MEDIA WATCH: Shut down of Chicago News Cooperative to reduce education coverage in Chicago

The shut down of the two-year-old Chicago News Cooperative, which provided Chicago news to The New York Times twice a week, will take place on Sunday, February 26, 2012, according to reports in the Reader and elsewhere. The final two-page "Chicago" sections will be published in The New York Times today (Sunday, February 19) and during the next week.

Substance has criticized the Coop as a dangerous form of outsourcing news coverage and potentially prey to its millionaire backers. AUSL's Martin Koldyke, a Chicago Venture Capitalist, who also serves on the Board of WTTW, Chicago's "public" TV station, was one of the major backers of the Coop, and other rich guys were everywhere in its corporate structure, anyone who has followed the Coop since its inception in November 2009 has had to have noted that without the reporters and columnists from the Coop, Chicago's access to news, especially on the education beat, would be even more limited than it is. With The New York Times refusing to increase the number of reporters in its Chicago bureau, perhaps the Coop was the next best thing. At least there were reporters covering major stories — one of the biggest of which has been Chicago Public Schools, even before Rahm Emanuel began his crazed version of corporate "school reform" — and working sources.

By contrast, Chicago's two remaining daily newspapers have more to answer for than be proud of in their coverage of the education beat.

The Chicago Sun-Times more often than not simply re-iterates the official party line of the Emanuel administration. Charter schools? Good! Teacher pensions? A burden! Chicago Teachers Union? "Flame throwing!" Even when the Sun-Times bumps into a story it can't miss (like the "Rent A Protest" story during the recent hearings on school closings and turnarounds), they muck up the story. In that case, the Sun-Times mucked up an important story by proclaiming that they were "exclusive" in breaking the story, when their main source came through Substance and several other reporters had been working the story for weeks, while Substance first brought out the story in August and September.

Even more disturbing in the education coverage from the Sun-Times is their adolescent crush on Rahm Emanuel, and their consequent refusal to do any critical coverage of the mayor's version of "school reform." That pixilated version of reality reached a droll peak with the Sun-Times story (three pages in length) profiling Rahm and his "Brain Trust," and proclaiming the mayor, without irony, "the smartest guy in the room." (Apparently the Sun-Times missed the most recent historical allusion; the last time a corporate entity was touted as consisting of the "smartest guys in the room" was a corporation called Enron). The recent purchase of the Sun-Times by a bunch of Rahm's millionaire buddies makes the paper's version of "news" even more questionable.


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