Chicago crime grabs more airtime than Covid-19 pandemic as the city continues to grab global headlines for gun violence
You’d think in a middle of a national health pandemic, cable news channels would focus on the issues at hand when more than 150,000 people have died from Covid-19, right?
Of course not – especially when it comes to Fox News.
Another kind of epidemic – Chicago crime – has been front and center on Fox News in recent weeks, even bumping Covid-19 out of focus – that is, when the network isn’t busy criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci.
According to the liberal-leaning Media Matters website published Friday, Fox News devoted more time to a mass shooting in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood on 79th street than archrivals CNN and MSNBC combined, In fact, Fox News has covered the shooting more than even the local Chicago news stations have.
On July 21, fifteen people were shot outside of a funeral home on 79th and Carpenter during a service for a slain gang member. Footage of the attack has been seen worldwide – but most prominently on conservative news outlets and websites such as Fox News. As Media Matters noted, CNN and MSNBC devoted on average eleven to twelve minutes of coverage between July 21 and July 28.
But Fox News devoted way more time – 75 minutes to be exact, according to Media Matters. And the network’s prime-time hosts hammered Chicago’s Democratic leadership endlessly – especially Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who Sean Hannity quipped “hates the President more than she cares about innocent men, women, and children in her city.” In fact, Lightfoot has become enemy number one among Fox News hosts and the Dan Proft-Amy Jacobson-Mancow trifecta of has-been foolery in Chicago, John Kass included as they express their faux outrage over crime on the South and West sides.
Fox News even called out its rivals for not covering the shooting extensively like they did, claiming they are “stepping around” violence in other cities, including nightly protests in Portland, Ore. and elsewhere, as President Trump is looking to expose the “chaos in cities” angle in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, appealing to white suburban and rural voters as he seeks a second term.
Both CNN and MSNBC have been criticized for not covering enough of “black-on-black” crime, which seems to be a major point with conservatives as the networks feel those type of stories don’t fit their narrative, given it’s something local news media has a better handle on. In fact, CNN and MSNBC were criticized by Media Matters for allowing Fox News to fill the void by neglecting the Chicago mass shooting.
Moreover, Fox News and other national news media outlets have all but abandoned Minneapolis after Floyd’s death, as the Minneapolis riots were a mere “inconvenience” to them. The post-riot gun violence and other issues plaguing Minneapolis and St. Paul have barely been mentioned in the last month, preferring to stick with Chicago instead.
If you’ve red this blog for the last thirteen years, then you know the conservative news media has slammed Chicago for just about everything, ever since former resident Barack Obama announced his run for the presidency. It only intensified more when Donald Trump ran for President in 2016, using Chicago’s gun violence as a major campaign point – the same one he’s using to get re-elected in 2020, using racially-coded language targeting white suburbanites using Chicago as a code word for “Black people”. Trump has bashed Chicago leadership non-stop since he was elected, notably former mayor Rahm Emanuel and Lightfoot.
The non-stop Chicago bashing has proven to be a ratings hit. On the night of July 21 when the shootings took place, Fox News drew 4.1 million viewers on average with Tucker Carlson and Hannity, finishing only behind CBS and NBC in total viewership in the first two hours of prime-time. In the adults 18-49 demo, both had a 0.37 rating in adults 18-49, tying CBS for second overall. Among the key news demo of adults 25-54, both shows drew a 0.6, only behind ABC, CBS, and NBC.
So why is Chicago crime such a draw? The constant global headlines the city constantly generates due to gun violence has become a part of conservative media about as much as the American flag. If you look at the #ChicagoScanner hashtag on Twitter and geo-locate the tweets, a lot of them are outside of the Chicago area. And many of these same out-of-towners are listening to Chicago’s unencrypted police scanners, easily available as apps on smartphones. Blame the increased interest on the recent demise of Cops and Live PD as these people are looking for some kind of entertainment.
What’s worse, Fox News – and the other cable news networks – have devoted more time to covering Chicago crime than they did the entire LaQuan McDonald fiasco, even abandoning the story altogether when Jason Van Dyke was being tried for murder as Brett Kavanaugh was being confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice.
And as anyone knows, the President watches Fox News on a regular basis, feeding him propaganda he loves to hear. Instead of focusing on the pandemic, Fox News is feeding viewers what they want to hear – not the news they need to know as among many conservatives, coronavirus coverage – which President Trump had described as a hoax, just doesn’t register – much like conversations on solutions needed to combat gun violence in Chicago and in other cities. The Fox News audience flat out just doesn’t care.
Unfortunately, journalism has been hijacked by the partisan cable news nets and are the go-to-points for breaking news. It’s not a surprise these networks and the news media in general have done a horrible job covering issues involving the Black community such as gun violence – especially local stations and not just in Chicago. The cable nets obviously chase ratings points and partisan audiences, and could care less about the issues they cover.
There is some hope as next month, Nexstar is launching NewsNation in prime-time and CNBC hired ex-Fox News anchor and reporter Shepard Smith to helm an hour-long newscast – both positioned as non-partisan, straight-down-the-middle newscasts with no bias. But both are already being met with skepticism, so we’ll see.
So where does this leave Chicago? The continued unflattering headlines and Fox News exposure doesn’t help the city’s image worldwide as local leaders have failed to grasp the issue of gun violence just as much as President Trump has done likewise with the coronavirus. Putting up one crisis against another for the sake of web hits, ratings points, and ad dollars does not help as more people die from one or the other. But as long as our elected leaders use these cable “news” channels as a vehicle to bitch about their “antagonists” for the sake of getting on TV, these problems will never be solved.
[An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed the first name of Dr. Anthony Fauci.]