Covering the war

 Journalists of many sorts fly through here for short times, and there are a handful of semi-permanent reporters from a few majors such as CNN and Time. Some of these are good and serious folks, but I think they are hobbled by working for agencies and are not free to roam and follow their instincts. Being completely independent allows freedom to roam the battle field from North to South, from Iran to Syria, and to describe without filters what I see.

This from Michael Yon, whose free-lancing in Iraq at least one newsman considered “ballsy” when I told him about him.  The same newsman gave a wholly credible hair-raising account of dangers there, including being kidnapped by a Baghdad gang for selling to an imam who will get money for him from his people or have him executed on TV.  They are all ballsy, for that matter: this is not calling in a tollway accident or press conference revelation, for which we thank reporters.  It’s putting yourself on the line every day.

Meanwhile, “Michael Yon : Online Magazine” has good stuff.  The latest, dated Friday, is an Ernie Pyle-like account of non-citizen GI’s, “Welcome Aboard,” out of Mosul, with this:

I was privileged to witness the award ceremony for 12 new American citizens in Deuce Four [24th something] recently. I hope America makes them feel welcome. If the folks at home could see what these people are doing in Iraq, they would make these special troops feel as honored guests. But now, better yet, they are honored citizens, giving life to the concept of active citizenship.

One of them, Victor Quinonez, has earned a “great combat reputation.”

 "Mike,” he told Yon, “when the shit goes down and the bullets are flying, you stick with me and I'll get you out. Never fear when the Q is here! You've seen me in action. You know I'll get you out. I'm a Mexican, not a Mexican't!"

“Not a Mexican’t.”  That’s good.


A White Sox item: New third-basemen Geoff Blum, just acquired from Padres, is a switch-hitter but attended U. Cal-Berkeley and hits only to left field.  It’s all they let him do at college.  Sorry.


Good deed punished

“Scrutiny on the bounty” is Chi Trib e-version headline (not bad!) for story about firing by (private) employer of Cook County Republican chairman because he offered $10G reward for information leading to indictment of one RM Daley, mayor of our fair city, for violating court order vs. political hiring.

Gary Skoien's offer Tuesday infuriated Daley and, most importantly, Skoien's boss, a Democrat and outspoken supporter of the mayor. Skoien was terminated Thursday as an officer of Prime Group Inc., a Chicago-based real estate firm where he has worked since 1990.

“It was sophomoric at best,” said Wash.-based staffer for Rep. Dennis Hastert, our muy (tres, very much) politico House speaker, as firm a supporter of what Chi Trib’s Kass calls the Illinois Repub-Dem ruling combine as you will find.  Look out, U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald, scourge of politicos-at-the-trough, we do not think Dennis H. has your or our best interests at heart when it comes to shaking up the scene.

As for sophomoric, what about RM Daley’s dragging wife and children into the picture in response to the $10G bounty?  Hey, it’s how he learned to get the other guy on the Nativity of Our Lord playground.  Why quit now?

See also Kass in Chi Trib today with pointed, even piquant references to:

 mid-level Daleyites the day after the leak became news, strutting around City Hall on Thursday with their chests puffed out, like bull pigeons in front of a popcorn shop.

and various acute observations, such as:

"Our guys" [11th Ward denizens] means a tribe. It all comes down to tribes in tribal Chicago. Like the tribe that must show it is fighting back to keep its warriors in line, the tribe that takes what it wants, the tribe that runs things now.

 the leak accomplished one thing. It let a few pigeons puff and strut, at least for a day.


Tangled the threads that bind

Here’s something to crank you up:  Judge Maura Slattery Boyle, who set a bailable amount — $900,000 — for rich-daddy-blessed accused bike-lock murderer Muaz Haffar, who did not show up today in court and may have fled the country, maybe to Turkey, where he has contacts, is brother of Patrick Slattery, indicted City Hall insider in the matter of clout-sodden hiring practices.  She had John Daley’s help in getting elected.  Slatterys are good old Bridgeport family, friends of the Daleys.  Are there any other ways they can produce mischief in the city?

Give Goggin a break

"I did not realize the document was under seal," defense lawyer Michael Goggin said, excusing himself — with apologies, of course — for leaking names of cooperating witnesses to City Hall. 

Well of course.  The guy is new at this and has been earning his keep processing home purchases, whence comes his very expensive suits as shown in color in noosepapers, out of which suits he is fairly bursting with ruddy good health and beaucoups de avoir du pois



“Irate liberals succeeded in getting one prestige paper, the Chicago Tribune, to drop Mallard Fillmore,” reports Harry Stein in City Journal — in “Laughing at the Left,” about conservative comic strips.  Not so in Portland, however, where “liberal complaints moved the Oregonian to run a reader poll deciding the strip’s future [and] respondents voted 4,720 to 3,547 to keep it.”

Go Portland!  And go newspaper that asks people what they want!  Meanwhile, in Beantown, the Globe’s ombudsperson suggested the less acerbic Prickly City replace Mallard, which is what Chi Trib did, only to douse the strip in which Prickly “derided Senator Ted Kennedy’s moral high-handedness at Condoleezza Rice’s confirmation hearings by making a none-too-subtle Chappaquiddick reference,” which was too much for the Michigan Avenue Puritans.

It’s not easy being a guardian of public propriety.


The way it used to be

Retired newsie Bob has this about copy editors:

Your rhetorical question as to whether the Trib has copy editors who walk over to the writer and ask if you had such-and-such in mind put a smile on my face remembering a Sun-Times copy writer who would walk over and start every consultation with the words, "Did you write this piece of shit?"

It always put me in a good mood because he asked every writer that question and you knew it was just unbiased copy desk irreverence for all writers.

But perhaps we live in different times and such a question would wind up before the EEOC.

I would say so.  You have to watch what you say these days.

Historically accurate for most part & Margaret!

It should be noted that Sun-Times is no better than Chi Trib when it comes to giving email addresses with bylines.  As in today’s stories here and here about Chicago Historical Society getting a new president, a lawyer — in neither story, by the way, is the new man so designated until the end, leaving some of us to wonder if the new “leader” is president or chairman.  Trib gives William Mullen address, wmullen@tribune.com — at end of story, vs. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel standard, putting it right under byline, thus to encourage reader response.  No address is given for S-T’s Andrew Hermann.

Both call Jones Day a Chicago law firm, but it’s a Cleveland firm — “The Cleveland megafirm,” Startribune.com called it just yesterday — with a Chicago office since 1987, which is a case of getting something on the fly, I’d say, and not checking it — copy desk anywhere?

Both stories, on the other hand, were of keen interest to this reader, who caught the immediate past president, Lonnie Bunch, in an Oak Park appearance in 2002 and was impressed with his ambivalence about living in Oak Park, apparently for reasons of race, even though he had picked it over Wilmette rather than put his child in an all-white school.  We don’t have all-white schools in Oak Park.  Bunch by his own admission had been well received in Oak Park and was a featured speaker in a centennial program.  He spoke off the cuff and got caught in that ambivalence by a question after his talk from a fellow black.

In any case, Bunch announced in March that he was returning to Washington and the Smithsonian to head up a new Afro-Am museum, this after presiding over severe blows to the midsection of the Chicago society, which during his tenure came up with big deficit, low attendance, and heavy staff cuts.  His parting shot, one might say, was an exhibit all about lynching and other white-on-black atrocities of the last several centuries. 

Might there be a connection here with declining attendance?  Give me the parent eager to take his kiddies to see gruesome pictures of lynchings, and I give you one in a distinct numerical minority.  Bunch is praised in absentia by the society’s chairman as a tough act to follow, for his “ability to reach out” to blacks and hispanics; but that seems to have been a case of treating them monolithically and assuming they aren’t like us white folks.  Blacks and hispanics may not be all so eager to put their kids through the blood-and-thunder aggrieved-minority process as some think.

The new man, Gary T. Johnson, will be handing over day-to-day duties to CHS veteran Russell Lewis, which seems wise.  Johnson has to go out there and raise money.


On another front, see Margaret Ramirez’ page one Chi Trib virtual takeout on Mormons.  Having roundly criticized her recently, I must say this is a good one, done not on deadline but with time to spare and lots of room — it’s a whopping 2,220 words!  The peg is newly arriving blacks and hispanics among Mormon membership.  That is handled with nice combination of stats and quotes, while a neat summary of Mormonism is also provided.  I love you, Margaret!  All is forgiven!


Blogging for Business, in Wall Street Jnl

Have to get this in before curfew tolls the knell of parting day.  In Wall St. Journal July 20:

"It is a tool that you make work for whatever you want it to....It's like a Swiss knife," says Adriana Cronin-Lukas, co-founder of the Big Blog Company, a London-based firm that builds blogs for companies and trains workers to use them.

Why have your employees blogging away?

Those political-junkie bloggers out there have turned to their keyboards for one reason: They're passionate about a particular subject, and they want to talk about it with someone. Seeking an outlet in the blogosphere means they aren't constrained by geography or schedules, and their discourse is available to anyone who wants to join in. That same kind of wide-ranging discussion can take place between a business and current or potential clients. "There's a lot of pent-up goodwill on the part of customers," Ms. Cronin-Lukas says. "They're talking about the company anyway. So it's a matter of joining the conversation."

. . . In the long run, conversing directly with customers could help your credibility with them.

The writer, Kyle Wingfield, quotes the head of global product development for General Motors,

"The blog is a great opportunity to tell the public directly about the cars and trucks we have on the market and the ones we're bringing to market soon . . .  We've also used the blog to address specific media articles that we considered unfair, unbalanced or uninformed."

The credibility part sticks.  Consider Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which gives email addresses right under all J-S staff bylines!  Not in hit-or-miss fashion, as with Chi Trib, and then at end of story.  The J-S approach tells readers, Write us.


"Fire," he said in the crowded theater

“THE LEFT LIED AND LONDONERS DIED” is recommended as a good motto by blogger Jeff Goldstein, a writer and teacher in Colorado, in view of how Left spokesmen fed Muslim rage with their publicizing of false reports about Guatanamo abuses.  He names

Teddy, Carl, Dick, Howard, et al—along with their mouthpieces in the mainstream press who, until recently, have been too busy questioning every Bush administration motive to investigate Gitmo on their own, relying instead on misleading press releases from Amnesty International

Dick is Illinois’ own Durbin.  As for “mouthpieces in the mainstream press,” Chi Trib’s Eric Zorn comes to mind with his blog-diatribe vs. Durbin, run here a few days ago, for apologizing!

Goldstein brings it up in view of the 7/7 bomber’s specifically mentioning Gitmo abuses as a complaint that led him to be a bomber, arguing for violent retaliation while visiting relatives in Pakistan.  This blog item, at “Protein Wisdom,” he heads “Why Rhetoric Matters,” his argument for which was in my case bringing coals to Newcastle.




----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2005 5:24 PM
Subject: [Chicago Newspapers] 7/20/2005 05:22:22 PM

In response to your attack on me [June 17, "Seminary selectivity"], Cardinal George delivered those remarks during a press conference on the first day of the bishop's meeting. He was on a panel with two other bishops' responding to questions from reporters around the country. The comments were also reported by NPR religion reporter Jason De Rose. I beg to differ with your opinion that this does not justify a lead paragraph, since it was a turnaround from statements he has made in the past on homosexuals in the seminary.

As to your characterization of my analysis being like a cartoon, i can only say that I was given 800 words to write on this complex issue AND the day's events at the bishop's meeting. This is a daily newspapers, not The New Yorker.  If you are indeed a former reporter, you should understand the nature of this business and fitting complex issues into small space. If you are not a former reporter, you have not right to criticize.
Posted by Margaret Ramirez to Chicago Newspapers at 7/20/2005 05:22:22 PM

She has a point: I came on too hard and apologize.  Must remember there's a human being behind that story I do not like.  It's good she responded because (a) the critic deserves a sharp reponse now and then and (b) I am moved further to correct errors I have seen:

* She says George spoke in a press conference.  It would have been good to tell us that; it was therefore a public statement, not given in interview, or something said in floor debate during the meeting. 

* The no-gays statement, run also by NPR, she says deserved to be her lead and the story's headline.  But George spoke of being "part of a gay subculture," not of being homosexual.  There's a difference.  If Ramirez doesn't think so, she should know that George does.  It's all part of the church's hate-sin-love-sinner approach, not to mention the fair presumption that tendencies do not always lead to activity.  If George mentions the gay-culture habituee in one breath with one "who has lived promiscuously as a heterosexual," moreover, we may be doubly convinced.

This is what was wrong with Ramirez's lead and the copy editor's headline.  Neither seems to have caught George's meaning.  Furthermore, does she think George had earlier said gay-subculture participants should be admitted?  I hope not.  His statement in any case represented no change.  It's too bad Ramirez and her editors, such as they are, thought it did.

I likened her analysis to a cartoon, citing her use of unsupported generalities, one after another.  She responds citing deadline pressures, which are as real as the day is long, to be sure.  It takes practice to do it right, something you'd think she had enough of to be writing for a 600,000-plus-circulation newspaper with national-coverage intentions.  But (again) does she have editors working her copy over?  Is there a city desk at Chi Trib, copy deskers who walk over to her desk or into her cubicle and ask what she has in mind by such and such?  One wonders.

As for my being a former reporter, yes, Margaret, there was a Bowman byline, with subtitle Daily News Religion Writer, or Editor if the story was big enough and they wanted to doll me up a bit more than usual.  And there were bishops' press conferences and deadlines and calling stories in or faxing them with a suitcase-size new-fangled machine into which you fitted a hotel-room telephone which magically reproduced copy in a wire room sometimes hundreds of miles away!  Amazing!



It's not what you say but what you leave out

See Dennis Byrne on lies and more lies by way of LEAVING THINGS OUT when talking about stem cell research, as if there are not two kinds: embryo and adult.  Today’s Chi Trib.


Boy's response to a man's world's problem

This is the best one of our wise men can come up with on a moment’s notice.  It tells us a lot about vacuity and the shallow mind of a newspaper columnist:

Eric Zorn's Notebook

July 07, 2005

After nearly every tragedy or disaster, it’s human nature for those of us not directly involved to tick off the reasons why we weren’t hit, why we couldn’t have been hit.

I don’t work in an internationally significant skyscraper. I don’t vacation in Thailand. I don’t often fly transcontinentally. I don’t live on a coast routinely smashed by hurrircanes or in a small town in the tornado belt. I don't serve in the armed forces. I would never find myself in that kind of neighborhood or be out at that hour.

And, today, I don’t live in London.

It’s mostly nonsense to calm the soul, but it preserves the important illusion that we can be safe, and that horrible things only happen to other people.

The essence of terror, though, is that it shatters that illusion and mocks the notion that any of us can guarantee our safety if we just install enough checkpoints, confiscate enough nail clippers from enough little old ladies and build enough barriers around us.

That essence is what we forget when we think of “terror” as an organized, opposing army that our military can fight and perhaps defeat, and when we put “terror” only in the context of spectacular acts of mass murder such as those of 9/11/2001.

“Terror” is a near-paralyzing fear of the random, the sudden, the unpredictable. It’s the absence of sanctuary. It’s the corrosive, destructive sense that no place is safe and none of the old rules of engagement apply.

With every car bombing and suicide slaughter in Iraq in recent months and with today’s deadly series of rush-hour explosions in London, the same thought hits me: There’s no good reason we haven’t seen such small-scale attacks here –- bombs hidden in vans, suitcases, sewers, tunnels, mall trash receptacles -– and no reason to assume we won’t.

One reason you don’t read this thought very often is that there’s no ringing follow-up to it; no “…and yet we will meet this challenge with…” to calm the heart. And so most of us superstitiously avoid mentioning it in hopes that somehow the vicious, disaffected zealots in America will always be different from those overseas.

My son was on the subway this morning at the very moment I heard the news from London. I knew he was safe --- in fact he called when he emerged from the below-ground station in the Loop to get directions to the bus stop -- and I didn’t feel terror.

But I did feel again the nagging tug of terror’s point man: Dread.

Posted by ezorn at July 7, 2005 09:49 AM