Media must change its focus from Chicago to the suburbs

Media must change its focus from Chicago to the suburbs
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Media must change its focus from Chicago to the suburbs

The news media needs a reboot, especially in Chicagoland. I’m tired of seeing Chicago news dominate the TV stations in Chicago when the real news stories are out in the neighborhoods and in the suburbs. The TV News Media needs to change its focus on put more emphasis on coverage of neighborhoods and suburbs and stop wasting our time with the daily stories about heinous murders in Chicago. There is more news than Chicago’s sick society

By Ray Hanania

About 40 years ago when I first entered journalism, my focus was politics, specifically Chicago politics because Chicago was the hub of all news.

Back then, journalism worked. Today, that system is broken. I argue we need to fix it by refocusing Chicago’s TV stations away from wasting our time with worthless downtown news and put the focus on the suburbs.

Today, Chicago is no longer the most important part of the state. It’s a leech syphoning off resources, talents and tax dollars to cover its broken system and losing war against crime.

I’m tired of listening to the repetitive stories from Chicago. Everyday it’s the same garbage. What I don’t get enough of are stories from the communities, Chicago’s neighborhoods and the Suburbs.

State Senator Martin Sandoval, Lyons Mayor Chris Getty, McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski, and District 103 Board member Jorge Torres denounced the failed leadership of the District 103 School Board majority led by Marge Hubacek.

More than a dozen TV news stations and media covered a press conference called to denounce failed leadership at a suburban school district, a story the region wants to hear more than about the repetitive coverage of endless heinous crimes in Chicago.

Chicago’s suburbs, today, are more important than the city. The mainstream news media, mainly the TV stations, doesn’t get it.

Just look at the Chicagoland media industry system.

The media was divided into three levels. National, Chicago regional news, and community news.

Back then, media enjoyed big budgets and staffs. The national media had bureaus all over the world. There was stiff competition so when we heard the word “scoop,” the news story was literally a real scoop.

Chicago’s daily news media also enjoyed big budgets and staffs. They could afford to cover the Chicago, which was for all intents and purposes the news capitol of Illinois. But they also covered the suburbs.

The community news media, which covered Chicago’s neighborhoods and the suburbs, were expanded until the mid-1990s.

It was a predatory system, too. The national media would steal or “big foot” stories reported by the regional news media, like Chicago, and the regional Chicago media would big foot” stories from the community news media, which was never given any respect by journalisms arrogant industry elites.

These days, however, the media system is dysfunctional. It is in disarray regionally and nationally. Staffs and budgets have shrunk, and they survive by exaggerating things like murder, crime, racism and partisan politics even more than they did before. It’s one reason why the today’s media has become advocates for politicians on the Left, why they hated President Trump so much, although honestly, Trump did a poor job of getting his message out.

Some of his Tweets read like the imbecilic blathering of midnight drunks. Notice how the media has suddenly shifted away from the Left to be closer to the Center? (Isn’t it ironic that after all of the liberal media scare and hysteria, the “RightWing” Supreme Court did not violate its commitment to justice and they voted against recognizing Trumps efforts to block the vote in Texas?)

But even all that won’t save the media. The only way to save the media is to refocus the priorities and put the emphasis on the community news, mainly in the suburbs. It should happen across the country, too, because the same patterns of boring news reporting from the big cities is being overwhelmed by better stories from the suburbs which don’t get enough attention but are increasingly becoming more significant.

I’m not blaming the reporters or journalists themselves for this need to refocus. I’m blaming the system that doesn’t work and needs to be changed.

I remember when the Chicago Sun-Times first hired me in 1985 from my job as City Hall reporter at the Daily Southtown to write a political column, and later cover Chicago City Hall. The publisher wanted me to move downtown, leaving my home in suburban Orland Park.

 “You need to get a condo right here in the Loop to become a big columnist. The Talk of the Town.”

I disagreed arguing the news was still driven by one important factor. What was the most compelling story? Not where was the story?

One day it would shift from Chicago to the suburbs where many of Chicago’s residents had already fled to escape the vicious crime and the outrageous costs of living.

Many media tried briefly but gave up in the 1990s because of costs. Eventually they closed many community papers to save money. At the same time, ownership shrunk to five big corporations and 16 billionaires who put their interests first and reduced concerns for the neighborhoods and communities.

That was their mistake. Today, the important stories are in the suburbs. The political clout is in the suburbs. The most important voters live in the suburbs. They want more than stories of crime, murder and racism.

The Internet has given the community media the same clout as the big Chicago dailies and TV stations. I get the majority of my news from the internet and from community media. Even everyday people on social media do a better job than the big dailies and TV stations in reporting news.

Community news is the future. One day, the major news media might understand that before it takes its last gasp and dies.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. He writes columns on mainstream issues for the Southwest News Newspaper Group, the Patch and Suburban Chicagoland.com, and on Middle East issues as the US Special Correspondent for the Arab News. Visit his personal website hub at www.Hanania.com.)

Ray Hanania

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