Monday, August 28, 2006

The Sun-Times Provides the Dots, But You'll Have To Connect Them Yourself

In their story on the Cook County hiring freeze, your Chicago Sun-Times ran the following denial:
County officials say last year saw a unique slowdown in county hiring and that this year's hiring patterns compare better with earlier years.

"We do not see this as an unusual spike in hiring," said county spokeswoman Chinta Strausberg. "It is not a significant increase in hiring." ***

Strausberg said more than half of those hired were added to the payroll by elected officials other than Stroger -- tops among them Sheriff Michael Sheahan, who was ordered to add jail guards, and Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, who said she was severely understaffed.
"County Spokeswoman Chinta Strausberg?"


I wonder if -- just by looking around in our copy of the Sun-Times -- we can find another way to characterize Ms. Strausberg's relationship with the County of Cook? Maybe there will be a clue in this chart...


Since the beginning of December, 1,647 full- and part-time employees were added to the Cook County payroll. Not including physicians at county hospitals, those hired with the highest salaries are:

Position Salary
Bruce Washington Director, Capital Planning $133,424
Salvador Godinez Director, Corrections $124,429
Chinta Strausberg Director, Communications $109,233
Rupert Graham Jr. Assistant superintendent, Highway Dept. $108,228
Susan Kortokrax Chief legal counsel, Treasurer $101,831
Lucio Guerrero Director of Appraisals $99,901
Sheila Ahranjani Pharmacy supervisor $91,549
Rayeon Lampkin Director, Radiology/Imaging $88,350
Julie Bracken Senior instructor, Oak Forest Hospital $86,596
Alexander Vroustouris Assistant state's attorney $86,413
Maria Moreno-Szafarczyk Assistant superintendent, Juvenile Center $85,428

Oh, so county spokeswoman Chinta Strausberg, the third highest paid person brought on to Cook County's payroll during its purported hiring freeze, does not see this as "an unusual spike in hiring."

Well, I don't suppose she would, would she?

But why didn't the Sun-Times connect these dots for its readers?

Was it because it was too obvious? I hope not -- because I didn't notice it. It was actually pointed out to me by my lovely and brilliant bride.

The cynical and conspiratorial among us might suggest that the S-T didn't connect the dots out of professional courtesy. It seems that, before cracking the hiring freeze at Cook County, Chinta Strausberg was a highly respected journalist. She was even honored by the General Assembly for "her lifelong dedication to print and electronic journalism."

Although that jaded explanation is tempting, odds are the S-T just failed notice the significant connection between two related pieces of information in two parts of its paper. These things do happen.

But while I'm not willing to take the conspiratorial route this time, oversights like this only serve to make the reading public -- your's truly included -- even more cynical.

And that does both the press and the public a grave disservice.


Jerry said...

I don't know about conspiracy. I'd be willing to bet that the person who wrote the story is different from the person who prepared the graphic. I'd wonder if the writer was even aware of the information in the graphic.

I'd chalk it up to sloppy journalism. For now at least. The ST generally does a good job with its city and county investigative reporting.

Anonymous said...

Where do you think the Sun-Times designer got the information? Do you think they struck off and did some reporting of their own?

And what's with Ms. Strausberg attending Northwestern undergrad and grad classes in journalism per the resolution? Unless she dropped out of Medill as an undergrad, graduated from Roosevelt and then once again went to Medill as a grad student and dropped out again, Ms. Strausberg' resolution seems a bit suspect.

SMC said...

oh sweet, sweet chinta, instead of 2.8 more public defenders, we have the likes of you.

formerly of Illinois Peace Action said...

I remember talking to Kevin Martin, the former executive director of Illinois Peace Action, after a demonstration.

Chinta Strausberg wrote the article for the Defender.

Martin was pretty annoyed at Strausberg for characterizing the march as a bunch of hippies and leftovers from the '60s. (Not sure of her exact words, but it's not that important.)

Martin was annoyed at CS because she wasn't there. She decided to use a little journalistic license.

In fairness to CS, the Defender did have her write a bunch of stuff. But when she told us to take her word on Gerald Nichols, I thought, "yeah, right..."


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