana's life story helped pave the way to the reinvention of the left through the 1990s - under Tony Blair in the UK and Bill Clinton in the U.S. - as champions of a new social issues-obsessed non-politics.

Both were ushered into power after reassuring the newly triumphant corporate elite that they would harness and divert popular energy away from dangerous struggles for political change towards safe struggles for superficial social change.

In the UK, that was achieved most obviously in Blair's assiduous courtship of media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Importantly, Blair persuaded Murdoch that, as prime minister, he would not only preserve the economic legacy of the Thatcher years but head further down the path of deregulation.

Murdoch - himself no fan of a British monarchy that had always looked down on him as a vulgar Australian - also understood that the inevitable soap opera quality of exceptional individuals battling the UK's rigid hierarchy of privilege, spurred on by Blair's New Labor, would prove great for sales of his newspapers. Just as Oprah knows that the only tangible consequence of the Harry and Meghan interview is that it will rake in many more millions for her own media empire.

Sticking It To The Man

In the new era of identity-saturated non-politics, demands for equality mean removing obstacles so that more women, people of color and the LGBTQ community can participate in institutions that represent power and privilege.

These battles are not about overthrowing those systems of privilege, as earlier identity-based struggles such as the Black Panthers were. Success serves simply to placate identity-focused groups by helping those of most "merit" elbow their way into the preserves of established power.

Those achievements started with the most visible, least significant areas of the economy, such as sports and celebrity, and led over time to greater access to the professions.

The current excitement among some on the left at Meghan's "Sticking It To The Man" appears to derive from the disruptive threat she poses to the House of Windsor - not to its economic, social and political power, but to its status as the last hold-out against Blair's identity-fueled "revolution."

Narrative Twist

Diana's emancipation story helped distract us for nearly two decades from confronting central questions about the nature and role of the British establishment in preserving and veiling power.

Now Meghan Markle is expanding the identity story in a new direction, one that once again embraces the story of a young, "headstrong" woman scorned by the Royal Family for snubbing tradition. But this time there is an alluring contemporary twist to the narrative: the Family's resistance to diversity and its refusal to own its racist past.

Unlike Diana who stood alone and seemingly fragile, Meghan and Harry offer a more relevant, modern picture of a confident, professional young couple standing and fighting together for what is fair - for what should be theirs by right.

This feels important, bold and empowering. But it is the precise opposite. It is more Mills and Boons, but this time with diversity thrown in to generate more appeal on one side and more hostility on the other.

Meghan's story will continue to work its magic: fascinating, infuriating and pacifying us in equal measure as we focus on what is private, unknowable and can be endlessly contested rather than what is universal, visible and impossible to refute.

Meanwhile, the Royal Family, the perpetuation of privilege and the erosion of democracy will march on as before, in the same long and glorious British tradition.

This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:57 AM | Permalink

Misinformation-Spewing Cable Companies Come Under Scrutiny

Looking at political violence in the U.S., a New Jersey state legislator sent a text message to an executive of cable television giant Comcast: "You feed this garbage, lies and all."

The cable channels Fox News and Newsmax were "complicit" in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, the lawmaker, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, said. Like other cable companies, Comcast brings those channels into American homes. What, Moriarty asked, was Comcast going to do about them in the wake of the assault on democracy?

A few days later, Washington Post columnist Max Boot suggested Comcast might soon "need to step in and kick Fox News off" as a consequence of its assistance to Trump's incitement of insurrection.

A similar suggestion by Democratic members of Congress ignited considerable controversy and became a subject of contention at a subsequent hearing on "disinformation and extremism in the media."

CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy observed that Facebook, Twitter and Google have faced significant pressure to curb disinformation on their platforms - especially since Jan. 6. But, Darcy said, "somehow [cable providers] have escaped scrutiny and entirely dodged this conversation," even though they are also "lending their platforms to dishonest companies that profit off of disinformation and conspiracy theories."

As a researcher who studies both television news distribution and how profit motivates the spread of falsehoods, I'm curious about whether it's feasible - or wise - for cable companies to play moderator to the channels they carry.

A Parallel Between TV And Online Services

Since Jan. 6, social media companies have cracked down hard on disinformation campaigns, including cutting off President Donald Trump's Twitter account.

Amazon, Google and Apple also sharply reduced the reach of the Parler social network when that platform refused to remove posts apparently aimed at inciting violence - though Parler has since come back online.

But disinformation is not only happening online. Fox News has increasingly come under fire for on-air staff and guests who hawk right-wing conspiracy theories, including spinning lies that voting machines somehow stole the 2020 presidential election for Joe Biden.

Fox is facing a multibillion-dollar lawsuit about those false claims. The company also recently paid at least $10 million to settle a lawsuit from the family of a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer over falsely alleging the killing was part of a left-wing plot.

What's Next For Fox News?

Amid the threat of continued political violence, Fox News appears poised to further "turn up the outrage dial" on television.

In recent months, the channel has lost viewers to even-farther right alternatives, like Newsmax and One America News Network, and is responding by firing traditional journalists and increasing the amount of partisan commentary it offers.

Comcast, with 20 million subscribers, represents roughly a quarter of the pay-TV market in the U.S., so it might seem Comcast has considerable leverage over Fox News's content.

But Comcast isn't just a content distributor through its cable network. The company also owns a huge swath of American media companies, including Fox News's direct competitors, MSNBC and CNBC. Even if Comcast felt an obligation to lean on Fox, any significant pressure it might seek to apply could easily be met not just with customer complaints, but with legal challenges claiming anti-competitive behavior, particularly if this included threats of kicking Fox off its platform.

Who Regulates Cable-TV Content?

In the past, the American public has entrusted the responsibility of determining what sorts of communications do and don't serve the public interest to public entities, like the Federal Communications Commission, which was originally the Federal Radio Commission.

When radio and television broadcasting began, for instance, they relied exclusively on airwaves owned by the public and regulated by the government. At the height of their powers, from the 1930s through the postwar era, federal regulators tended to side with commercial station owners - as they do today.

But periodically they demonstrated they could do much more than just fine broadcasters for airing obscenities. They did not shy away from stripping broadcast licenses from purveyors of harmful disinformation and inflammatory rumors.

The most famous example is probably sham doctor John R. Brinkley, who advertised on air for questionable cures and sham surgeries, which killed dozens of people in the early 20th century, before he lost his broadcast license.

Moreover, federal court and Supreme Court decisions established that when the commission reviewed TV and radio stations' past editorial content as part of considering whether to renew their broadcast licenses, it wasn't violating their free speech rights. Rather, officials were vetting users of public resources in an effort to protect the public interest.

Cable channels, of course, don't need the public airwaves, and instead are distributed over privately owned networks. The owners of those systems, including Comcast, are the ones who decide which content providers can reach their subscribers. But their goals are not necessarily aligned with the public good so much as profit for shareholders.

Could Anything Change?

Comcast's power in the media landscape has long been controversial. The company owns elements in every step of the media pipeline, from content creation to marketing and distribution to consumers.

Critics contend that sort of consolidation is anti-competitive and deprives the public of the benefits of market competition, from decreasing the diversity of content to higher prices and weaker privacy protections.

Media law scholar Tim Wu - who is joining the Biden administration - has argued that media companies like Comcast should be regulated by a "separations principle" that would bar companies that owned distribution systems from also owning content creators. Such a restriction would almost certainly require Comcast to choose between its media production subsidiaries and its cable network.

Whichever Comcast decided to keep or sell, the cable television system would be a standalone. It would no longer be a producer of content or a competitor with other channels - which might make it less fraught for the company to decide not to do business with content creators of any political stripe who spread inflammatory lies.

Another possibility could be for cable companies to engage in some form of industry self-regulation. They might, for example, establish an independent board to examine problems like Fox's disinformation spreading. The companies would have to agree to abide by the board's decisions to sanction or suspend the distribution of channels trafficking in dangerous or inciting disinformation.

Such an approach borrows from established methods in other media industries. These industries follow a model of appealing to independent boards to make controversial decisions, such as film or video game ratings, while blending in more recent self-regulatory measures by digital platforms.

No version of self-regulation is perfect or above criticism. And it may seem worrisome to let cable companies, either individually or collectively, decide on what speech is acceptable for public consumption. Indeed, there is plenty of concern over whether Twitter or Facebook should be making similar decisions unilaterally.

But it's worth noting that government oversight has been weak for years, with many critics arguing that the FCC doesn't do much to ensure that even traditional broadcasters promote the public interest.

The cable industry may not use the airwaves, but it does use other scarce public resources, negotiating with local and regional governments to lay wires under streets and on telephone poles over sidewalks across the nation.

Some cable companies even belong to or partner with cellular providers to deliver video wirelessly to mobile devices - which is very much like traditional broadcasting in the sense that it uses public airwaves.

It's not a huge stretch, then, to imagine local or even federal regulators treating cable TV more like broadcast channels, and even returning to past practices of requiring stations to serve the public interest.


Joshua Braun is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:34 AM | Permalink

March 5, 2021

How Mark Giangreco Blew Himself Up

Everybody has weeks they'd just as soon never happened.

Take ABC 7 sports newsie Mark Giangreco, for example. He is now eligible to teach the Medill Masters Class on how to assassinate your own TV career.

If Giangreco does not return from his imposed vacation on Elba, that week for him might be the last week of January 2021. He's been off the air for five weeks with no word, or any signal that he's still among the living.

So much for million-dollar contracts.

Two really bad things happened between Jan. 21 and Jan. 28, and Giangreco caused both of them and will pay for both of them.

Raise foot into the air. Aim. Fire.

First, let us get a standard preamble out of the way. Everybody loves Giangreco and has for his 27 years at ABC 7. His official ABC 7 bio says so, so it must be true.

That bio hailing his amazing skill and nobility remains posted on the Channel 7 website - the same channel that apparently has been trying to fire him for five weeks. They have an odd way of showing appreciation.

As for me, I do not know why anyone likes, admires or tolerates anyone on Chicago's television sports, though exceptions elsewhere are the smart young guns on national ESPN talk - Sarah Spain, Bomani Jones, Mina Kimes and Pablo Torre. They are unusual because they possess bright, free-flowing minds on display.

Giangreco has odd hair and a strange misshapen smile that never changes. That's about it.

But Giangreco's tenure at Channel 7 might be kaputski because he momentarily lost consciousness and forgot this is 2021 and not 1952. He's almost 69 with a big mouth and apparently forgot you can't suggest on air that your female news anchor could play a "ditzy" TV character.

He also forgot that Cheryl Burton has agents and lawyers to protect her career, just as he does. She also is beloved. Says so right there in her bio.

The pointless, end-of-news-segment repartee always has been a career accident waiting to happen, and the blathering finally claimed a trophy victim.

Foot. Aim. Fire.

As reported by Robert Feder, the event unfolded this way: "A recording of the 10 p.m. newscast [Jan. 28th] showed Giangreco wrapping up a story about Canadian hockey star Spencer Jenkin painting his house while on roller skates and saying: 'Gotta get him a show on DIY Network. We'll call it House Fix with Sticks, and Cheryl can play the ditzy, combative interior decorator. I got it all worked out.'"

Yep, that will do it. Sounds scripted and almost deliberate. Fire in the hole.

Just a week earlier, Giangreco got into a hair-mussing spat with WGN morning anchor Larry Potash. In that exchange, Giangreco managed not only to insult a competitor, he bitched slapped his own station's management, too.

Foot, Aim. Fire.

As reported on WGN's website, that catfight unfolded this way:

During a Voicemail segment earlier this week, Potash said that ABC7 thinks their viewers 'are stupid because they are constantly telling them to, "bundle up if it's cold outside!"

Well, Waddle and Silvy at ESPN Radio saw the segment, and coincidentally had ABC 7 Sports Anchor Mark Giangreco on their show. So they told him about it. Giangreco responded:

"Really? This is unbelievable. Every weatherman in the universe does the whole bundle up thing. Every reporter. The reporters don't want to do it, the meteorologists don't want to do it. It's the news directors and general managers who make you stand out in the snow and say, 'Yeah, don't forget to bundle up and check on the elderly, hey!' We don't want to do that crap, and they do it too!"

Giangreco says he has no issue with Potash, and that he's very good - but "probably a little full of himself."

Potash's "Back Story" segment was also brought up in the interview and also a "socially distanced anchor fight" was joked about.

Potash had a response of his own after hearing the interview: "I make it a policy not to get in fist fights with 70-year-old men."

BURN! We smell an anchorman rumble brewing.

A reminder. These are TV anchors developing their own verbal jabs and letting the station stir the kettle.

In nearly the same week, a high-priced, but aging sports anchor insults his co-anchor as well as his station's managers. While insulting your bosses can be rescued from the pits of hell, the timing is not good for Giangreco, who has a documented history of big-mouthed antagonisms.

To be fair to Giangreco - and you should not count on me being randomly fair to anyone - there is no evidence he said anything inaccurate.

We cannot testify if Burton is a ditz or not. Media consultants don't normally test for "ditziness" for anchors, only likability. She is poised, attractive and charming. But she might be a lead ingot mentally, as far as we know.

As for calling your boss an idiot, that description also could be true. On the other hand, when you pay a guy several million bucks, you expect he won't call you an idiot in public. It's bad form.

This is mostly a test reaffirming how much trouble telling the truth can cause for media chatterboxes with no sense or decorum.

In Giangreco's case, the cost of a big mouth runs to seven figures. It also could end 27 years of being "beloved."

As comic Ron White says: I had the right to remain silent, but not the ability.


David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. His most recent piece for us was Adam Kinzinger Is No Friend Of Mine. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:52 PM | Permalink

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #346: Breaking Brent Seabrook

A fond farewell to one of the core four. Plus: Breaking Blackhawks; Bulls Losing More Professionally; Illini Still Fighting; Chicago Baseball Beer Pong; Kopech; Sogard, and more!

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #346: Breaking Brent Seabrook



* 346.

* Breaking Brent Seabrook.


10:04: Breaking Blackhawks.


21:38: Bulls Losing More Professionally.

* Cowley: Jealousy, Backstabbing, Egos - Those Are In The Past For The Bulls.

* Jim Fregosi followed Tony La Russa.


33:51: Illini Still Fighting.


48:25: Chicago Baseball Beer Pong.


55:38: Kopech.


59:00: Sogard.




For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:09 PM | Permalink

March 4, 2021

Dark Participation: When Journalists And Readers Engage

News organizations are trying to do a better job connecting with their audiences, in hopes of overcoming the profession's credibility problems and ensuring its long-term survival.

To do this, a growing number of newsrooms have for years embraced what's called "audience engagement," a loosely defined term that typically refers to efforts to increase the communication between journalists and the people they hope to reach.

These efforts take many forms, and vary from online - for example, the use of social media to interact with readers about a story after it's been published - to offline, for example, meetings between journalists and community members to discuss a story currently being produced.

At its best, engagement shows audiences that journalists are real people, with the training and skills necessary to provide accurate information that is trustworthy. It also offers people an opportunity to contribute their ideas about how their communities should be covered, allowing news consumers a larger role in shaping their own stories.

This outcome is especially important for communities of color, who have long been been ignored or misrepresented by newsrooms that have historically comprised mostly white, middle-class editors and reporters.

But not all efforts have produced the intended results.

Obstacles To Audience Engagement

Audience engagement sometimes leaves journalists feeling worse about their readers than they did before.

As I describe in my new book Imagined Audiences: How Journalists Perceive and Pursue the Public, how journalists listen to their audiences, and the size of those audiences in the first place, are two important factors when it comes to journalists' attempts to engage with their audiences.


As part of my research, I interviewed journalists at the Chicago Tribune, many of whom described the newspaper's audience as massive and broad. They spoke about listening to that audience via e-mails and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Those interactions were typically not meaningful, constructive conversations, they said. More often, they were belligerent, angry and even threatening.

"They're not reaching out to these people with story ideas," one journalist said about the readers' comments to reporters. "They're just telling them, 'You suck and you're ugly and you're biased and your hair sucks.'"

This type of audience feedback is increasingly widespread, and is indicative of what journalism studies scholar Thorsten Quandt calls "dark participation," which he defines as "the evil flipside of citizen engagement." It is also typically focused more at female journalists than their male counterparts.

BuzzFeed journalist Anne Helen Petersen described remarks she hears on social media in a report for Columbia Journalism Review: "Rot in hell. You're a cunt. Maybe you wouldn't be so mad if you weren't so ugly."

As one of the Tribune's columnists said when asked about the trolling they often encountered: "When they all come after you at once, it kind of gives you the chills a little bit."

Lack Of Institutional Guidance

As I found in my research, journalists' aggravation in these situations is compounded by the fact that their bosses don't give them much in the way of instructions about how best to deal with them.

One Tribune columnist explained that the newspaper's guidance is informal, often coming after the fact.

"If I get a really crabby e-mail, I'll send a smart-ass response of some sort," that columnist told me. "And I got an e-mail one time (from my editor) saying, 'Please don't pick fights with the readers.'"

The lack of guidance when it comes to audience engagement at large news outlets with huge audiences has begun to cause public disagreements between journalists and their editors.

Last January, for example, the Washington Post suspended reporter Felicia Sonmez for tweeting about the allegations of sexual assault against Kobe Bryant, just hours after he died.

"A real lack of judgment to tweet this," wrote Marty Baron, the newspaper's executive editor at the time, in an e-mail to Sonmez.

However, after Post staff rallied to her defense, writing in a letter that the case "reflects fundamental flaws in The Post's arbitrary and over-broad social media policy," Sonmez was cleared.

The guidance that journalists receive from their managers varies from one newsroom to the next, as does the amount of leeway they receive when it comes to expressing themselves on social media.

As The New York Times' media columnist Ben Smith points out, some news outlets are more encouraging than others when it comes to journalists communicating with their audiences via social media platforms like Twitter.

But, Smith adds, "Caught in the uncomfortable middle are the defining American news brands - The Times, the Washington Post, CNN and NBC - where managers alternate between sending irritated e-mails and biting their tongues, and journalists marvel and complain at the question of who gets away with what on Twitter and who gets in trouble."

What makes matters more confusing, according to Emily Bell, the director for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, is the fact that social media policies for journalists tend to be hard to find, out of date and inadequate. She concludes that "reporters want more rather than less guidance on how to work on social platforms."

This situation raises an important question: How should journalists interact with the public in a way that doesn't leave the journalists upset or at odds with their managers?

Time For Clarity

Not all news outlets struggle with this question. I observed in my research that journalists find engagement less frustrating, and more rewarding, when it takes place with small, niche audiences, rather than a single, mass audience. They also find more value in their engagement efforts when those efforts unfold in face-to-face meetings rather than the more impersonal, online back-and-forths that the Tribune journalists described.

But this type of engagement isn't feasible for larger news outlets with huge audiences spread throughout the country or across the globe. These outlets, which include the Tribune, The New York Times and others that boast huge, sprawling audiences, could instead start taking seriously the "dark participation" - really, the abuse - that their journalists face if they are to continue encouraging those journalists to pursue more engagement with their readers.

The news organizations could also get more explicit when it comes to describing how journalists should engage with their audiences, how they should not and, perhaps most importantly, what the expected outcomes of that engagement are.

What's The Point?

Right now, it is difficult for news organizations and journalism scholars to determine the value of audience engagement - not because engagement itself isn't worth pursuing, but because the term is so loosely defined and inconsistently implemented.

That hasn't stopped smaller, more niche news outlets from increasingly turning to what journalism scholar Andrea Wenzel calls a "community-centered" approach to engaged journalism that emphasizes deliberate, in-person discussions between journalists and citizens. This approach is intended to improve the quality of local journalism by making journalists more aware of and knowledgeable about the people they hope to cover. It's also designed to restore trust in news, by making communities feel more connected with the people tasked with telling their stories.

But the world's biggest brands in news may find this approach incompatible with their pursuit of large, geographically widespread audiences. If those outlets decide to embrace this approach regardless, they will likely need to reevaluate how they think about their audiences. That might lead those outlets to move away from a mass audience approach to journalism to one focused on earning the trust and loyalty of smaller, niche audiences.

As newsrooms continue the difficult work of deciding how best to restore the public's trust in their reporting, they would do well to consider not just the opportunities that audience engagement presents, but its risks and challenges as well.

Jacob L. Nelson is an Assistant Professor of Digital Audience Engagement at Arizona State University. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.


Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:35 AM | Permalink

March 2, 2021

Adam Kinzinger Is No Friend Of Mine

By the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" measurement, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger is the buddy of upright-thinking Illinoisans everywhere. He's a reformed buddy. A recovering nutjob.

He's paid for his ticket to the dinner party of reclaimed right-wingedness. If Joe Walsh's change of political heart can make him seem like a decent human being (we're still keeping watch on that transformation) then the 16th District congressman from Kankakee is theoretically salvageable, too.

He stood up to ex-Prez L'Grand L'Orange on who won the election, the electoral vote counting, subsequent impeachment and thus paid the rhetorical price of national scorn by GOP lickspittles. Perhaps he had no hankering to genuflect before golden idols.

It surely was a torment he could see coming.

So, good for him.

Every organized GOP enclave in Illinois - our state's own Lickspittle Brigade - wants his scalp, except ironically the State GOP, which decided to let him escape the noose because, you know, unity.

Even his family publicly spanked him, and based on their frowning communication, what a dim, cud-chewing cow herd they seem to be. There are some relatives you only wish would publicly disown you, as to save on your Christmas card costs.

But Kinzinger did not emerge from the political cocoon fully formed only four months ago. Who was he before Trump tried his Big Orange Pumpkin Putsch?

Did you like the original Adam Kinzinger?

That's less pleasing. If Kinzinger's only token of friendship is opposing ex-Prez Donald, then he still looks like every other Republican who makes your skin crawl.

In fact, on some issues, he is his own walking, talking natural disaster.

Yes, I know that unity and bipartisanship are the new preferred words of the Kindness Era, but for me? Nah. Don't think so.

Skunks still stink underneath the deodorant.

For 12 years, there is not a piece of human-linked legislation - youthful DACA immigrants, employee safety, financial integrity against loan scammers or protection of the environment from plunderers - that Kinzinger wasn't as Trumpian as Trump was.

Got an oil-drilling rig waiting to puncture the Arctic Wildlife Refuge? Or plans to drill for oil off Florida? Go right ahead.

See any Native American tribal land you'd like to sell off to miners? Want to mine uranium on Navajo sacred land near the Grand Canyon? Kinzinger is your man.

Over the span of his dozen years in Congress, it's almost impossible to find one environmental initiative that Kinzinger approved. You'd think there was at least one loon, beaver or Sasquatch he didn't want to render extinct.

One unequivocal stand on the principle of preserving Mother Earth? That's all you'd need to like him better. But no. He even voted against efficiency standards for light bulbs.

Carbon emissions standards for coal-burning power plants? Nope.

Need more methane emissions? Again, Kinzinger is your man.

He even had a chance to reclaim congressional control over going to World War III with Iran. No, he said. Let's let Trump decide.

Or he could have voted to defund Saudi Arabia's subsidized war with Yemen. Didn't.

A congressman's voting record is not only the binary passage/rejection of final bills; it also includes voting on amendments that either sharpen a bill's teeth or extract its incisors.

Kinzinger's tendency on that issue is hardly camouflaged.

In 2011, for example, the House was voting on an amendment to the Endangered Species Act.

The League of Conservation Voters, a pro-wild critter group that monitors every vote in Congress, assessed the amendment this way:

2011 Scorecard Vote

Endangered Species Act
House Roll Call Vote 652
Issue: Wildlife

House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Representative Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) offered this amendment to H.R. 2584, the FY12 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, to strike a rider in the underlying bill prohibiting the Fish and Wildlife Service from spending any money to list new plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act, designate critical habitat, or upgrade species from threatened to endangered.

This Extinction Rider - a direct assault on the Endangered Species Act, which has prevented the extinction of listed species such as the American alligator and the grizzly bear - would boost the risk of extinction for hundreds of imperiled plants and animals, and it would immediately block life-saving protections for more than 260 'candidate species' that are currently awaiting listing decisions, such as the wolverine, Rio Grande cutthroat trout, and Pacific walrus.

On July 27, the House adopted the Dicks-Fitzpatrick amendment by a vote of 224-202.

The Center for Biological Diversity said allowing the bill to stand unaltered would have wiped out a century of species protection - mostly to benefit commercial interests. Sounds very Republican to me.

Thirty-seven Republicans voted to save the protections. Not Kinzinger.

Kinzinger voted "no" as he did repeatedly on so many other related measures.

The LCV rates Kinzinger rates as 8 percent supportive of the environment, wildlife, natural land management and the money to promote all three.

Eight percent. If you wish to know one fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans, that score is a clear signal. He's not worse than most Republicans who get a single digit score.

But he's no friend of the planet, either.

His irate relatives called him a "deep disappointment" on Trump.

Based on every other issue besides Trump adoration, I can feel their pain.

Adam Kinzinger might be a momentary ally, but he's no friend.


David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. His most recent piece for us was Valpo Picked Wrong Genocides To Honor. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:45 AM | Permalink

March 1, 2021

Worst White Sox Trade Ever?

Was the trade of Fernando Tatis, Jr. in 2016 for pitcher James "Big Game" Shields the worst deal in White Sox history? The short answer is "yes," or at least "probably." However, these puzzlers never are simple. Investigation and hindsight are required.

Upon first glance, the Sox traded a 17-year-old prospect for a pitcher in the twilight of his career. The kid, now 21, just got a historical 14-year contract from the San Diego Padres which will pay him $340 million. The pitcher, Shields, is long gone from the game while the youngster is poised to lead his teammates for more than the next decade as the legitimate challengers to the vaunted Dodgers.

Imagine if general manager Rick Hahn, who has admitted the folly of his ways, hadn't made this deal almost five years ago. Just think if Tatis was playing alongside Tim Anderson today in the Sox infield, joining the mix of other young athletes like Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Garrett Crochet.

Surely in the 120-year history of the South Side franchise no front office made such a grievous error. Nevertheless, the situation back on June 4, 2016 provides perspective about Hahn's thinking, which did have a sliver of rationale.

At that time Tatis Jr., son of Fernando Sr., a very good player for 11 years in the major leagues, hadn't made one dime playing professional baseball. In fact, he never even appeared in a game in the White Sox system before the trade to San Diego.

Sox scouts sang the praises of the young Tatis, but at the time the White Sox perhaps were a pitcher or two away from challenging for a post-season position. They had started the 2016 campaign winning 23 of their first 33 games, good for a six-game lead in the Central Division. While they cooled off, they still were 29-27 on June 4, two games behind front-running Cleveland, the eventual AL champions.

Meanwhile, Shields was in the second year of a four-year $73 million deal with San Diego, the biggest contract in team annals until Padres chairman Peter Seidler, who happens to be the grandson of Walter O'Malley, the villain who moved the Dodgers out of Brooklyn, opened his coffers to snag Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado.

Shields had fallen out of favor in San Diego so much so that part of the deal included handing over $38 million - not an inconsequential amount - to help Hahn pay for Big Game James. At the time Chris Sale and Jose Quintana occupied the top of the rotation for the Sox, and developing 25-year-old lefthander Carlos Rodon, the number three pick in the 2014 draft, provided another acceptable starter. With closer David Robertson covering the ninth inning, you couldn't fault Hahn if he thought the addition of Shields was a reasonable option to improve his ballclub.

The Sox threw in pitcher Erik Johnson, who as it turned out would need Tommy John surgery before the season ended. Johnson had pitched well in six starts in 2015, but had been demoted to Triple-A after two disastrous outings at the start of the '16 season, the last time he pitched in the major leagues. Apparently he was damaged goods.

With time to mature and develop, Tatis has been everything White Sox scouts predicted. In the past two seasons and 143 games, he has slashed .301/.374/.956 to go along with 39 homers and 98 RBIs. Not to mention that the kid is an exciting shortstop who plays the game with unlimited enthusiasm and moxie. Oh, to be 21, multitalented, with a future lying in wait to see just how high this kid can fly.

Meanwhile, Big Game James was a Big Time Flop in parts of three seasons for the White Sox. His final start in San Diego lasted less than three innings and 20 batters, 10 of whom scored. Shields' ERA that afternoon ballooned from 3.06 to 4.28 and hastened his departure.

Nevertheless, Shields, 34 at the time, had been a workhorse throughout his career. For nine consecutive seasons before coming to the South Side, Shields had posted double digits in victories and an average of 221 innings pitched per season. He was the epitome of an innings-eater, although there was no guarantee of the quality of those innings.

Once ensconced on the South Side for the next four months, Shields struggled mightily, just as he did in his swansong appearance in San Diego. Instead of solidifying the starting rotation, he more or less blew it up. In 22 starts, Shields went 4-12 with an appalling 6.77 ERA. The next two seasons weren't much better, as James dropped 23 of 35 decisions with a 4.78 ERA. Whether the trade measures up to Brock-for-Broglio remains to be seen, but Tatis-for-Shields is part of the same neighborhood.

In his time with the White Sox, we fans were reminded how good Shields was in the clubhouse, how he mentored younger pitchers. That was code for, "The guy can't pitch."

After the acquisition of Shields, things quickly fell apart for the Sox along with the throwback Sox uniforms that Sale dismembered about six weeks after Shields' arrival. Before the season reached a merciful ending, the club slipped below .500, manager Robin Ventura resigned, and soon thereafter a wholesale rebuild began.

One might argue that Shields' futility hastened the decision to rebuild, which clearly has turned out to be a wonderful development. Had Shields pitched effectively for the Sox, even propelling them to an October berth, the overhaul of the roster may never have happened. Sale and Adam Eaton might have been retained along with Quintana in 2017. Some or all of the team's bright young players may never have worn a Sox uniform. The Shields-Tatis exchange opened the door to a new era. Considering that scenario, the trade was a savior, a stroke of good fortune. Thank you very much, James.

So returning to the original question, we would need to look at other White Sox deals before labeling the dealing of Tatis, Jr. as the lowest of the low.

After the pennant-winning season of 1959, owner Bill Veeck dealt most of his prized young prospects for veterans whom he felt would provide enough pop to repeat as American League champions.

Hence trades were made to bring Minnie Minoso back home after two years in Cleveland along with Roy Sievers, one of the American League's elite power hitters, who had been toiling for the cellar-dwelling Washington Senators. Gene Freese was brought in from the Phillies to play third base via a trade for 20-year-old Johnny Callison, who went on to make three National League All-Star teams during his 16-year career. Meanwhile, Freese, who was allergic to ground balls, played one year for the Sox before being dealt to Cincinnati. Veeck also dealt catchers Earl Battey and John "Honey" Romano, both of whom became very capable backstops for Washington-Minnesota and Cleveland, respectively. The Sox never had a really talented catcher again until Carlton Fisk arrived in 1981.

First baseman Norm Cash, 25, also went to Cleveland and eventually played 15 years in Detroit, amassing 377 home runs and winning the batting title in 1961 with a .361 average. The Sox lineup, in fact, was more imposing in 1960, but the pitchers performed far less effectively, and, let's face it, the Yankees simply had a bad year in '59. They were by far the best team of the era. The departure of all those prospects arguably could have been the nadir of White Sox bartering.

Upon Veeck's second go-round in the '70s, he had two hard-throwing young pitchers in Terry Forster and Rich "Goose" Gossage. Veeck packaged both in a swap for outfielder Richie Zisk prior to the 1977 season, the summer of the South Side Hitmen with Zisk's 30 home runs and 101 RBIs leading the way. This was Bill's rent-a-player scheme, and Zisk predictably departed Chicago after one season, signing a big contract with Texas. Veeck simply didn't have the funds to retain the slugger, who, by the way, never matched his '77 season during six more major league seasons.

As for Gossage and Forster, Goose is in the Hall of Fame while Forster was a top relief pitcher for 16 seasons.

Was the trade of Gossage and Forster a mindless, foolish decision? Well, the Sox won 90 games in 1977; the team drew 1.6 million; Nancy Faust began her "Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye" serenades; Oscar Gamble thrilled us with the long ball and his Afro; beer flowed in oceans; and everyone had a grand time.

While Hahn might flagellate himself over the decision to trade the young Tatis, he apparently has given himself and his organization a second chance. There is another Tatis in the pipeline, Elijah, 19, a middle infielder whom the Sox signed in 2019 for a $400,000 international bonus. Chances are the younger brother is no Fernando. Chances are better that this time Hahn will wait to find out.


Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:16 AM | Permalink

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