T Dog’s Think Tank: Chiraqing away

The term Chiraq is here to stay. Thank the media.

For those who don’t like the word “Chiraq”, let me lay it on thick for you…. it’s here to stay.

The term, used to describe the number of shootings and murder in the Chicago area, continues to be a hot topic of debate in the media as Spike Lee films the movie about the city’s gang and gun violence, which hasn’t been officially given a title as of yet, though “Chiraq” is under strong consideration.

Just about everyone has weighed in on the topic, including Chicago Tribune art critic Chris Jones, the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, and even this blog. The term has outraged a lot of Chicagoans, particularly those who live in Chicago’s minority communities; Mayor Rahm Emanuel and many aldermen have also voiced their objections.

For Lee, the publicity surrounding “Chiraq” was a gift from God: Chicago media went into overdrive with the controversy with a story on the subject and the Rev. Michael Pflager appearing on TV more these days than David Letterman. How absurd has media coverage of Lee’s film been? An idiot alderman who initially blocked plans for St. Sabina Church to throw a wrap party on the street where the church is located because its pastor (Pflager, who was involved in the project) relented and signed a permit on a local newscast.

Yours truly was surprised former WGN-TV anchor Allison Payne, who infamously wrote a check on the air during a Chicago Tonight interview a few years ago, didn’t hand him the pen.

The media coverage of gun violence and the South Side in general drew the attention of First Lady (and Chicago native) Michelle Obama, criticized it in a speech to King High School graduating students last week. To many of us down here, it’s nothing that we have said ourselves; yours truly said so in 2008. Both the Tribune and Sun-Times regularly dominate the front page of their art school student-designed websites with crime headlines – not so much for public service but to generate web hits. Yours truly recently went on a Twitter rant against the Tribune for their carelessness of their crime reporting.

Meanwhile, local stations have done little to address the crisis outside of local newscasts. Since 2006, only WBBM-TV had a special on gun violence – quite a while ago. And all of this while their corporate overlords are cutting back on public affairs – recently, WBEZ canceled its local Afternoon Shift program and fired its host while the Sun-Times fired the person who ran its Homicide Watch blog. Unlike the flash-and-dash stories you see on local news or in the Tribune, Homicide Watch told the story behind each murder.

Sure, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) jumps on Twitter to praise local broadcasters when a storm hits but says nothing when they fumble the ball on covering urban issues. As yours truly said last August when the events of Ferguson were unfolding, local broadcasters need to start earning their licences. Its tough to feel sorry for people like Harry Jessell of TVNewscheck, who thinks broadcasters should do nothing to prove their service to their communities other than being a local Weather Channel to make more money for their out-of-town owners.

You question whether or not the Chicago media is doing more harm than good with their “it leads, it bleeds” crime coverage. There’s no doubt the communities affected by gun violence detest the media, given the constant drumbeat of negative headlines. Maybe that’s the problem instead of some stupid “Chiraq” name. Of course, the power structure – politicians and local media here – are too stupid to realize it.

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