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WGN-TV Rediscovers Backyard Chickens Again

First let's go to the Beachwood vault, Item 3, May 19, 2014:

"Oops, WGN re-broadcast a show from 2005. Or at least that's what it seemed like when they aired "Chickens in the City: Urban coops growing in popularity" last Thursday.

"Gawker has been making fun of the trend since 2007, which means the "trend" is at least seven years old, and the truth is it was barely even a trend then.

"In 2009, Jack Shafer named urban chicken-raising as one of his bogus trends of the week in Slate.

"Shafer even named the WGN's sister Tribune as a chief culprit in conveying nonexistent nonsense:

For more all-feather, no-bone journalism, see the May 10 Chicago Tribune Magazine, where "Chicken Chic: The Backyard Bird Is Back in Style" claims that chicken keeping is a "craze," is "[w]ay in," and is "a fresh fad." The piece insists that "[m]any an ordinary citizen of many an ordinary neighborhood owns an actual chicken," but never assigns a number to the "many."

This is the paper's second example of crying chicken in recent months. The Dec. 15, 2008, Trib discovers "[s]igns of the burgeoning urban chick movement" in the mere publication of Backyard Poultry magazine, the existence of the urbanchickens.net blog, and the fact that a local workshop on raising your own birds sold out in 48 hours.

"Shafer shows how the evidence of this trend has been fuzzy ever since it was first reported - in 1986.

"Apparently WGN's Ana Belaval and her bosses never checked the clips. If it had, it would have found at least that the trend in reporting this non-trend is to declare the trend over."

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Now let's go to WGN-TV just a couple weeks ago:

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And, by the way, every dumb pun imaginable is apparently still in play by (highly compensated) TV reporters who must think they are being clever and original. For example, did you know that "urban chickens now rule the roost?" Quite the coop!

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Other problems last month's report:

WESTERN SPRINGS, Ill. - Back in the day, the only way you saw roosters or chickens was a field trip to a farm or watching Foghorn Leghorn on Saturday mornings. Now, the local food movement has changed that in a big way.

Urban chickens now rule the roost.

Annie Tandy's family in Western Springs was one of the first in their community to get a backyard coop.

"I know it's not a normal suburban thing to do to have chickens, but it sure has been fun!" Tandy said.

-> So urban chickens now rule the roost but this story is about suburban chickens.

-> Obligatory semi-obscure Foghorn Leghorn reference.

-> "According to the USDA, there has been a 300% increase in backyard chickens as more families look for ways to connect with nature and their food source."

Since when? And from what to what?'

Oh, here it is, from Hinsdale Living's version of the Annie Tandy story from last year:

"The USDA's most recent study analyzing urban chicken ownership focused on Los Angeles in 2010 and was broadened to include New York, Denver, and Miami in 2012. At that time, just under 1 percent of households had chickens, but another 4 percent said they planned to get chickens within the next five years - a time-marker we just passed. That 300 percent increase in backyard chicks has certainly happened, fueled by American families' widespread adoption of more holistic lifestyles - a big part of why the Tandy family got started with hens."

First, isn't an increase from 1 percent to 5 percent a 400% increase?

Second, the 300 percent increase is assumed - in four states, none of which are Illinois.

Third, the presumed increase is from 1 percent of households to 5 percent, an example of how small numbers can make percentages seem much more significant than they really are. For example, if I raise the price of this post from 1 cent to 5 cents, I've raised prices 400 - or is it 300 - percent! But just to 5 cents.

-> Missing: the cost.

-> Also, by connecting it to the local food movement, WGN means they eat the eggs, not the chickens. Just to be clear. They shop for everything else at the regular ol' suburban grocery store, just like usual, as far as we know.

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Meanwhile, Patch did the Western Springs chickens story eight years ago - predating Tandy!

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Please, WGN-TV and everyone else, no more. If you're out of ideas, I can help. And you won't have to go anywhere near Western Springs.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on May 9, 2019


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