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Daley's Cop Canard

At a ceremony for police officers graduating from the academy on Tuesday, Richard M. Daley once again issued his familiar canard that the media only reports negative stories about the police department.

This is not only demonstrably false, it's an out-and-out lie.

We went back in the archives of our very own Cate Plys's fine work and pulled this column she once wrote for the Sun-Times to show just how long the mayor has been spouting this pernicious crap. Someone has to call him on it, and if it's us, so be it.


Bad News Isn't No News
Chicago Sun-Times
June 9, 2000
By Cate Plys

This is an amazing Chicago story of courage and tenacity. It's also a mystery. As you read, see if you can spot the bad guys:

Last January, a mother and four children were trapped behind a locked security door in a burning building. The desperate father begged Police Officer Lyzette David to save his family.

Despite the intense heat, David and officers Ricardo Colon, Rick Nigro and Erick VonKondrat managed to bend the door's bottom half enough to let the family crawl underneath. At Wednesday's City Council meeting, Mayor Daley and the Council honored the four officers, along with firefighters who saved two victims of another fire.

Did you spot the bad guys? It's the press, of course. A little Council history will enlighten you.

For the last couple of years, the Council has started meetings by honoring heroic firefighters and police officers. The ritual goes like this: A resolution recounting heroic actions is read aloud. Ald. Edward Burke makes the first speech praising the officers. Aldermen who can claim one of the officers as a ward resident may see their chance to jump up and talk, too. Daley finishes by praising the officers and the entire Fire and/or Police Department.

Then, for the finale, Daley attacks the press - for not covering good stories, and reporting anything else negative. His press attack on Wednesday was typical. "It's our responsibility to tell the people what's truly taking place within the Fire Department and Police Department," he huffed. "If one individual did something wrong out of the ones we honor, just one, there'd be headlines maybe for four or five days, editorials, writings, everything about one individual's conduct. But we never read an editorial, we never see a headline about the heroic deeds of men and women of the Chicago Fire Department and Police Department."

There are three problems with Daley's attacks. First, it would be wonderful if newspaper space constraints allowed more feel-good stories, but those stories do exist. In May, for instance, the Sun-Times wrote about Fire Department paramedics Heather Linehan and Joan Marquardt, who revived Chicago Police Officer Mike Nolan after he collapsed of a heart attack.

Second, the press isn't a supernatural presence suffusing the entire city, instantly aware of every good and heroic deed. Reporters can't be at every crime or fire scene. When they're not, they find out about heroic actions only if someone tells them. The Police Department has no record of informing the media about the January rescue attempt from behind the security door, and the Fire Department couldn't determine whether the press was told about the other rescue honored on Wednesday.

The third problem with Daley's attack is that negative stories are good, too. The media attention to recent police shootings of LaTanya Haggerty and other civilians helped spur the current reforms in police training procedures. And what spurred the Fire Department to add 12 basic life support ambulances, rather than the six they were planning? All the bad press when Haggerty died after a 12-minute wait for an ambulance, and gunshot victim James Michael Baker died in March after waiting 20 minutes.

At Wednesday's meeting, Daley pointed accusingly at the nearly empty press box. "I always point this out - if [the police or firefighters] did something wrong, that gallery would be loaded with press," he barked.

The press box was empty because the entire press corps was waiting outside the Council chamber door, as instructed by the mayor's press office, for a quick press conference with Daley. He was about to leave for the funeral of police Sgt. Alane N. Stoffregen, who died last week during diving exercises with the Police Marine Unit.

The press covered that, too.


Posted on December 20, 2007

MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - Locked Out And Loaded.

BOOKS - Foxconned.


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