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WSI News - News Watch

Cubune:  Our mess is YOUR problem!

filed by George Bova

August 19. 2005

For any Sox Fan expecting a mea culpa about bias from the Chicago Tribune, yesterday was about as close to one as can ever be expected.  Until yesterday nearly all Tribune staffers denied the existence of their editorial bias favoring their sister baseball division and against the Sox.  Public editor Don Wycliff took a stab at the subject in the August 18 edition of the paper and its internet edition. 

Just one problem. If Don aimed to blame the Tribune for the bias, he was just a wee bit wide of the mark.  To the contrary, Don isn't blaming the Tribune editors and staffers for the bias.  Instead Don says it's the Cubune's readers problem to deal with.

"But the realities of modern corporate life put them [Tribune employees] into an inherently conflicted situation," Don writes. "The most they can do is disclose the conflict.  After that, it's up to the reader/viewer to follow the age-old caution:  Let the buyer beware."

Was that a mea culpa?  Quite the opposite!  The problem Wycliff notes is not Wycliff's problem... it's OUR problem!  In effect he is saying "don't bother us with the facts of our 'inherently conflicted situation'... YOU just deal with it." 

Does Wycliff believe he bears even an ounce of responsibility for addressing this?  Don't make me laugh. 

"The newspaper's policy is to explicitly mention its connection with Tribune Co. or a subsidiary 'when relevant,'" writes Wycliff.  "As a practical matter, 'when relevant' means in almost any story except routine game coverage of the Cubs."


Colonel McCormick's biased legacy alive and well with Don Wycliff and the editorial staff inside Cubune Tower.

Really?  Why the exception, Don?  Why not always disclose Cubune ownership of the Cubs whenever the Cubs are discussed in the Cubune, MOST OF ALL in the sports section?  Isn't that the section of the paper that makes the most references to the Cubs?  Isn't this precisely where the stakes are the greatest for the "inherently conflicted situation" you're admitting to?

Or is Wycliff admitting journalistic integrity doesn't apply to the Cubune's sports section?  Is Wycliff in fact admitting the Cubune views their sports section as hardly more than entertainment and without controlling editorial policy to be fair and balanced?  What is stopping Wycliff from addressing the "inherently conflicted situation" facing his sports section's writers and editors?  What's the problem with simply placing a narrow "Advertisement" strip across the top of every single article and feature concerning the Cubune's baseball division?  Isn't this precisely what Wycliff is admitting to by disclosing Cubune ownership of the Cubs every place EXCEPT the sports page?

Here are the facts, Mr. Wycliff.  If you  truly believed you and your ilk inside Cubune Tower bore any responsibility for the "inherently conflicted situation," you would step out and say something to demonstrate it.  You would be championing full disclosure of Cubune ownership of the Cubs inside the Cubune's sports section.  Or alternately, addressing  the "practical matter" you noted,  you would champion the need for disclosing the inherent promotional/advertising nature of Cubs coverage inside the Cubune sports section.  Either of these would be taking responsibility for the "inherently conflicted situation" you admit exists.

You fail at both of these, Mr. Wycliff.  And for that yours is only the most recent and contemptible example of the Cubune's fake empathy over the "inherently conflicted situation" you do exactly NOTHING to correct.

Here is your legacy, Mr Wycliff, the one passed down to you by the Colonel himself a-moldering in the grave for fifty years now -- but the same sorry legacy that still lives through you and your silly and delusional  indifference regarding the subject of Cubune bias.  Everyone in the world knows the most famous Chicago Tribune headline of all time, and it's nothing but a joke you help us to laugh about to the very present day.

Same ****, Mr. Wycliff.  Different day.

Just grin and bear it, Don.  Harry Truman laughed at your paper's pretensions to journalistic integrity... and right here in Chicago we're still laughing at you today.


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