T Dog’s Think Tank: A second look at NATO coverage

On May 20, yours truly sent out a tweet stating the local stations did a good job on NATO coverage.

Well, I’ve re-thought that statement – particularly after reading this brilliant guest commentary from Rich Jasculca at Crain’s Chicago Business’s website, and the feedback section (except for one comment) was also spot on. As Jasculca pointed out, the media coverage “wasn’t about the substance of the protests, nor about the NATO meetings. No, the media coverage all too often was about Seattle [World Trade Organization meeting in 1999], riots, broken windows, spiraling costs, anticipated police response, inconvenience, [and] griping.”

And he’s right. The media hype to this NATO event was ridiculous, from sending reporters to Toronto to ask local officials about how they handled the G20 Summit to the coverage of the protests, which caused little to no damage (in fact, student protests in Montreal occurring at the same time were more tense and last year’s Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver was worse.) All of this while Chicago’s Loop and Near South side were shut down for days, costing business revenue and disrupting commuters.

Meanwhile, the local media’s obsession with foreign journalists’ impression of Chicago was way over the top and annoying. Just as annoying were the old, outdated comparisons to violence related to the 1968 Democratic Convention. No one today under the age of 40 was around when protestors were shouting “the world is watching” and were beaten by billy clubs (and you wonder why younger audiences don’t even bother with the local media.) A clueless reporter from one of the local stations defended the excessive coverage on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight last week, saying the public would have been more agitated if there were less coverage. The statement came off as really arrogant and disingenuous.

And you wonder if expanding newscasts during NATO weekend was really the best use of resources, which of course, fell conveniently during the May sweeps period. I bet you most Chicago stations didn’t receive any real ratings boost from the extra newscasts. It was just overkill, and totally unnecessary.

As I posted in the feedback section of this inane article on Crain’s Chicago Business website – one which rambled on about Chicago’s  worldwide image of Al Capone (I guess author Joe Cahill hasn’t seen Chicago-set NBC sitcom Whitney – that’s just as bad – but at least it’s contemporary), yours truly said the more embarrassing export out of Chicago these days is its journalism, which is still stuck in 1975.

With NATO gone, Chicago can go back to the type of headlines we’re used to: “Cubs skid hits 12”, “10 people murdered, 43 people shot over weekend”, and of course, being known for exporting “comedians” Jim Belushi and Jenny McCarthy to the world.

The local media thought the whole world was watching when NATO was town. No they weren’t. It turned out the world had better things to do.