Maybe Not “Fake News”…But Nowhere Close To The Whole Truth


In our most recent post we wrote about our wish for more H.I.T.A. from our units of local government in 2018. We also observed how televised and videotaped meetings have compensated for “sketchy” reporting by our local newspapers.

Not surprisingly, an anonymous commenter to that post accused us of being unfair to our local press on our way to playing the “fake news” card.

So what a fortuitous coincidence it is that an article in this week’s Park Ridge Journal just happens to provide a timely illustration of how the local press subtly – or not so subtly – attempts to influence opinions rather than just report the facts.

The article in question, “Library Board Gears Up For New Director Candidates” (Jan. 3), is by Anne Lunde, who has covered local government in Park Ridge for as long as we can remember.

Throughout her career Ms. Lunde has displayed a decided bias favoring governmental bodies – the bigger, more expansive and more expensive, the better – first at the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate and currently at the Journal. This being Illinois, and Ms. Lunde being an unapologetic Chicagophile, that means her views are about as anti-H.I.T.A. as possible.

To which, of course, she is entitled as a citizen.

As an experienced journalist, however, she has learned how to promote her bias in nuanced ways intended to be undetected by the casual reader, which she gets to do from a media platform not generally available to the ordinary citizen. It’s not what the current POTUS criticizes as “fake news,” but it’s also a far cry from what legendary WaPo reporter Carl Bernstein described as good reporting: “[T]he best attainable version of the truth.”

In order to understand and fully appreciate Ms. Lunde’s advocacy in what should be objective fact reportage, one needs to deconstruct and analyze her article, virtually paragraph by paragraph.

The first two paragraphs subtly attribute the Library Board’s “losing their top finalists” for the director position to its “[e]fforts to be very transparent.”

What’s her favored remedy to prevent losing future finalists? A third paragraph that extols “interviews in closed session” followed by “deliberat[ing] in closed session” before “return[ing] to deliberate in a separate closed session and determin[ing] a salary offer in closed session” – the process adopted by a majority of Library trustees at their December 19th meeting.

That might be a record for use of “closed session” in one paragraph, at least when the author is not condemning them. And Ms. Lunde isn’t about to condemn a closed session: In her view of government, which she has shared with this blog’s editor on several occasions over the past decade, closed sessions and behind-the-scenes schmoozing are how government gets things done.

Which is why her final paragraph attempts to excuse those secretive closed sessions by pointing out that the Library Board – after interviewing the candidates outside the public’s view, after deliberating about the candidates’ qualifications and suitability outside the public’s view, and after debating and deciding the salary and benefits to be offered the candidate outside the public’s view – still has to conduct the actual vote on hiring the chosen candidate in open session.

Big whoop. That’s the absolute barest minimum transparency required by the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”). But IOMA’s bare minimum is apparently what a utopian government looks like to Ms. Lunde.

In our opinion, however, Ms. Lunde’s most devious journalistic device resides in her shortest paragraph, of only five words, about those closed sessions: “There was not universal agreement.”

What’s so “devious” about that? Because it is the truth but not the whole truth.

The lack of the whole truth advances Ms. Lunde’s political agenda at the expense of honest journalism – about which conservative public intellectual Thomas Sowell warned thusly:

“If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.”

How does she advance her political agenda at the expense of her journalism?

Simple: By not identifying the dissenters – Library trustees Joe Egan, Char Foss-Eggemann and Mike Reardon, whom we identified in our 12.26.17 post – and thereby marginalizing them and their dissent.

She knows that Egan, Foss-Eggemann and Reardon are the Library Board’s strongest H.I.T.A. proponents. She also knows that they are well respected by many members of this community. Because of that, she knows that identifying them by name would likely cause folks who know and respect them to question the legitimacy of those closed sessions, as well as the judgment of the members of the Board majority – Karen Burkum, Steve Dobrilovic, Josh Keim, Garreth Kennedy, Pat Lamb and Judy Rayborn – who prefer to hide from their constituents in such sessions.

So she reports the bare fact of the dissent but leaves the dissenters numberless and nameless. That also helps their fellow trustees escape scrutiny for their anti-H.I.T.A. beliefs, policies and conduct – like the bogus, chicken-bleep “survey” of their closed-session hiring process instead of an actual vote on adopting it. That way, the majority gains the political cover of not having a public record of their actual votes for more closed sessions.

You can watch that discussion on the meeting video, starting at the 29:45 mark and ending at the 53:45 mark.

So while we hope for more H.I.T.A. from our local governments in 2018, the same is sorely needed from our local press. Which reminds us of a quote from Pres. John F. Kennedy that Ms. Lunde and the Library Board should consider:

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”

If Lunde and the Library Board majority actually care about “a free and open society” – or, at least, care about it more than they do about pandering to the anti-H.I.T.A. propensities of mercenary headhunter John Keister and about hiding from their constituents – they sure have an odd way of showing it.

To read or post comments, click on title.

7 comments so far

‘The first two paragraphs subtly attribute the Library Board’s “losing their top finalists” for the director position to its “[e]fforts to be very transparent.”’ There is no hard evidence that our process was the determinative factor. Dilger dropped out because she accepted a position with Palatine (immediately after her Park Ridge interview, which was attended by a Palatine rep), and Skog never publicly stated his reasons (recall that his withdrawal was sudden – immediately after his public forum presentation). Every board member invested a lot of time and thought in multiple meetings regarding our process, so it’s difficult to imagine how a newspaper completely glosses over that fact.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because those facts don’t support the reporter’s – or her editor’s – partisan political narrative. But, of course, you know that – which is why you voted against all four closed sessions, along with Trustee Egan and Trustee Reardon.

And good for you!

Sounds like fake news to me.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What “[s]ounds like fake news”?

Thanks for pointing out how our local press reporters drop the ball when they editorialize rather than report. And thanks for explaining how they do it. I read that story and sensed that something wasn’t quite right, but I didn’t figure out the angles until you explained them.

And I agree with you completely on Ms. Lunde leaving out Egan’s, Foss-Eggemann’s and Reardon’s names. Total attempt to ghost them.

You outed Ann Lunde but what about Jennifer Johnson? Her Jan. 5 article about Maine Twp. giving away hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars to private service organizations says Maine Twp. gave out less than last year. I want to know which ones got less than last year but all she shows is how much each one asked for.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Agreed. And we’d also like to know why the District 63 Education Foundation/Expanded Learning’s after-school program, youth center, open gym and basketball league was given even $27,250 (it asked for a whopping $105,000) when, as what appears to be an affiliate of School District 63, it should be funded by the taxpayers of that District, not those of Maine Township.

Did you miss Journal publisher Todd Wessell cranking up the propaganda machine in support of Maine Township Supervisor Laura Morask and her allies in “Stickers, Passports Among Maine Clerk’s Top Duties” (Jan 3 2018)?

New trustees Carrabotta, McKenzie and Sweeney have been questioning how the Township is spending administrative expenses that are multiples of the aid the Township is giving out, so Wessell is bragging about the 19,412 inquiries handled, 11,725 Cook County vehicle stickers and the 3,669 passports it processed in 2017.

I smell the work of Gary Warner and Dick Barton.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We did miss it, so thanks for pointing it out.

Wessell is an unabashed Morask cheerleader, just like he was an unabashed Provenzano cheerleader. That’s his right because he owns the Journal. But as Thomas Sowell said, that’s why it’s important that “the public understand that difference.”

Thank you, Mr. Trump, for playing the fake news card and showing your true Trump-like colors. If you don’t like how the local reporters report the news, do it yourself. Oh, but wait, you don’t report, you just criticize. Never mind.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The editor and everybody else involved in this blog have jobs outside this blog, which is why it ticks us off when we have to point out when reporters paid to do the job do a horsebleep job – and it ticks us off even more when we have to do their jobs for them.

On the other hand, their articles often serve as a jumping-off point for our posts. So they still serve a useful purpose.

RE: 1/7/2018 @ 3:37
Interesting that Wessell is a “Morask Cheerleader”. Are we talking about the same Morask who was reprimanded in 2012 and had her license suspended in 2013 for a specified period of time by the ARDC? Do these disciplines by her peers mean she is perhaps ethically challenged? Or at least was at the time?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We held off publishing this comment because of our concern about how it appears to conflate “public” and arguably “private” matters, mindful of the fact that the disciplinary records of licensed Illinois attorneys is matter of public record.

Had Supervisor Morask’s buffoonery not involved her playing her “lawyer” card and thereby attempting to intimidate the Township Board majority (2 of whom are also lawyers and, in our opinion, should have been much more aggressive in calling Morask out and challenging her legal pontificating), we would not have published it. But she chose to play that card and, accordingly, we believe the comment is relevant, especially when it appears that her legal opinion – authorizing Township Clerk (and former trustee) Peter Gialamas to vote on meeting minutes as if he were still a trustee while denying voting rights to the three new trustees – was totally self-serving b.s. and totally wrong.

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