Chicago media criticized for lack of Loop mayhem coverage Saturday night

A large gathering of teens caused trouble Saturday night in the Loop. (Fox News)

Twitter users call out local media outlets for failing to inform public

Saturday night’s disturbances in downtown Chicago are raising questions on how the local media covers – or fail to cover in these types of instances and whether or not social media – particularly Twitter -fills the void.

With temperatures soaring into the 80s, hundreds of teens swarmed the Loop – jumping on cars, breaking car windows, and assaulting people, among other chaos. Two were shot; the victims are expected to survive. In all, sixteen were arrested. The mayhem made worldwide headlines, even making Hollywood trade website Deadline.

Teen takeovers of the Loop isn’t anything new; it was commonplace in the 1980s as a end of spring break tradition held on Easter Sunday where tons of kids gathered downtown to hang out and see movies, play video games, and attend other youth-oriented attractions, though it also attracted gang members. But unlike Saturday’s mayhem, little or no damage occurred despite the crowd being much larger back then (the Easter Sunday festivities netted 31 arrests in 1987 and 60 arrests in 1988, according to Tribune reports.) After fading away in the 1990s, the tradition has come back in recent years as crowds have become more rowdy and violent. It is not known if the crowd Saturday night were affiliated with any gangs.

The mayhem downtown wasn’t enough to interrupt regular programming Saturday night as stations basically downplayed the disturbances on their local newscasts though one local station (Fox-owned WFLD-TV) had to wrap up their live shots because of nearby gunfire. But the news was all over social media – especially Twitter and those who used the #ChicagoScanner hashtag. Many on Twitter criticized the lack of attention the local media gave to the incidents.

This came the same week Chicago won the bidding to host the 2024 Democratic National Convention as the news drew sharp rebuke from Republicans, who have blasted the city for not getting a handle on its crime issues for years. A recent survey of sports business executives for Sports Business Journal ranked Chicago a low ninth (for its stature) on the list of best sports cities to do business, citing crime as a major issue.  

Smashed car downtown Saturday night. Fox News has seen ratings soar when it comes to covering Chicago crime. (Fox News)

As you know, this space criticized the local news media for ignoring the George Floyd protests downtown when they turned violent the afternoon of May 30, 2020. It wasn’t until Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a curfew at 8 p.m. when they finally broke into regular programming. Recently, the city decided to delay police scanner transmissions by thirty minutes, which made it hard for those following in real-time Saturday. Chicago’s media outlets – most of whom owned by out-of-town conglomerates – waited until the last minute to voice their concern when it was in the works for over more than a year. And keep in mind conservatives don’t have a monopoly on ripping into Chicago media outlets. 

With the lack of traditional media coverage and delayed scanner transmissions, you have to wonder if social media – particularly Twitter, is a smart way of filling the void. While important info was being posted, others took advantage and used the #ChicagoScanner hashtag and posted misinformation and racist, vile comments. One scanner account who covers the Northwest Side’s 16th and 17th police district kept readers informed but also uses it to spread right-wing propaganda and to attack minorities (a similar account in Minneapolis does the same thing in that city.) Some information being posted on Twitter couldn’t be verified, including a possible barricade situation at a local TV station.

These same people are even more emboldened now, since Elon Musk took over Twitter. Musk has shown his disdain for big cities in blue states such as San Francisco, where Twitter’s headquarters are located and obviously isn’t concerned about the misinformation and the racist comments and images being spread on the platform he owns. What’s worse, the mayhem Saturday night could wind up in campaign commercials for Republican candidates in 2024 – particularly for former President Donald Trump, who often blasted Chicago for its mishandling of crime. The tactic was used in last fall’s elections in Illinois courtesy of Dan Proft, but failed miserably. But as more and more voters get frustrated about crime, it could succeed. 

But here’s the real question: is local news still reliable to cover incidents like this? They obviously dropped the ball Saturday night, but this came as no surprise if you’ve read this site for 17 years – in fact, I answered this question way back in 2014 after Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Mo. But the shock from some over the lack of local media coverage on Elon’s bird poop app were kind of laughable given the “public interest” mantra for local outlets went away some time ago as the media industry has become more deregulated – thanks to the people who they voted for, Republicans.

So, here’s something to think about – what if these “teen takeovers” took place on a Monday evening when The Bachelor or Bachelorette was on and the local ABC affiliate pre-empted the show to cover it? The backlash would be far bigger than anything the #ChicagoScanner crowd could come up with since The Bachelor fanbase loses their collective shit every time their show is interrupted by severe weather alerts. 

As for this latest black eye for the city, it’s an issue I’ve brought up time and time again in this space for the last 17 years, and you can read them here, here, here, etc.  But I can imagine Fox News and other right-wing outlets got a nice ratings boost from covering Chicago’s latest crisis on their nightly chat shows, as evidenced a few years ago as coverage of an inner-city shootout here drove viewership on Fox News to nearly four million viewers in primetime. It’s too bad they and some posters who use the #ChicagoScanner hashtag on Elon’s bird poop app to express their faux outrage have no interest in solving Chicago’s problems but instead would rather be entertained by them.


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