Chicago's Worst in Media 2021
As Chicago explodes in violence, Chicago’s media continues to spoon feed residents pure fantasy
For those living in reality, it is understood outside of San Francisco Chicago may have the worst media in the country. As we draw the curtain on 2021, contributors to Contrarian submitted a few of the worst examples of Chicago media's coverage of critical stories.
Looking back on 2021, some things in media did not change; others changed little, but rarely for the better. Demonstrating Chicago’s media has abandoned any form of investigative journalism, scant coverage of the unceremonious dismissal of docents at the Art Institute of Chicago appeared anywhere in print or on radio or television, and there was no reporting of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) either changing its grading system or simply elevating students to the next grade level in the spring of 2021 amid disorganized remote learning. Similarly, no media outlet in the Windy City bothered to look into what could be accurately described as the teaching of pornography disguised as “Civics” in some of the select-enrollment schools at CPS. Akin to the smut taught to children in classrooms, Chicago’s media also ignored the teaching of Critical Race Theory and professional educators in the school system continuing to corrupt pupils through politicizing our classrooms.
Though media generally declined to cover matters which conflicted with their political inclinations — it is rare when Chicago media figures find anything amiss in Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago or Kim Foxx’s Cook County — Crain’s lowered the bar further with A.D. Quig’s obsequiousness in front of Cook County’s comically incompetent prosecutor, Kim Foxx. A most-fawning interviewer, instead of a come-clean interview with serious questions, what Quig furnished Chicago was a 45-minute schmooze. Hardly a surprise, from Crain’s you are more than likely to read about a local billionaire selling their Lake Forest mansion than about business conducted in Chicago.
Unsurprisingly, WBEZ persisted with its hysterical alarmism on climate change and continued the constant drumbeat for police reform. The Tribe scores high on a list of miserable journalism for its puff pieces on Kim Foxx. Squandering an opportunity to confront Foxx on her failed policies, the Tribe preferred to splatter the articles with glossy images of the Cook County prosecutor in the attempt to create an icon of Foxx as a gutsy, indomitable warrior in the fight against crime.
CBS2’s Dave “Scoop” Savini took honest police error, whipped it up to hysterical proportion, and spread paranoia about police search warrants. A world-historical boob, Savini’s ignorance is inexcusable but not at all exceptional in Chicago media.
In a column for the Sun-Times, Laura Washington’s wrote a riotous piece bemoaning police arrests in Chicago. Assailing CPD for allegedly arresting all the “wrong” people, Washington’s column was supremely disingenuous and revealed the ease with which Foxx manipulates allies in media.
Despite Chicago’s media organs either overlooking the causes for the rapid decline of the Windy City or sanctioning it as proper and good, there were a few bright spots, one of which was the dramatic changes at the Chicago Tribune.
As simply awful as the Chicago Tribune remains, it moved a step is closer to being bearable with the change in ownership and bidding farewell to two of the worst columnists the daily ever published, the utterly revolting Dahleen Glanton and the loathsome Eric Zorn, both of whom accepted buyouts over the summer of 2021.
A woman who portrayed herself as a crafter of crystalline sentences, Glanton spent decades using the Tribune as a platform from which she aired a variety of grievances with white America. Frequently declaring half the country was racist, Glanton’s columns were a miscellany of absurdities: Arguments for reparations paid to blacks, apologia for violent gang members, and refusing to acknowledge extremism on the Left side of the political divide.
Glanton, unsurprisingly, wrote frequently on police and always negatively. Days after the fatal shooting of an armed 13-year-old gang member, Glanton wrote a weepy piece in which Adam Toledo became the beneficiary of her revisionism. Bemoaning Toledo’s death, Glanton’s preposterous narration described the apprentice gang member as a “frightened child standing motionless, staring at an officer’s gun,” while scarcely mentioning Toledo was armed, was associating with a known gang member, and had likely fired a weapon at passing automobiles which summoned ShotSpotter to the scene.
More important, Glanton never mentioned the word “gang” in her column. Though evidence existed Toledo was involved in criminal behavior, Glanton’s defense of Toledo’s anti-social behavior was an attempt to transform the dead teenaged gang member from neighborhood menace into a symbol of a neglectful and unjust system.
In one nauseating column in 2020 for which she should have been immediately dismissed upon submitting to the editor, Glanton declared: “For some officers, hunting African Americans is a sport.” A despicable smear on an entire profession, the Tribune advanced Glanton’s anti-police calumny and she inexplicably remained with the newspaper. Stiff as the competition is, this unhinged passage has to count as Glanton’s lowest-down, dirtiest obloquy of all.
The rotten apple in the barrel at the Tribune, for decades Eric Zorn presented himself as an absolute darling of the Left; the kind of raging Left-wing columnist who cares more, understands more, feels more, and simply knows more than you. A man whose vanity is gratified by titles, Zorn laughably crowned himself an “emeritus” Tribune columnist on his Twitter page following his exit from the Tribune in a childish attempt to confer prestige and respectability on himself.
Though one could spend an eternity digging through Zorn’s archives to expose his abysmal ignorance, in February, as the specter of Alden Capital appeared on the horizon, Zorn penned a column groveling for subscribers to stave off the New York hedge fund’s attempted takeover of the paper. Months later, in a sign of the frailty of his messaging, Alden successfully assumed control of the Tribune and set into motion events which led to Zorn’s exit.
Fueled by the conviction it was his job to educate “We the Stupid,” Zorn devoted an entire column in March to discuss the importance of the Chicago City Council weighing a change to the title of “alderman” to “alderperson.” Hardly a vital critique for a city overwhelmed by crime, citizens racked with anxiety, and suffering under bungling leadership, Zorn tackling the matter only helped elevate a meaningless issue to an undeserved place in Chicago’s political discourse to virtue signal. Zorn’s column on the need for proper gender titles evoked memories of his silly October 2019 column on the need to ban plastic shampoo bottles in hotels. This was all typical for Zorn.
Following the death of Adam Toledo, Zorn wrote two columns on the incident, both of which failed to provide any real clarity. In his April 6 column, in a rare instance of prudence, Zorn urged caution to those who were swiftly beatifying the 13-year-old gang member. Unbelievably, Zorn actually implored readers not to judge police too hastily in Toledo’s death. Yet days later, Zorn, in a remarkable volte face, wrote a second column “regretting his tone” in his April 6 piece.
Though it is easy to simply dismiss Zorn’s conflicting views as an acute case of cognitive dissonance, the mere fact he featured a Newsweek correspondent in faraway London prominently in his April 8 piece is telling. After the publication of his first column on April 6, Newsweek’s London correspondent, Ewan Palmer, covered the controversy Zorn created and the fallout on social media. Newsweek has wielded little influence in the last few decades, so it is awfully difficult to resist drawing the conclusion the entire purpose of Zorn’s second column was a shameless and particularly vain self-congratulations as he let Chicago know he had been recognized by an unknown writer in Europe.
For all the glib and obnoxious assumptions in his columns, Zorn’s hyperventilating about “wrongful convictions” is one issue for which he will always be remembered. A matter to which Zorn held an unsettling attachment, the Tribune columnist wrote with agitation about the imprisonment of Nevest Coleman and Darryl Fulton in the death of Antwinica Bridgeman. Though a crime of savage character, Zorn practically demanded Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx vacate the convictions based on the pair claiming they had been coerced into confessing to the crime. Since his feverish columns appeared, attorneys representing the City of Chicago have argued in federal court that prosecutors in Foxx’s office, including some of Foxx's closest aides, neither believed in the innocence claims nor police wrongdoing. Since the case reached a courtroom, Zorn, however, has been notably silent.
Specialists in penning dirty columns, both Glanton’s and Zorn’s columns illustrated little editorial discretion was exercised at the Tribune for the last two decades. Though columnists are expected to express their opinion, a fundamental principle of writing a column is to bear witness to individuals and events, explain, and provoke thought. A good newspaper features opposing viewpoints to balance political commentary and present a full picture of events. Informed writers break down complicated issues and point out lies. Though Glanton and Zorn had opinions, neither were informed writers and the pair spent the bulk of their careers strengthening and advancing falsehoods in their work.
For Zorn specifically, though he often claimed to be a heterodox writer, his blind commitment to full-spectrum progressivism, combined with his vanity and moral preening revealed he was a deeply jaundiced Left-wing crusader, rarely objective, and consistently served as a reliable megaphone for liberalism. Few will miss either Glanton or Zorn and Chicago is far better off without them.
Though there were countless examples of dreadful journalism in Chicago in 2021, in a near unanimous verdict delivered by our contributors, no single incident revealed the bias of Chicago media more conclusively than coverage of the police-involved shooting of Anthony Alvarez. Though a tragic incident, the biased coverage which followed the armed gang member's death deserved a trophy.
On the evening of March 31, a pair of alert 16th District officers spotted Alvarez as he walked along a street in the Portage Park neighborhood. Police were familiar with Alvarez and he with police. As he moseyed along, Alvarez observed officers and immediately attempted flight owing to his evading police one day prior after police responded to a shots-fired call in which Alvarez was alleged to have been involved. Fearful of arrest and facing justice, Alvarez led police on a brief foot chase through the neighborhood, which ended on West Eddy Street. Determined to remove Alvarez from the streets, as police officers gave chase, Alvarez made the fatal error of brandishing a firearm. Police were then sadly compelled to use lethal force.
A man enamored with gang life, Alvarez was a documented gang member and small-time drug dealer who was known for terrorizing the Portage Park neighborhood. Though gang activity revolves around excessive drinking, drug use, vandalizing property, creating disorder, randomly shooting at cars, and murder as a form of fun, Block Club reporters preferred to portray Alvarez in the image of a Mike Brady or Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable by referring to the known Latin Brother as a “young father” in coverage after his death.
A description which suggests Anthony Alvarez was the ideal parent, Ariel Parrella-Aureli and a band of her cronies at do-it-yourself journalism outlet, Block Club, spent months composing articles which depicted Alvarez as daring but lovable. Seeking to mask Alvarez’s dark, hopelessly violent side, Block Club frequently published stories which venerated the drug dealing gang member as a victim of “police violence” and painted officers involved with his fatal shooting as homicidal maniacs who had remorselessly gunned down a hard-working, doting dad.
Despite Block Club’s insistence Alvarez was the embodiment of the congenial Mike Brady or the affable Cliff Huxtable, the gruff, scowling Anthony Alvarez had been arrested one year before his death after threatening to kill the mother of his child. Though Alvarez’s criminal record was available to the public, Block Club declined to publicize his criminal past and seized the moment to vilify Chicago police.
Although you would have to conduct a thorough search for a better example of the devious and slanted coverage of the Anthony Alvarez’s death, Block Club was actually outpaced by the Chicago Tribune. Another sterling example of the biased journalism practiced by the good folks over at the Tribune, in their lively retelling of the events surrounding Alvarez’s death, a quartet of Tribune “reporters” (including the intrepid Gregory Pratt and the overachieving Megan Crepeau) wrote:
“As he ran from Chicago police, Anthony Alvarez stumbled, what appeared to be a gun in one hand and a cellphone in the other.”
An interesting analysis, the Tribune’s reporting crew, in sum four people, determined beyond doubt Alvarez was in possession of a mobile phone in one hand, but at best could only allege Alvarez was armed with a gun in the other. It is important to add all four Tribune reporters were watching the same video, yet none of the four could definitively recognize a gun in Alvarez’s hand.
Chicago Contrarian wishes a Happy New Year to all, with a gentle warning to readers to expect more of the same terrible reporting from Windy City media in 2022.