By John Ruberry
Last week, Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, to mark the second anniversary of her inauguration, said that on that day she would only grant one-on-one interviews to black or brown journalists to protest the “overwhelmingly white” City Hall press corps.
She was immediately attacked by journalists of all colors for this boneheaded move. And rather than backing down Lightfoot doubled down on her stupidity. A frog sitting in a polluted pond has more common sense she does.
Lightfoot wants more diversity among the members of the media who cover her. But the kind of diversity I have in mind is much different than what she envisions–but it is sorely needed. We need journalists who are regular people.
That’s a bold proposal, I know. But there are too many out-of-touch elitists telling us how they think the world is.
A leftist Democrat, Lightfoot is a special kind of awful for her to face such hostility from the local media, which, with the notable exception of John Kass of the Chicago Tribune, is overwhelmingly liberal. In the past two years Chicago’s murder rate has soared, it has been hit with two rounds of widespread looting and rioting, which that media has deemed instead “civil unrest,” and she hasn’t confronted Chicago’s millstone, the billions of unfunded public-worker pension obligations created largely by the indifference of longtime mayor Richard M. Daley. Her predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, at least made baby-step efforts to tackle the pension problem.
Of course Lightfoot will blame the COVID-19 pandemic for most of these problems. Her overbearing and pedantic press conferences on COVID probably lead most people to tune her out, which is a sound idea. And as I noted last year at Da Tech Guy, Lightfoot ordered the closing of Montrose Beach on a toasty August morning because the day before a large group of people gathered there despite her lockdown orders.
Wow! That will show ’em who is boss! The beach is closed! Go to your and stay there without your dinner! Grrr!! Grrr!
Later that night and into the following morning that second round of looting and rioting, which Chicago police officers, probably following orders from above, mostly just contained, not confronted.
Let’s get back to that diversity crisis.
On this weekend’s Flannery Fired Up on Fox Chicago the host, Mike Flannery, a fair journalist by the way and a white fella like me, twice asked a panel gathered on Zoom consisting of a black journalism professor, an Hispanic alderman, and an African-American state legislator if a lack of newsroom diversity has prevented the acurrate reporting of a story.
Here’s how Flannery phrased his query the second time, “Give me an example of a story that was poorly covered because white journalists were covering it instead black or Hispanic journalists.”
The trio responded only with vagueness–although the professor did mention crime in a general sense. But none of them could cite a specific example of bias, or even poor coverage, to answer Flannery’s question.
The host said there needs to be more minorities in newsrooms. I agree. But let’s make the local media even more diverse. How about some conservative voices? Or perhaps some individuals who can bring what diversity advocates call “real life experience” into the conversation?
Let’s talk about those riots. I have a client, an Indian-American man, whose parents own a convenience store on the city’s West Side. He still helps out there once in a while. Twice last summer during the riots the store was emptied of all but debris. What about them? Oh, sure, the helicopter media will do an interview here and there with a merchant after rioting, oops, “civil unrest,” but reporters primarily focus mainly on the issues they see a more important, such as why the riots started in the first place. Yes, root causes shouldn’t be overlooked.
People are creatures of habit in many ways of course, including shopping. When my client’s family store re-opened, not all of their customers returned. Their pattern was disrupted. Restaurants in that area are facing the same problem. Grand re-openings cause a big splash–but will the journalism school alums who as adults have only worked jobs in the field have the instinct to follow up six months or a year later to see if normalcy really returned? The Tribune’s Kass, whose father was a grocer, knows better.
Let’s talk about the real life experiences within my family. After many years as a limousine driver Mrs. Marathon Pundit was laid off when the COVID lockdown began. How many journalists have a spouse who drives a limo? Too many journalists are married to other journalists–they’re an inbred lot. Real life experience anyone? We quickly ascertained the chances of a call back to her old job were bleak. So Mrs. Marathon Pundit decided to work as an Uber driver again. But this time there was a problem. There was an outstanding $200 parking ticket from 2005 that hadn’t been paid on a car that I usually drove that was registered to both of us. Now to become an Uber operator in Chicago a driver, among other things, must have a clean driving record and no outstanding parking tickets.
The two prior times Mrs. Marathon Pundit was approved as an Uber driver that parking violation, which let me remind you was 16-years old, didn’t come up. Why is that? Also, in Chicago, there is–wait for it–no statute of limitations on parking tickets, which places that attack on society on the same level as murder and arson.
Among the issues that Lori Lightfoot successfully ran on was a promise that she would do away with “draconian ‘anti-scofflaw’ laws” that prevent people from driving a cab or working as a rideshare driver, or even being employed by the city.
Of course if I was a City Hall reporter I’d ask Lightfoot, without bringing up my ancient parking ticket of course, “What about your vow in regards to what you called the ‘draconian anti-scofflaw laws’ on parking tickets as well as banning the used of the ‘boot” for parking violators?”
Followed up with, “Why is there no statute of limititions on parking fines in Chicago?”
We paid that $200 ticket, even though I don’t recall parking my car where the City said I did all those years ago. A keypunch error–someone could have transposed a licence place digit–could be why we were cited. In Chicago, like many other places, the law is upside down in regards to parking violations. It’s up to the accused to prove themselves innocent.
Chicago–and every place–needs journalists who hammer public figures on issues such as parking tickets. And omnipresent red light cameras. Do you know that minorities in Chicago are hit harder by parking and traffic fines? Who says? Lori Lightfoot said so two years ago. “We can longer ignore the documented existence of racial disparities in Chicago’s fines, fees and collection practices,” then-candidate Lightfoot told voters. Instead, Lightfoot has doubled down on the fines. Since March Chicago drivers captured by traffic cameras going as little as six-miles-per hour over the posted speed limit face fines.
Of course such issues aren’t as meaty as the Holy Grail that all journalists strive for, breaking the next Watergate Scandal. But I can assure you that most Chicagoans care a heck of a lot more about being burdened by oppessive traffic and parking fines–as opposed to Lightfoot’s opinion that the City Hall’s media corps isn’t diverse enough for her.
Do I really have to go into detail about how most Chicagoans are abhored by rioting and looting?
Diversity isn’t a color. It’s a mindset.
John Ruberry, who has been working in sales for years, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.