Troubles at Tribune Self-Inflicted?
Union drive underway at the Trib?
Amidst an announcement of another round of layoffs at the Chicago Tribune, part of the media company Tronc, news of a possible union-organizing drive among reporters and editors was announced.
From Robert Feder’s blog about Chicago media:
Thursday’s layoffs and the uncertainty surrounding them may help fortify an effort to unionize Tribune editorial employees. Last week a group of staffers met with representatives of the Chicago News Guild, longtime bargaining agent for the Sun-Times and numerous suburban papers. The meeting was described as preliminary to a full-scale organizing effort.
Earlier this year employees at the Los Angeles Times voted overwhelmingly to be represented by the News Guild–Communications Workers of America. Tronc subsequently announced the sale of the L.A. Times for $500 million.
So after employees at the L.A. Times began organizing, Tronc sold the paper. That can’t be a good sign for those attempting to organize at the Tribune.
An organizing drive among the reporters and editors there has a biting irony to it, since these reporters and editors have been on a clear journalism mission to undermine the collective bargaining agreement for police officers in the city of Chicago.
Consider a February 7, 2017, editorial at the Tribune titled “Rewriting Chicago’s Police Contract” in which editors asked, “Has City Hall been handcuffed by its police unions?”
The editorial spelled out the themes that the paper has been relentlessly pushing about police corruption and discipline:
Those collective bargaining agreements make it harder for citizens to file complaints or to learn how those complaints are resolved. They make it easier for cops to lie and harder for their bosses to discipline them. That was never their intent. They’re supposed to be about assuring officers due process or protecting them from arbitrary decisions by supervisors.
But there’s no public purpose in requiring the city to disregard or destroy disciplinary records. There’s no reason an officer involved in a shooting should have 24 hours to coordinate stories with others at the scene before giving a statement — or be allowed to amend the statement after watching the incident on video.
This vision of the police department and its ability to discipline officers stands in stark contrast to how police officers and their union see the matter in the wake of a proposed new civilian oversight entity.
From an FOP press release, President Graham says:
The truth is that it would be almost impossible to impose more scrutiny, more accountability, on the police department than already exists.
The FBI investigates police misconduct. So do the state police. Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx has demonstrated a near mania in her willingness to bolster allegations of police misconduct with little or no evidence. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability has officers under virtual siege. Internal Affairs also investigates police misconduct. Suing police officers is a cottage industry. City attorneys routinely settle cases alleging police misconduct that should go to trial. There are cameras and microphones in squad cars, as well as GPS. Officers now wear body cameras. The public routinely records police interactions with the public.
Exactly what more do these oversight groups seek or need?
On top of all this is an exceedingly biased media that has been caught time and again ignoring central facts in alleged police misconduct cases, particularly wrongful conviction claims, only to then refuse to acknowledge their errors when confronted with the truth.
How ironic that just a year after the Tribune published an article attacking the FOP, its own reporters are now trying to organize for basic rights.
Is organizing a union the solution to the Tribune’s woes?
Probably not. But what is a more compelling cause of the paper’s troubles is the growing evidence of just how out of touch the Tribune has become in the last few decades. Their relentless claims of police misconduct, echoed in the 2017 editorial, are under siege from a growing body of evidence that even the paper can’t deny. The evidence reveals a paper all too willing to maintain a predetermined narrative about crime, the police, and the FOP.
From the exoneration of Nicole Harris for the murder of her own child, to the exoneration of Stanley Wrice for the vicious rape and severe burning of a woman, to the exoneration of Anthony Porter and the possible wrongful conviction of Alstory Simon, to the exoneration of Madison Hobley for an arson that killed seven people, the evidence mounts that the Tribune may have gotten these stories completely wrong and will not undertake their obligation to get them right.
Indeed, one of the cases, the Stanley Wrice exoneration, threatens to throw a wrench into the police mythology narrative upon which the Tribune has built much of its modern reputation.
Wrice’s case is called a “Burge” case because the detectives who investigated it worked with former commander Jon Burge. The case is now in the federal courts, and attorneys for these detectives are arguing that the claims of Wrice’s innocence are false. How troubling for the Tribune to have a Burge case completely implode. Small wonder the paper refuses to cover key developments in it.
No writer at the Tribune epitomizes the failure of the paper to get a story right more than Eric Zorn, a columnist whose writings are not well received by working police officers. Zorn has been writing about wrongful convictions based upon police misconduct for decades. Some of his articles are at the center of horrible murder cases that should be reviewed by the Tribune, including those of Anthony Porter and Madison Hobley.
Behind Zorn is a cabal of activist reporters who seem to have embraced his method of pushing a predetermined narrative of police misconduct, no matter what.
In its failure to confront the mounting evidence that the paper has gotten so many stories dead wrong, the Tribune’s reporting is emblematic of the deep mistrust the public now holds toward the media, a mistrust far more intense than the public holds toward law enforcement, despite the relentless attacks on police officers by media outlets like the Tribune. For the most part, the general public still supports the police and appreciates their work. Not so with the media.
This mistrust by the public is a central fact in the decline of journalism, particularly with the Tribune. The reporters at the Trib who have steadily attacked the police and their collective bargaining rights will not likely alleviate this deep mistrust and prevent the downward spiral of the journalism in the city by forming a union.
From the looks of it, Zorn and this cabal were not affected by the recent layoffs.
Strange days for the Chicago media. Strange days, indeed.