By: Mark Glennon*
A recent Sun-Times article quoted the standing instruction a former editor had for his reporters: “Don’t (bleep) with the news.” (I’m taking the liberty of interpreting that bleep into what I presume, to his credit, he really said.)
What a terrific rule for reporters to follow, the point being not to trivialize or distort news. So elegantly simple.
Too bad so many reporters don’t obey it, including some at the Sun-Times.
This week the Sun-Times had a story, Five Things to know About the Neighborhood Recovery Program (Governor Quinn’s troubled anti-violence program from 2010). One of the five items is “The Rauner Connection,” dragging him into it, which is based only on the receipt of NRI money by a church in 2010 whose leader now supports Rauner.
Now, that’s fucking with the news. Rauner had no connection whatsoever to NRI or that church’s use of the funds in 2010. Zero. Nothing. Nada. Worse, the Sun-Times earlier devoted a full article to that non-story. If we want to condemn candidates based on past, possible misconduct of some of their supporters, let’s just shoot every candidate in Illinois now. Probably every candidate for everything on the Southside is now supported by one or the other of many churches and groups that got NRI money, and that means nothing.
That original Don’t bleep with the News article goes on to blame the candidates for trivializing campaigns — and cites a few examples where Rauner and Quinn have indeed done that. “Ask any reporter in Chicago about dealing with the Bruce Rauner or the Pat Quinn campaigns these days and you’ll get a bold-faced, slow-motion, disgusted eye roll,” the article says.
Please, media, check the mirror. You know full well that candidates avoid giving you details because they fear you’ll just fuck with that news, either on your own or by making a serious story out of an opponent’s response that fucks with it.
It’s on Rauner’s fiscal plans where demands for details seem to be most common.
In truth, Rauner will be stuck with a hostile legislature that will deep six any detailed plans within minutes, and the media should be saying that. The real plan from him should perhaps be as simple as this: “I’ll negotiate with a reckless legislature to get the best deal I can for taxpayers.” The media would savage him if he were that blunt, though they know that’s the only real plan a fiscal conservative can have in Springfield.
Similar defense for Quinn. Mike Madigan couldn’t care less what Quinn thinks, most of his own party thinks he’s a buffoon, and he broke major promises he made during the last election, so who cares if he gives us a detailed fiscal plan? (Actually, he did give us a lengthy five year plan earlier this month, that indeed went almost unnoticed.)
Chris Robling gave his perspective as a Republican strategist in yesterday’s Reboot on why more details from Rauner would just make for “fucking with the news,” though he was more polite than that:
The only people who want a plan from Bruce Rauner are the folks who will never support him. Nothing he issues will satisfy them, they will nit-pick everything to death and demand “more.” They will be “troubled” because his plan will “raise questions,” and they will demand he “clarify…” In other words, plan issuance is a banana peel that leads to a descending defensive spiral.
Sorry to be picking on the Sun-Times so much. They have some great reporters and even the bad ones write good stories occasionally. It’s just that, recently, they are providing the best fodder. But there’s no shortage of material from other sources for our Media Watch section.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints