Daily Herald slams minorities and women in Tollway coverage
The Arlington Heights Daily Herald has been running a series of news reports that read more like opinion columns, slamming the Tollway Authority for changing its administrative staff, a change most people agree has been good. But do the attacks from the newspaper also have a tinge of racism against Hispanics and women? Or, is it typical news bias?
By Ray Hanania
Most readers of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald can see right through the writings of Marni Pyke in her coverage of the Illinois Tollway Authority. Pyke has been slamming the Tollway board and taking sides with Joe Gomez, a senior Vice President at Byline Bank who went off the deep end when one of his staff allies was dismissed from his job.
Gomez has been criticized by the board for his conduct. Letters and memos documenting his abuses of other board members and staff were issued in May by Tollway Authority Chairman Robert Schillerstrom. They were later released after being FOIA’d by the Chicago Tribune. Gomez is said in the documents to have engaged in “verbal abuse” and “harassment” towards employees and staff.
Many of the personnel dismissed were pals of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald’s transportation writer Marni Pyke who has taken-up Gomez’ cause in a crusade against the Tollway Authority. She has been writing “news stories” that have exaggerated complaints overly critical of the Tollway Authority, while mocking the board administration’s response. They read more like opinion columns than news stories.
Keep in mind that news reporting is supposed to be balanced and fair, unlike opinion columns (like this one) which reflect the opinions of writers analyzing the news reporting. In other words, Pyke is pretending to be objective but in reality her reporting should be re-labeled as opinion-commentary. At least readers would recognize that she is taking sides, which is the right of any opinion columnist who doesn’t hide behind the pretense of being objective.
Last week, Pyke wrote a story basically slamming the Tollway Authority for spending money to attend conferences and meetings. The story exaggerates the significance of the spending, basically arguing that any spending she doesn’t like is bad. Pyke wrote that the Tollway Authority official had spent “thousands of dollars for employees to accompany executives at speaking engagements and banquets in 2017 and 2018″ making it sound like other more important programs were in jeopardy because money was being diverted.
The headline of Pyke’s story implied a grievous waste of spending: “Tollway spent thousands for staff to attend banquets, luncheons where execs speak.”
But the Tollway Authority budget is more than $1.4 billion a year. How much did the Tollway spend for these “grievous violations” of the newspaper’s artificial shock and awe? During the past year, the Tollway Authority spent $8,750 to purchase tickets for Tollway officials and staff to attend dinners and banquets and events hosted by transportation industry organizations, and organizations that champion rights for minorities.
Wow! What an “abuse” of spending. I had to read the number twice thinking that she meant to write that the Tollway spent $80,000 but the $8,750 number is correct. The Tollway only spent $8,750 over the course of one year. Considering that most tickets for events are $250 each, that doesn’t sound like a lot at all.
But maybe Marni Pyke and her pal Joe Gomez want the Tollway Authority to boycott the events, most of which were hosted by Hispanic American organizations like several involving the prestigious and important Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA). HACIA is one of the most important Hispanic and minority organizations in the country.
If anything, the Tollway should be spending more money to have its officers and staff working more closely with organizations like HACIA and others that struggle to ensure that government agencies continue to fairly represent the interests of all minorities, Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, Arabs, Muslims, Native Americans,and women.
According to Pyke’s “investigation,” the Tollway only spent, in comparison, only $3,790 on events between 2010 and 2016 — that was before the Tollway hired Liz Gorman as the executive director and Gomez started attacking her because she took the place of one his close pals.
Maybe the implication in Pyke’s carefully crafted “news story” hit-piece is that the Tollway shouldn’t waste its time on minority groups like Hispanics? Is the Daily Herald attacking the Tollway for being represented at a major Hispanic Organization event? (You can read the “news stories” for yourself and tell me if they are objective, or maybe they should be re-labeled as “Opinion Commentary.” You might agree with me, and you might not!)
The issue of slamming the Tollway for being sensitive to minorities came up again this week when Pyke again slammed the Tollway Authority in her newest hit-piece, which again defends Gomez and attacks Gorman and Schillerstrom. (Maybe the Arlington Heights Daily Herald editors don’t read this crap in their own newspaper?)
The Tollway Authority issued a report detailing new ethics procedures prepared in response to concerns about potential favoritism regarding contracts and hiring, most of which were in response to complaints from Gomez (and Pyke in her repeated stories defending Gomez). Gomez, according to Pyke’s “column,” criticized the ethics report for failing to address “what might be considered political firings.”
Gorman responded to the Gomez attacks against her, asking if he had a problem with her being a women?
Here are the facts. Liz Gorman is one of the most reputable officials the Tollway could hire to lead the Tollway Authority. She has defined herself as a champion of the rights of taxpayers, leading the fight and the repeal of the oppressive Todd Stroger Sales Tax, saving Cook County residents millions, something she will do as the Tollway’s new Executive Director.
Schillerstrom is also a respected and dedicated public official highly regarded across the state. The only persons attacking him are Gomez and Pyke. So far, they have failed to raise one significant issue of real concern that would negatively impact the interests of the state’s motorists, taxpayers or the Tollway’s ability to manage its resources properly and fully.
I get Gomez, who is clearly playing a game of politics. That’s his right. I’ve spoken to him and he is clearly an angry person who doesn’t like the changes that have come to the Tollway Authority in this recent administrative change. But I don’t get Pyke, who is supposed to be an objective newspaper reporter. Maybe the newspaper should just re-label her “news stories” as “opinion commentary.” That I could understand. Readers would then be able to know that her writing reflects more her opinions, partisanship and personal views, rather than being an objective presentation of an important public agencies actions as she is being presented in the newspaper today.
With so many other issues facing the $1.4 billion Tollway Authority and transportation industry, watching the Arlington Heights Daily Herald waste all this time on petty political nitpicking in defense of one of the board’s 11 members who has been criticized by the board for his conduct, you don’t have to wonder what Pyke is all about. It’s pretty clear.
Of course, that’s just my opinion.
(Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. He currently write opinion columns for newspapers in Chicagoland and in the Middle East. You can find his columns at his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)