Question: If a tree falls in a Cook County forest, does anyone hear it?
Answer: Only if the Chicago media says it does.
The proof of this maxim took shape a few weeks ago in the courtrooms of 26th and California.
There were two criminal cases pending at the same time involving allegations against Chicago Police Officers. One involved the Laquan McDonald shooting and the other involved a retired detective accused of coercing statements from accused killers.
Which one should Chicago journalists cover? The answer is easy enough. Both. It would be irresponsible, scandalous even, if a Chicago reporter failed to cover any case in which a Chicago Police Officer is accused.
And so one could find “reporters” like Meagan Crepeau from the Tribune and Chip Mitchell from WBEZ Radio shuttling between both courtrooms, and later dutifully “reporting” on them. Certainly many of their brethren reporters were with them in spirit.
Twenty-Sixth and California is a long way from Tribune Tower. Also, it’s a long walk from the parking lot to the courts themselves. But these are mere inconveniences when it comes to covering allegations of police misconduct.
It’s ironic to watch these journalists shuttle back and forth from two courtrooms with such energy while they and their brethren avoid the compelling cases in federal courtrooms much closer and more convenient to their Streeterville newsrooms.
But these cases don’t allege police misconduct. On the contrary, they allege corruption against those who have made allegations of police corruption. The evidence unfolding in these federal cases paints a chilling picture going on for three decades, including evidence of bribed testimony, false affidavits, and obstruction of justice.
That is why you will often not find a single reporter in the gallery of these trials, whereas in the courtrooms at 26th and California, the galleries were filled with hungry media members shuttling back and forth between courtrooms.
The disparity reveals a great truth about the Chicago media. These reporters work from a predetermined narrative, then pick and choose what events or documents they want to preserve to promote this narrative.
The media ludicrously believes it can say whether the falling tree makes a sound. Not only that, but reporters are self-righteous about their right to do so, and react strongly against those who question them.
So it was at a bizarre panel discussion held at DePaul University on Oct. 23 entitled “News, Who’s Your Source.” The discussion was hosted by conservative media executive Dan Proft and featured three panelists, one of whom was Tribune Editorial Board Member Kristen McQueary.
Much of the discussion was a rehashing of the tired clichés that comprise so many discussions about the media by the media itself, the usual self-congratulations and the typical analysis between print and electronic.
But Proft asked important questions about media bias and integrity, including whether the media reports stories according to a predetermined narrative.
Heavens no, McQueary responded, in one form another. Not at all, she contended, somehow oblivious to the evidence that her newspaper has gotten so many stories of police misconduct completely wrong, that it may have played a seminal role in releasing bona fide killers on false narratives and clearly oblivious to the disparity between media coverage at 26th and California and that at the federal courthouse.
When confronted, here is what McQueary had to say:
McQueary’s comments are laughable, including her claim that she doesn’t know about these cases. How can she not?
The truth is that the Tribune has been constructing a predetermined narrative for three decades, a narrative built on the backs of police officers, for whom McQueary’s statements are a bitter falsehood.
The truth is that a falling tree does make a sound in Cook County, whether the media says so or not.