Who will check on the checkers?

George Polk, of Polk Award fame, lied, says WW2 historian Richard Frank.  What’s more, Frank can’t get his story published.  Not good, folks:

Frank's article casts light not only in the dark corners of George Polk's career, but also in the dark corners of journalism today.


Tribune Moves Closer To a Corporate Rewrite - WSJ.com

The cavalry has not arrived:
"if this auction ends as many expect, Tribune will have to self-inflict the kinds of harsh changes that normally come from an outside buyer. That will mean even steeper cost cutting and asset sales." [uh-oh]
"Tribune's fate is all in the Chicago family. Sam Zell, a Windy City real-estate mogul, and the Chandlers are still circling Tribune, though any chance of either party making a successful offer is unlikely." [not new]
"one possibility is that the McCormick Tribune Foundation -- Tribune's second-largest shareholder behind the Chandler family -- would help buy out part of the Chandlers' stake in the company." [ditto]
On the other hand, "It is hard to see how buying up more newspaper stock is good for the McCormick Tribune Foundation. If most shareholders are trying to get out of the newspaper business, why wouldn't the McCormick Tribune Foundation want the same?" [uh-oh]
Thus Sarah Ellison at Wall St. Jnl.


Soft lede murders story, reader interest, read all about it

Rozek and Warmbir give us a marvelous lede in early-on story played big in today’s Sun-Times, invoking a well-known name:

Karolin Khooshabeh worked hard to bring her stepsister's family from Iran to Chicago, filling out paperwork and giving them money so they could start a new life.

Hey, anything has to do with the Khooshabeh family, I want to know about.  This is a murder story, however, in West Rogers Park, and a hammer murder at that.  And those two, or their insipid editors, dangle the Khooshabehs before us, here from Iran, which is better known for mullahs and nuclear weapons programs, but what the hey?  When your short-staffed, you go for daylight wherever it appears.

So West Rogers is only second-‘graf stuff, and in any case we have here a leisurely approach to a hammer murder in a white Chicago neighborhood, where it’s not a cheap story.  Pardon the italics, but sometimes I can’t help it.

Third ‘graf has the nub, all we need to know: “three beaten to death in a bizarre triple homicide,” which is a head, actually, right under the dreadful thumb-sucking editors’ eyes.

Otherwise, S-T this morning is full of extreme-nothing stuff.  Mark Brown gives us an easy-going warmed-over Chicago campaign story about an aldermanic challenger — “Alderman's challenger stumped by the case of the missing mail,” which should read “yet another alderman’s challenger,” etc.

“Curious,” with “an active imagination,” Brown can’t help wondering, etc. about 10,000 pieces lost at the post office.  I’m curious too, and Brown has steady work for people who like his approach, but there are mornings when I would like to be punched a little with a strong notion of absurdity.  I mean I’d like the copy punched up, not myself.  I am punchy enough already.

Not until we go to columns and reviews does S-T manifest even a smidgeon of inspiration on this Sunday.  Ann Coulter is slam-banged in a review of one of her books and two others who slam her [no link to be found] — finally she gets banner treatment, after all these years of also-mention “ick” boxed items about her latest.  George Will has something good about Guiliani as telling us something new about the Republican base.  Opinion journalism not disguised as news story, that’s where it’s at these days.


Slight distinction

“Bush, unlike Clinton [who recovered nicely when Dems lost control of Congress in ‘94], is in the middle of a bloody civil war, which can be ended only by the Iraqis themselves,” says David Broder, who thinks Bush shows signs of also recovering nicely.

But the war can be ended only by Iraqis?  Yes and no.  U.S. strategy says they need help in ending it, in addition to wanting to do so.

Don't even think about, he said

"There is going to be one question I'm not going to ask,” the Scooter Libby judge told the court, looking over questions submitted by jurors. “I've concluded that that question is not appropriate and therefore you should not speculate as to what the response would have been."

What was he talking about? A moment later, Walton told the jurors: "What Mrs. Wilson's status was at the CIA, whether it was covert or not covert, is not something that you're going to hear any evidence presented to you on in this trial."

In other words, Byron York explains in Wash Post, keep blinkers on, because all that matters is whether Libby lied.  So what if the whole business began with her being covert?  Prosecutor Fitzgerald says Libby lied to protect his job, which he would have lost if discovered to leak classified info.  But he won’t put that to the jury, only “that there was an investigation into whether the law was violated."

Clever rascal.  It almost makes you sympathetic for Chi pols who do time after Fitzgerald prosecuted them.  Almost.


Watch yourself

So what do noosepapers expect of hard-charging columnists when they go to the women’s section?  If she’s a mother, they’d like something about breastfeeding in public, Debra Pickett found out at Sun-Times — as by Phil Rosenthal of Chi Trib, who ran this a day after Michael Miner blogged it at Chi Reader.

Once a weekly Page 2 columnist . . . and cast as one of [S-T’s] rising stars, Pickett had her column moved back into the Lifestyles section while she was on maternity leave. When an editor this week passed along [publisher] Cooke's suggestion that she ought to write about breastfeeding in public, it was a stark reminder of what being in the Lifestyles section might entail, and she quit.

"I didn't quit in protest over a single assignment," said Pickett, the 34-year-old whose column was for a few years was called "Age 29." "That seems to be the story going around, and it's very `Norma Rae.' ... But the question was what were expectations of me going to be when I got back, and that was a pretty good illustration."

Get personal, he said. 

None of your business, she replied.


Later: Automatic response from her Sun-Times address is “Debra is on maternity leave and will return to work in January.”  Asked Phil Rosenthal, whose item is quoted above, about it.  He: “She quit.  It's possible she doesn't have access to her Sun-Times e-mail account anymore.”

Yet more: As said above, Chi Reader’s Michael Miner blogged the story in detail.  Among comments is this good one from “Insideout”:

The breastfeeding story idea gets at everything that is going haywire these days at the Sun-Times. Where did all the news go? The front of the paper is filled with wire and the news of the absurd. The editor and publisher are too busy hobnobbing with the powerbrokers (Daley, Blagojevich, Natarus and Burke) to care about writing critically about them. Instead, let's try the Tribune for mismanaging the Cubs. Or put a Sam Zell puff piece out front. An "independent newspaper"? Hah! Not long ago, the paper used to be one of the 10 papers that "did it right." Where has that paper gone?
And another good one from “Hobbes”:
The serendipitous beneficiary to this fascinating story is the kid. He now gets a full-time mom, who's there whenever he needs her---not when she decides to bestow "quality time."

Sweet spot no, Telander's amen

Lynn Sweet in “S.C. round goes to Clinton” dissects the process of hiring a “consultant” in S. Carolina, giving us inside-baseball stuff that newsies hash out over drinks.  But the story is that the consultant, a state senator and pastor of a 10,000–member megachurch, endorsed Hillary after she hired him at $10,000 a month.  This is the story in South Carolina, and it should be the story in Chicago.

[Later: It was the story in NYC too.  What gives with Sweet, to ignore the main thing for the sake of some back and forth about pols’ negotiating?]

Same paper, Rick Telander excommunicates former all-star NBA player Tim Hardaway from his Church of the Open Mind — honored in his Sunday column in which he objects strenuously to Christianity in the locker room.  “The world has not stopped” since the former NFL commissioner embraced his lesbian daughter and contributed to the death of “knee-jerk prejudice” vs. gays, he writes today in “Sport has heard the voice of hate.”  As for being naked in the locker room with a homosexual man, Telander has the answer: “He can wear a towel.”  Do knees jerk always in the same direction?


Greetings from the Hallmark candidate

What I like about O’Bama is, he’s so clean.  Me and Biden, another Democrat.  Where do the Democrats get these guys?  It was Gore, then Kerry, fringe characters both, now who?  Read Ann Coulter for the real scoop.  She discusses “Jonathan Livingston Obama” in her latest column, on the mark as usual, but unfairly picking fruit that hangs low on the campaign tree. 

His speeches are a run-on string of embarrassing, sophomoric Hallmark bromides.

In announcing his candidacy last week, Obama confirmed that he believes in "the basic decency of the American people." And let the chips fall where they may!

Obama forthrightly decried "a smallness of our politics" – deftly slipping a sword into the sides of the smallness-in-politics advocates. (To his credit, he somehow avoided saying, "My fellow Americans, size does matter.")

No fair.  We should leave the guy alone.  Basic decency, smaller is better: it’s what the people want to hear in Iowa.  It’s what Mayordaley II wants to hear, assuming it means prosecutor Fitzgerald is put to pasture.  Whatever.

One must add this from The Coulter:

Obama has locked up the Hollywood money. Even Miss America has endorsed Obama. (John "Two Americas" Edwards is still hoping for the other Miss America to endorse him.)

She’s listening:

I can't wait for Obama's inaugural address when he reveals that he loves long walks in the rain, sunsets, and fresh-baked cookies shaped like puppies.

As for where Dems (libs) get these guys, Coulter is worried:

Maybe they're just running out of greeting card inscriptions.

That would be a shame.


Presidential politics

Folks, we may have a winner here.  Check it out.


Egad, a reporter who reports!

Anne Keegan ain’t into thumbsucking in public.  She thinks the reader wants to know the news, not her great thoughts on the matter.  So in her writing, as in her book On the Street Doing Life, she

doesn't once let the first person slip into her text. In her view, journalism is a "feeble attempt to find the truth," and the truth is "what happened, and that's all."

She continues, "I made no judgments on anyone. None. Zero. Nor did I say, 'I stood there, and gee whiz, I'm so scared.' And 'Gee whiz, I felt so sorry for that lady, and I cried when she said, "I don't want to be arrested."' I'm not a Gen Xer boring everybody with what I think. I wasn't part of the show."

This lady is this blog’s idea of professional.  Even as a columnist, for Chi Trib in the 80s, she never wrote about herself, even when her editors said she “didn't write enough silly stuff about [her] kids' diapers. Or about [her] twins. Or [her] psychiatrist. Or how [she] found a coyote in [her] yard.”

Didn’t work for her genius editors, who put her on women’s news in ‘97, precipitating her departure.  She went home and wrote about Cronin, the legendary cop who left a foot back in Viet Nam and got on the force because Mayordaley I spoke up for him. 

The book, self-published, is based on her joining Cronin in his midnight rides in Drug Land, as in the now-gone Rockwell Gardens on Western Avenue, where she found herself once alone in a dark hallway with three big guys.  She ordered them against the wall, bluffing until he returned.  This time she had to tell about herself — or did she?  Michael Miner in The Chicago Reader quotes her husband. 

Is it in the book?  One way to find out: buy it here for $13.50.

Later: Newspaper reader, of course, is what’s meant.  For thoughtful, reflective stuff there are usually better places to go.


We like it, it's our kind of news

Romenesko leads with this item today in his Poynteronline column: Network TV commentator Charles (“Charlie”) Gibson said mainstream news outlets are “even more important” in the “Internet age.”  This is news that Gibson would say this?  How so?

Chicago Tribune news : Local news, weather, ETC.

See Trib, see Trib web page.  Top story is “Must-see machines” by auto writer Jim Mateja:

Have time for only the Cliffs Notes version of the Chicago Auto Show? Here's a look at the Top 10 -- plus one.

In adjoining column, under an axident update, is the day’s degenerate celebrity, dead on arrival at Fla. hospital:

Anna Nicole's mother blames drugs
Why her death had us talking
Photos | Video
• Watcher:
Anna Nicole's baby
• Pop Machine:
A tragic turn
• Tell us:
Anna Nicole guest book

This is the Marshall Field & Co. system: Give the people what they want — hardly original in either context, retail store or newspapering. 

No problem: the web is where you go for the latest and the grabber.  You are on the go and want to be in the know.  Does the super-web-news source Drudge give you thumb-suckers for mulling over coffee?  Not on your screaming head or arresting graphic of Mars light flashing and turning.

Ah, but today’s Chi Trib hard-copy — what far more people read — has a HEALTH story for its main head: “Should age determine who gets a kidney transplant?”  This is its typography.  All caps?  Forget it.  Subhead: “Controversial proposal would put younger patients higher on waiting list.”  Gasp.

You can discover this at the site because Chi Trib has hard copy there for the day plus previous six days.  (Sun-Times does not, more’s the pity.) 

Below the fold is “Flexing their brainpower: Academic Decathlon stars bring honor to a struggling high school,” under big pic of black kids hugging each other in joy of academic competition.  Can’t say enough for this story, in a time of black athletes dominating most sports.  With all respect to these kids, it’s truly a man-bites-dog story. 

Where it goes on the web site — 10th place, just below TV’s Russert grilled in Libby trial — is another question.  Same for the kidney transplant item — just above the Russert-Libby story.

When I spoke the other day about my newspaper reading addiction, a writer-reader confessed to the same, but on-line, not hard copy.  It’s easier to find what you want online, to be sure, reading on the go, say on your notebook-laptop on the Green Line heading to work.  (Oh? How many do that?)  So NYTimes publisher may leave hard copy behind, he says. 

"I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either," said [”Punch”] Sulzberger at Davos’ World Economic Forum.

"The Internet is a wonderful place to be, and we're leading there."

Meanwhile, today’s Chi Trib grabber for the real-life Green Line rider or muller-over-coffee is who gets the kidney, young sprout or old coot.  That’s the question for the day.  Or is the question how many will bother to read and/or mull?


Hillary knows best

“The other day the oil companies recorded the highest profits in the history of the world. I want to take those profits. And I want to put them into a strategic energy fund that will begin to fund alternative smart energy, alternatives and technologies that will begin to actually move us toward the direction of independence,”

she told the DNC the other day, per Hillary Clinton: 'Hugo Chavez in a pantsuit'.  Italics added.

Did she wag her finger?

When pacifists write newspapers

Chi Trib, page one today, heart-tugging if not -breaking story of Marine who can’t get out of corps to donate a kidney to his desperately ailing father:

"He gave me life," Drish said of his father.

As God’s instrument, some would say.  Never mind.  This is a war story after a pacifist’s heart.

Turning to page one of Metro section, you find another, Wheaton soldier killed in blast 26-year-old died hours after talking with his family.  It’s the horrors of war, never talk of gains against the enemy or heroism for love of country, as you find in work of embedded bloggers, even a cartoonist, today’s Mauldin.

A reader notes [to Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds] that while big-media journalists are thin on the ground in Iraq, the blogosphere has sent so many people that it's worked its way around to cartoonists . . . .

Elsewhere, we have Bill Ardolino, whose “citizen journalism” is on display here, in his “In Iraq Journal” story, “Insh'allah: A Nighttime Raid with the Iraqi Army.”  This is awesome stuff, as any Young Person would say, complete with pix of jubilant Iraqi soldiers after successful mission.  Why don’t we get stuff this good, on the spot, vivid, concrete, from our MainStreamers? 

(One reason is their anti-warrior mindset.  They dread glorifying combat, as they would put it, are deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions and performance, and THEY are calling the shots as to what we read and watch.) 

Later: Sun-Times, more alert than Trib to blogosphere, has story about ex-GI who has a book out based on his blogging soldiers’ comments from and about Iraq.


Smart guy

Today’s by Rick Telander in S-T is quite good.  It’s about how Peyton Manning outsmarted the Bears, thinking all the way, changing plays as he called them, based on how Bears defenders were lined up.  He analyzed what happened on that 2nd-quarter (ck) pass that I could have caught and scored on, so wildly had Bears pass defense lost its way:

'They were in two different defenses on that,'' he said. ''No question. They were in cover-2, and one safety was in man.''


''No question.''

Excellent interview and overall column.  Question persists: are Bears smart?  Is Bears management imaginative enough to move them all the way?  Smart enough to get to 2nd-best, which is smarter than all but one.  But can you imagine Rex G. running things the way Manning did?  He’s not that smart, for starters.

Maggie Bowman, producer

Look here for lineup of films set for the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival March 9 - 17 in Austin, Texas,  They include “Election Day,” directed by Katy Chevigny,

verite examination, following a dozen voters (including an ex-felon, a poll worker, and more) over the course of November 2, 2004 - from dawn until long past midnight. (World Premiere)

of which Maggie Bowman is producer.


An Obama moment

Obama, riding an astonishing wave of glowing publicity for a candidate 21 months from an election, already has a bubble around him that is tighter than the one that surrounded Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who spent long hours of the fledgling days of his candidacy in bull sessions with reporters.

Oh boy.  This is Mike Allen’s perspective in The Politico, where he tells of catching up with Obama, who is running for president, for gosh sakes, after a hotel reception from which reporters were barred:

I introduced myself and said, "Good evening, Senator, may I walk with you?" He replied, "You can walk with me. That doesn’t mean you can ask questions." I chuckled, thinking he was kidding. "But you can certainly walk with me," he added. The Senator then underscored, "I’m sorry. I’m not answering questions."

Even an innocuous “[W]hat [do] you want to accomplish this weekend"? got the brush-off.  No “press avail” this time, said O.  Allen concluded:

[A]s Hillary tries to pierce her bubble, however tentatively, Obama appears to be building one.

The Politico is an apparently hot new online publication whose political editor is former Sun-Timesman Roger Simon.  Allen’s experience and commentary are worth keeping in mind in this Obama instance.

He has found the enemy, and it isn't us

Michael Yon from Iraq:

When I arrived in Mosul a few weeks ago, they were getting about 1 car bomb per week.  Now it’s up to about 1 per day. The fighting is intensifying here, and that’s the bad news. There is some good news, however: Iraqi Security Forces, though taking losses, are thoroughly punishing the enemy here.  Just a few days ago, the enemy launched a large and well-planned attack on a police station.  In late 2004 or 2005, such an attack would have been devastating – and was.  But this time, when the enemy demanded the Iraq Police surrender, the police responded with gunfire. Lots of it. After several hours of fighting, the enemy fled in front of their blood trails.

Yon will be writing more about this.  For now he suggests a new dispatch  “The Hands of God.”  with audio file of a conversation between American soldiers and Iraqi villagers after a homicide bomber attack.  For context he recommends Gates of Fire and Battle for Mosul IV.

Confession, first step

My name is Jim and I am a compulsive reader of the daily newspaper. 

I read my ChiTrib.  I find on page one that the not-guilty finding in trial of Bridgeview Hamas supporters is “setback for Bush administration.” (subhead).  I find that a report’s forecast for Iraq is “grim,” according to “sources” who read a “classified intelligence document [that] points to further strife.”  (That’s a Wash Post story, by the way.)  And I find a big Chi Bears story (fancy that), with color pic, and on left a neither gloomy nor anti-Bush story (fancy that) about Chief Justice Roberts pushing for a “more private and less divisive” Supreme Court.  (Does the writer mean “divided”?)

I read my Sun-Times, mostly view it, that is: Great color pic on page one, “We are not terrorists” in big type, “Victory declared for former Chicago grocer as jury rejects major charges in Hamas terror trial” beneath it, a fifth its size at most.  (Page 3 AP story here, but pix are S-T’s)  What, no setback for Bush admin?  Pic is of men praying outside courthouse after grocer was acquitted of racketeering charges.  Mostly viewing it, because this is a TABLOID, brothers and sisters, and I am addicted also to tabloids.  Will anyone help me?

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