Monday, August 31, 2009

The Foie Gras of Chicago journalism?

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I LOVE The Chicago Reader. It's one of my favorite newspapers, not just because it is one of the last remnants of an era when journalists actually used to write about their own industry -- the only real media columnist left in Chicago is Michael Miner of Hot Type -- but because it was one of the few papers that would unwrap the fear of the raging Mayor Richard M. Daley, a political tyrant behind a crocodile filled zoo of tears.

Last week, it went through another change, purchased by an investment company and the word is the investors, whose reps on the Reader's board are former journalists themselves, are planning to force-feed the alternative newspaper, fatten it up, kind of like the Foie Gras controversy Chicago is known for starting.

There are very few journalism watchdog columnists and writers in Chicago. None come close to Mike Miner, who, for disclosure's sake, has written about my exploits many times. (I take it that I was a good story more than once, although my avocation is to focus on "goood stoooowwwwies" as my mentor the late Harry Golden Jr. would cackle in his New York accent when he had a great City Hall Press Room Scoop.) There are not many great journalists left in Chicago. The media industry is dying, as evidenced by the massive reductions taking place in circulation and in size, the latest being the Daily Southtown, which gobbled up the Star Newspapers and trimmed down from an impressive broadsheet to a tabloid.

The Chicago Sun-Times is the only paper that has made a Tabloid look good. The Tribune's tabloid doesn't look good. It may be the only thing, though, keeping the Chicago Sun-Times alive. I bet many advertisers go to the news stands and see the Tribune and think it's the Sun-Times and say wow, a great newspaper. Actually, the Sun-Times, my alma mater, is a great newspaper.

So we watch with sadness but lots of hope that the changes at the rebellious Chicago Reader will help it survive the rocky waters of a fast disappearing Fourth Estate. The mainstream media -- which I think has been extremely biased and unethical when it comes to the coverage of some topics like the American Arab community and the Middle East, is being overshadowed by the growing Citizen Journalists who, in many cases, are just as biased. But when averaging the bias among Citizen Journalists and the mainstream media, it's much easier to take in our new era of dying mainstream journalism.

People like me don't have to wait for the mainstream news media (which I was once a proud and also not so proud member) to cover the news properly. We can write about whatever we want and showcases stories the mainstream news media ignores because of racism, bigotry and bias.

The Chicago Readers is one newspaper that stands out from the crowd and tells it like it is.

I wonder what it can do when they start shoving that food down it's throat to fatten it up.

"It's a cook book! It's a cook book!" (From the Twilight Zone's fabulous episode "To Serve Man")

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