#215: Parachuting Lessons

September 11th, 2013

The newspaper man finds an old lady to share the gossip when he parachutes into a low-income neighborhood after a killing.

The TV man drives around the block a few times first to get the scene-setting details.

The radio lady turned every specific question into a true but unanswerable generality about racial justice.

And the website man — who I know for a fact does send reporters to tell the human stories behind the killings, whose site did create the put-a-face-to-the-victims app the newspaper man ripped off, whose site does assign people to the non-crime news from Englewood, Auburn Gresham, Uptown, Little Village, Humboldt Park and all the other neighborhoods the rest deemed uncoverable but for parachute-in killing opps — well, he barely yipped out a word as the rest ran roughshod over him.

And one by one they all praised a man whose latest reporting coup was to get Rahm Emanuel to talk about his favorite bands.

The radio lady got mad at the newspaper man for glorifying Chief Keef. The website man seemed to fume that the newspaper man wasn’t giving credit for the idea of putting faces to victims’ names where it was due.

The TV man tried to broker peace by saying “The Tribune is worse.”

For the students who came to watch, the academics who came to learn, for the people who came because the flier promised local media reps would talk about how this city came to be synonymous with crime and death and decay, we learned the answer. The problem was and always had been, each journalist declared, someone else.

It was a simpering catfight, a sniping match between people too weaselly and dim to actually get cruel.

They sniped at the newspaper man’s body count coverage, but didn’t question how coverage would have been different if that company hadn’t laid off its entire photo staff. They nodded in unison at the TV man’s gripes against the “mainstream media,” but didn’t ask why he used his clout and outrage to move to a different assignment rather than do crime news better. They didn’t ask if she was calling for censorship when the radio lady casually mentioned covering crime might be deterring businesses.

There was no talk of long-term investigations. There was no talk of This American Life, of the Chicago Reporter, of “There Are No Children Here.” There was no talk of crime stories that take longer to cover than the drive down to Englewood.

They just told students how to parachute into a low-income neighborhood to cover a killing slightly more effectively.

After the event, the handshakes would go around, business cards would be passed, the W-9s collected so each reporter could get his or her speaker fee. Students would take notes and chat with the professionals, professors and academics would say “Good job, good job.”

The softball-lobbing MC would get nods and smiles for the job well done.

Comment on this story

More media outrage

What's this?

You are currently reading #215: Parachuting Lessons by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

  • Get Stories by Email

  • Chicago Corruption Walking Tour

    Join the email list for tour dates and info.