Thursday, March 06, 2014

Not The Example Of Fact-Checking That A News Organization Is Looking For

Not an acutal picture of the Great Chicago Fire, 1871
The ratings have been dropping at CNN and the once proud news network is turning to special programs to boost the ratings and get some eyeballs directed at their offerings. Advertisers don't buy ad time without those eyeballs, and it's the advertising that brings in the revenue.

What subject could be more fascinating, and garner more viewers, than a show about modern day Chicago? After all, the President arose from the political machine that runs the town. His former chief of staff, as well as President Clinton's chief of staff, is now the mayor of that fine city. All the hype that promoted a relatively unknown Senator from Illinois who wanted to be POTUS was generated by a Chicagoan who worked as the spokesperson for Mayor Richard Daley, who himself was the son of another long-serving mayor.

All that political swampiness makes great theater, right?

Wouldn't you know that a Chicago Tribune reporter would go and do some fact-checking on CNN's effort, and find something so very wrong that Chicagoans are laughing at CNN.

To promote Chicagoland, CNN created a web presence with a few still photos for visuals. Liam Ford did a bit of googling, because it's so easy to google an image these days, when he came upon a picture that didn't look right.

No one had a camera on them in 1837 when this picture was supposedly snapped. Chicago in 1837 was still largely a swamp built on the banks of the Chicago River, and it didn't bear any resemblance to the Old West style of architecture that Mr Ford saw in CNN's presentation.

So what did Google have to say? CNN took a still picture from the Hollywood blockbuster In Old Chicago, startting Alice Fay as Mrs. O'Leary of cow fame, and put it up on their website. They said it was a picture of Chicago, but it was a picture of a movie set.

So much for fact-checking, CNN.

It's the little things that eat away at your credibility, small errors that are easily corrected before being posted where Chicagoans can see them.

Would it come as any surprise if certain conservative competitors use this as an example of a news organization that can't get its most basic facts right because no one bothers to check them? Or will it give some credibility to critics who lambaste Chicagoland as inauthentic, a concoction of CNN's uninformed staff?

How can you do a show about the way that Chicago is run without talking to the men who really run it? Where's an episode featuring Toots Caruso and his Chinatown crew?

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