Chicago Tribune

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  • Chicago Tribune's Anti-Teachers-Union Crusade Continues Over "Historic" Union Day Of Action

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is coordinating a "day of action" walkout on April 1, and it will be joined by students from local universities, community activists, and other labor groups in what the union is calling a "historic" moment for the Chicago labor movement. CTU announced the one-day walkout after its membership voted to authorize the action in late March, and it follows months of contract negotiations amid widespread city and state budget issues. In the months since Chicago teachers' contract expired in June, the Chicago Tribune has frequently editorialized its opposition to union actions, mischaracterizing and dismissing educators' concerns and repeatedly accusing teachers of throwing a "tantrum" and abandoning students.

    The one-day walkout is meant to address unfair labor practices, which the union says include the school district's recent decision to stop paying raises based on experience and educational credentials and its proposal to phase out district contributions to teachers' pension plans. These decisions are the latest in an ongoing contract negotiation process that began more than a year ago, before the previous contract expired in June.

    Main points of negotiation for a new contract include class sizes, staffing resources for school nurses and librarians, members' pensions and health care plans, pay cuts and modifications to scheduled pay raises, and school closings. The Chicago Public School district (CPS) says it cannot fund the union's proposals; it is currently facing a $1.1 billion operating deficit. The union proposes generating new revenue by adopting tax reform targeted at the city's wealthiest taxpayers to pay for contract stipulations and to adequately fund schools, putting pressure on CPS, the city of Chicago, and state lawmakers.

    As the Tribune itself reported, union leadership has acknowledged that the day of action is part of a broader "labor-led fight" calling for the state of Illinois to prioritize finding new revenue to fund social services and public education. The action has gained the support of "other labor unions and community organizations" including a local group advocating for a $15 minimum wage, several colleges and universities, which are hosting rallies and teach-ins, a labor union representing faculty at several Illinois universities, and workers protesting layoffs elsewhere in the city.

    But that hasn't stopped the Chicago Tribune, the top daily newspaper in Illinois, from repeatedly publishing editorials that rely on mischaracterizations of CTU's activities to dismiss educators' concerns.

    In its most recent editorial on the walkout, from March 27, the Tribune described CTU leaders as having "spent weeks whipping their members into a froth," and having "stoked members' anger" over Chicago Public Schools' proposal to phase out existing teacher pension plans. The editorial referred to the walkout as a "hastily planned, unfocused Day of Tantrum," lamenting that educators would be "brandishing banners and hollering slogans in the Loop [downtown Chicago] for ... what?" And the Tribune implored Chicago teachers to cross picket lines during the walkout, writing that "gutsy educators" ought to "put their classroom service to Chicago's children first" and "rebel against misguided leadership," echoing the school district's opposition.

    A week earlier, the editorial board argued that "the teachers' tantrum" would be a "reckless action" that pits the union against "most workers in Chicago," who "don't have the luxury of stepping out for a day on a whim." The Tribune asked, "how does cheating kids of a precious day of education generate sympathy for the teachers' cause?"

    On March 11, the editorial board wrote, "If teachers walk, students would learn an acrid lesson about the teachers union's astonishing disrespect for the value of classroom instruction," bizarrely suggesting that educators somehow fail to understand the importance of classroom learning. The Tribune went on to accuse teachers of "abandon[ing] their students," throwing a "tantrum," and teaching students "that when money and education are in play, some adults put education second to their real priority."

    In December, the Tribune editorial board reacted to an initial strike authorization vote by the union by announcing, "Chicago teachers made the official announcement Monday. They're ready to walk out of their classrooms, to abandon their students as early as March," and characterizing CTU's contract negotiation priorities as "grenades." In another December editorial discussing a CPS contract proposal, the Tribune mocked CTU's response, asking, "What planet are you on?"

    The previous month, the editorial board conceded that layoffs, of which more were still to come, warranted a strike from CTU -- before mockingly outlining a "compromise" plan that shifted blame away from the school district, neglected CTU's stated priorities completely, and advocated for "compromises" in "reform[ing] ... labor policies" on the state level.

    The Chicago Tribune's commitment to opposing CTU's every move relies largely on misrepresentation. In characterizing CTU's day of action as a "tantrum," the Tribune fails to recognize the realities of the walkout.

    Tantrums are typically unplanned and sudden; the possibility of a strike has loomed over contract negotiations between the teachers union and the school district for months. In December, an overwhelming 88 percent of eligible union members voted to authorize leadership to call for a strike, according to the union. Union leadership had been publicly discussing the possibility of a strike since November, and contract negotiations have been underway for more than a year.

    Tantrums are typically responses that are unwarranted or disproportionate to the stimulus; the growing number of students, higher education faculty, activist groups, and other labor unions that are joining the union in its day of action suggests that the issue at hand resonates with the larger Chicago community. In fact, a poll released by the Tribune itself in February found that 60 percent of Chicagoans agreed with the teachers union on needed reforms in Chicago public schools. Among households with students attending Chicago public schools, low-income households, and black and Hispanic respondents, union support was even stronger.

    To suggest the walkout cheats students at the expense of teacher pay also ignores the circumstances of the action.

    Confusingly, the Tribune failed to recognize, in its lamentations of lost classroom time, that one of the major factors influencing the April 1 walkout was the "abrupt" announcement from CPS that teachers and staff would be asked to take three unpaid furlough days in an attempt to alleviate the district's budget problems. The Tribune editorial board did not criticize these furlough days, which would also result in at least one fewer regular school day for students.

    And in accusing the union of having "disrespect for the value of classroom instruction," the Tribune grazed over the many factors beyond teacher compensation that have led to the walkout. The union's initial vote to authorize a strike in December outlined its major demands, which incorporated a number of priorities related to both classroom experiences for students and members' job protections and supports. These included reducing standardized testing; allowing more teacher autonomy in grading; supporting counseling, nursing, and library staff; reducing class sizes; ensuring instruction in art, music, and technology; implementing restorative justice programs in select schools; and supporting translation and bilingual services.

    The Tribune's attacks on CTU are nothing new. The paper attacked CTU and its members back in 2012 when the union went on strike for seven days, before agreeing to the contract that expired in June. As CTU signaled its impending action, the Tribune immediately and repeatedly attacked the union's motives and suggested a contrast between what's best for students and what's best for teachers. "Let's make no mistake," the editorial board wrote in September of that year. "The union is not going to abandon those children because it's fighting for the best way to educate those children. It's fighting to protect the jobs of adults, the union members."

    The Tribune's treatment of CTU and its members has signaled a willingness to ignore the facts and a belief that educators' concerns ought to be dismissed. The paper's tone hasn't shifted in years, even as students, community activists, and other labor groups continue to join the union's organizing efforts, indicating more widespread local frustration with the financial hardships facing the city and state.

    Yet the Tribune, the most-read daily newspaper serving Chicago, continues to deliver its anti-union editorial crusade to Chicagoans' doorsteps.

    Image at top via Flickr user Spencer Tweedy using a Creative Commons License.

  • LA Times And WA Spokesman-Review's Coverage Of Planned Parenthood Arsons Shines Compared To National Print And Cable News

    ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL & RACHEL CALVERT

    A Media Matters review found that cable news shows and leading newspapers around the country remained largely silent on arson attacks that targeted Planned Parenthood clinics following the release of a series of deceptively-edited, anti-choice videos smearing the health care provider. Prime-time cable news shows and the nation's three highest-circulation newspapers dedicated minimal coverage to the arson attacks. The LA Times and Spokane's Spokesman Review provided the most coverage of the attacks.

  • Chicago Tribune Lets CEO Push Business Interests Without Disclosure

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    Keystone XL protests via Joshua Roberts/ReutersThe Chicago Tribune published an op-ed by the CEO of Caterpillar, a manufacturer of large construction equipment, which advocated for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline but failed to disclose Caterpillar's significant financial stake in the pipeline's construction.

    The January 7 op-ed in the Tribune by Caterpillar chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman advocated for the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, a pipeline that would connect the Alberta tar sands in Canada to an existing pipeline in the United States. Oberhelman's op-ed touted the perceived benefits of the pipeline:

    Think how manufacturers will help grow the U.S. economy if after more than six years of examination, review and debate, this pipeline is finally approved. Manufacturers can hire tens of thousands of workers to build a modern, state-of-the-art pipeline, delivering a project that will increase U.S. energy supplies.

    [...]

    Let the construction begin and manufacturers will hire laborers, welders, mechanics, clerks, engineers and office managers. Although some argue that the bulk of hiring will be insufficient -- only 42,000 temporary construction-related jobs and far fewer permanent ones -- think about it this way: Putting 42,000 people to work is like employing every undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    Creating more than 42,000 jobs -- even temporary jobs -- is no small matter, especially when the United States faces historically low labor participation rates like we do now.

    Let the construction begin, and see the benefits to local communities as they absorb the more than $2 billion in worker payments from Keystone XL jobs.

    However, while the paper did disclose the fact that Oberhelman is the CEO of Caterpillar, it left out the significant financial benefit the construction of the pipeline would have for Caterpillar. A Forbes article from March 2013 quoted the then-Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, as saying that, "the oil sands are the largest market in the world for Caterpillar mining trucks." Indeed, even the Keystone XL pipeline website highlights Caterpillar as one of the companies that would benefit from the pipeline's construction.

    In addition, a letter from the Vice President of Caterpillar, Kathryn D. Karol, to Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) in support of the Keystone XL pipeline explains that Caterpillar has a "keen interest in the approval" of the pipeline as "the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbine, and locomotives ... With energy related products and services accounting for over one-fourth of [Caterpillar's] business."

  • Web Journalist Who Broke Scalise Scandal: "I Knew It Was A Bombshell"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    A week after Lamar White broke the story of Rep. Steve Scalise's 2002 speech before a white supremacist group, the fallout is still going strong as Scalise faces withering criticism, including from conservative outlets.

    On December 28, White broke the news that Scalise spoke to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EUARO) in 2002. Scalise, who represents Louisiana's 1st District and holds a leadership position as the House majority whip, has since apologized for the appearance, claiming he was unaware of the group's racist background. While Scalise has been heavily criticized, Republican Party leadership has so far not called on him to give up his position as majority whip.  

    "It is fascinating," White, who has edited CenLamar.com since 2006, told Media Matters in an interview. "It has highlighted this major fraction between the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party and the more sensible wing of the party, or mainstream wing."

    Criticism of Scalise has been widespread, even from normally conservative editorial pages such as the Boston Herald and Chicago Tribunewhich have both called for Scalise to give up his leadership post.

    "By playing footsie with this group, Scalise has disqualified himself from a position of leadership in a party that needs to do a better job of understanding and addressing the suspicions it arouses among many minority Americans," the Tribune editorial board wrote.

    USA Today also urged Scalise to step down.

    Other newspaper editorial boards, such as the Sacramento Bee and Scalise's hometown Times-Picayune of New Orleans, have stopped short of calling for Scalise to give up his leadership position, but offered harsh rebukes of his actions.

    "U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise never should have agreed in 2002 to speak at a conference organized by a hate group founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. It was a grievous error in judgment," the Times-Picayune opined, later adding, "his credibility has suffered with Louisianians who find David Duke and his anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-gay beliefs abhorrent. He will have to work diligently to repair it."

    Bill O'Reilly raised the issue on his Fox News program Monday night, interviewing EUARO leader David Duke about the issue and stating, "don't sit here and tell me that you're not trying to promote the cause of the white people, because you are."

    White, who has been involved in Louisiana news and politics for years, said the key element for coverage is Scalise's leadership position. 

  • Chicago Tribune Ignores Experts On New City-Wide Minimum Wage Increase

    ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    Chicago Tribune editorial claimed the city council's decision to increase Chicago's minimum wage to $13 by 2019 would drive business to the suburbs where labor is cheaper. Yet, research shows that city-wide minimum wage increases have little to no impact on the movement of the labor force within a state and that wage increase can benefit local businesses.

  • VIDEO: What The Press Is Missing About Midwest Floods

    Blog ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    As Midwestern states assess the damage wrought by record flooding in recent weeks, scientists tell Media Matters that the media has missed an important part of the story: the impact of climate change. A Media Matters analysis finds that less than 3 percent of television and print coverage of the flooding mentioned climate change, which has increased the frequency of large rain storms and exacerbated flood risks.

    Seven out of eight scientists interviewed by Media Matters agreed that climate change is pertinent to coverage of recent flooding in the Midwest. Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer told Media Matters it is "not only appropriate, but advisable" for the press to note that rainstorms in the Midwest are increasing in frequency and that climate models "suggest this trend will continue," which will contribute to more flooding. Aquatic ecologist Don Scavia added that this is the "new normal," and that the media is "missing an important piece of information" by ignoring this trend.

    Indeed, climate change has been almost entirely absent from national and local reporting on the floods. Only one of 74 television segments mentioned climate change, on CBS News. ABC, NBC and CNN never mentioned the connection.

    Meanwhile, USA TODAY was the only national print outlet to report on Midwest floods in the context of climate change. USA TODAY also created a video, featured above, explaining the connection as part of a year-long series on the impacts of climate change.  

  • STUDY: Media Ignore Climate Context Of Midwest Floods

    ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL & JILL FITZSIMMONS

    The Midwest has experienced near record flooding this spring, resulting in four deaths, extensive property damage, and disruptions of agriculture and transportation. Evidence suggests that manmade climate change has increased the frequency of heavy downpours, and will continue to increase flooding risks. But in their ample coverage of Midwestern flooding, major media outlets rarely mentioned climate change.

  • Tribune Company Scribes: Koch Brothers Purchase Could Turn Papers Into "Conservative Mouthpiece"

    Hard-Right Ideology, Lack Of Experience Drives Reporters' Fear Of Koch Takeover

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    New reports that the politically conservative Koch brothers are interested in buying the Tribune Company's eight regional newspapers -- which include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune -- are sparking concerns from newspaper staff members that attempts to influence the editorial process in favor of their far-right political views may follow.

    Among those concerned is Clarence Page, a top Chicago Tribune columnist, who said he would oppose a takeover of the paper by David and Charles Koch because of "the fact that they seem to be coming in upfront with the idea of using a major news media as a vehicle for their political voice."

    Since Sunday, both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have reported that the Kochs are among leading contenders to purchase the newspapers from the financially troubled Tribune Company. 

    In addition to the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, the Kochs are reportedly seeking to buy The Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, The Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT), The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), and the Daily Press (Hampton Roads, VA).

    The Kochs are major funders of the American conservative movement, funneling tens of millions of dollars every year to build a right-wing infrastructure geared toward reducing the size and impact of government. As the Times detailed, at a 2010 convention of like-minded political donors, the Kochs "laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes." Part of the stratgy called for investing in the media.

    And that has staffers at Tribune Company newspapers -- several of whom requested anonymity for fear of losing their jobs -- nervous about the possibility that a Koch takeover could bring with it an ideological focus on the news that risks turning the papers into what one reporter calls a "conservative mouthpiece."

    According to those staffers, such concerns are rampant at the papers. "Nobody I know in the newsroom would find it a happy event to have the Koch brothers owning the paper," said one longtime Chicago Tribune staffer, who suggested that the purpose of the takeover is so that the brothers can use the publications to "promulgate their political views."

    "I haven't heard anyone here who has welcomed the idea of the Koch brothers... the Koch brothers, that scares people," added an LA Times scribe.

    "I think we all have concerns when you think an owner might try to influence editorial content," explained Angela Kuhl, Newspaper Guild unit chair at The Baltimore Sun. "That is sort of contrary to what the newspapering business should be about, free press. You don't necessarily want owners and publishers dictating content." 

    It's the Kochs' explicit call for investing in the media to achieve their political end that has Kuhl worried. "I read the story that said they have a three-pronged approach to how to move the country in the way they think it should head, and one is to influence the media."

  • Chicago Tribune Runs Op-Ed Against Immigration Reform Without Disclosing Author's Nativist Affiliation

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    The Chicago Tribune published an op-ed rehashing claims about undocumented immigrants that have been widely debunked, without noting that the author is a fellow at nativist organization the Center for Immigration Studies. CIS is an anti-immigrant organization whose affiliation with hate groups has been thoroughly documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

    In the February 8 op-ed titled, "Legalizing Illegal Immigrants A Bad Idea," CIS fellow David Seminara repeated the false claims that undocumented immigrants steal jobs from hard-working Americans and that they put a strain on social services. The Tribune identified Seminara simply as a former diplomat who has "issued thousands of visas during his career at the State Department." 

    According to his bio on the CIS website, Seminara has been a fellow at the organization since 2009. He has written extensively for the group's blog, including writing posts that have criticized an undocumented immigrant fearful of applying for deferred action and attacked scholarships for undocumented immigrants.

    Knowing Seminara's affiliation with CIS would have alerted readers that the op-ed was presenting a biased view of the immigration debate as it repeated many of CIS' and other nativist groups' talking points. Indeed, his claim that undocumented immigrants steal Americans' jobs is not new; it has been discredited by economists and immigration experts using mountains of research: Undocumented immigrants do not generally compete with Americans for labor, and in fact have been found to boost Americans' wages. 

    Immigrants given legal status under the immigration reform framework announced by the Senate are also unlikely to be a strain on the welfare system. Under the current framework, newly legalized immigrants would not be eligible for Medicaid or any government social benefit. In addition, immigrants are more likely to have jobs and over half have a high school degree or more. 

    In Illinois, consumer spending by undocumented immigrants already generates $5.45 billion in gross regional spending which accounts for 31,000 jobs in the Chicago area,according to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. In fact, the Immigration Policy Center reported that in 2010, undocumented immigrants in the state paid nearly half a billion dollars in taxes. 

  • Mainstream Media's Fixation With Anti-Immigrant Commentator Mark Krikorian

    ››› ››› SOLANGE UWIMANA & HILARY TONE

    Now that the Obama administration and Congress are engaged in a debate over immigration policy, a Media Matters review of major news outlets has found that when it comes to immigration coverage, anti-immigrant commentator Mark Krikorian continues to be the media's preferred conservative voice. Krikorian heads the Center for Immigration Studies, a group associated with notorious nativist John Tanton and whose research has been called into question -- but these facts are routinely ignored in coverage of his remarks.