Chicago news media fails in protest coverage

Chicago Police car set abalze Saturday afternoon in River North neighborhood.

No live coverage of Saturday morning mayhem, ignores violence downtown for most part Saturday afternoon and early evening 

Local news media needs to explain the lack of coverage

When Chicago’s local news media signed off last night around 10:30 p.m., all seemed good: Chicago protests were tame compared to other places around the country where police clashed with protesters days after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, resulting in riots that has ravaged the Twin Cities for the last few days.

Or so we thought.

After midnight, the real chaos began downtown as protesters smashed windows, slashed police car tires, threw garbage cans, and engaged in mob action as vandals battled police on State Street and Wabash Avenue, stretching roughly from Lake Street to around Roosevelt Road. Another out of control protest took place today downtown, with more vandalism and looting.

Other cities have had similar protests and problems as well – New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Denver, Houston, etc. – taxing local news organizations across the country.

Live coverage on local TV news stations have been almost non-existent as outlets have stuck with regular programming, sports reruns, infomercials, and all. There was no live coverage whatsoever of the mayhem that took place early Saturday morning, even from radio stations and newspaper websites. The only coverage came from the #ChicagoScanner hashtag on Twitter and an online police scanner.

Protests outside Trump Tower. (NBC Chicago)

Even when they went live at 5 p.m. Saturday for their regular newscasts, the coverage of the protests on at least two stations were absolutely lousy – devoting little time to the mayhem going on downtown and instead focusing more on weather, suburban restaurants re-opening after being shuttered by Covid-19, and even sports segments when they are no sporting events going on. It’s as if the local news stations had absolutely no interest in covering the problems downtown. Even CNN devoted more coverage to what was happening in Chicago than the local stations were. 

Chicago wasn’t alone – in Los Angeles, local stations opted for pre-packaged stories on the protests instead of live coverage. In Detroit, a poster from an online message board noted NBC affiliate WDIV didn’t begin protest coverage until 11:30 p.m. while ABC affiliate WXYZ didn’t bother to cover them live at all outside of their regular newscasts.

It’s 6:52 p.m., and as I type this, a squad car was set on fire at Kinzie and Rush and looting was taking place as the local stations are airing regular programming (reruns) and one network-owned station is running an infomercial (guess which one.) Meanwhile, the Tribune and Sun-Times – not to mention several radio stations are updating the public either on-air or on social media. 

Local media outlets have been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic where staff have  been either furloughed or laid off, and the impacts are clearly being felt in the coverage (just this week, CBS 2 laid off a dozen staffers.) But there is really no excuse in barely covering what’s going on in the Loop – if you can find a way, damnit, find a way! Over the years, media consolidation has decimated newsrooms across the country as greedy broadcast companies have put profit over covering their communities. For example, locally-owned CLTV was shuttered last year after Irving, Tex.-owned Nexstar bought Chicago-based Tribune Broadcasting in a deal approved by three uncaring FCC Republican commissioners. 

And now we’re paying the price. 

As I said before, stations need to earn their licenses in serving the public – so far, they have failed in that mission. In fact, they’ve been failing in this mission for years as I pointed out last September on how Chicago media outlets cover crime and minority communities in general. 

The lack of local coverage we’re seeing tonight is the epitome of all this. It’s absolutely pathetic. 

Diversity, Various

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