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Dart to journalism students: Reporters ‘churn out a lot of garbage’

Updated: March 26, 2014 7:18AM



Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart apparently takes a dim view of local journalists, whom he recently described as purveyors of “trash who fixate on including competing viewpoints in their work when “there is no other side” to be told.

Dart, who regularly holds news conferences and generally enjoys favorable coverage, made the critical remarks to a group of student journalists at the Illinois Center For Broadcasting in the Loop earlier this month.

“Most of the people in my world hate the media,” Dart said in a video. “I actually not only don’t hate them, I feel sorry for them.”

At issue appears to be public appetite that craves sensationalism over substantive reporting, Dart told the students, during the 12-minute soliloquy that mixed personal gripes with media criticism. The school later posted the video to YouTube.

“I know most of them really want to do something that really matters. Instead they are forced right now to churn out a lot of garbage,” Dart said. “They’re told right now, ‘Well, the public wants to hear trash, so you go out and follow trash.’ ”

When asked to explain the sheriff’s remarks, spokeswoman Cara Smith said Dart is a “passionate guy” who only wanted to encourage budding journalists to focus on issues that matter — not gossip and celebrities like Miley Cyrus.

“Not only does he tremendously respect [journalists’] work, but he recognizes how critically important our local media is in Chicago in uncovering and reporting on incredibly important issues,” Smith said. However, she did allow that, “Certainly we have our frustrations.”

But in the video, Dart went further, focusing his ire on the practice of objectivity — a philosophical pillar of modern journalism that suggests reporters ought to go to lengths to appear neutral, while including diverse viewpoints in their work.

“They have to get both sides of the story,” Dart said, calling the practice “one thing that always eats at me.”

“Believe it or not folks — I don’t know if you got the memo — there is a thing called ‘right and wrong’ in this world,” he continued. “Sometimes somebody is wrong, just dead wrong. But I can’t tell you how often the media feels compelled, ‘Well, we have to give the other side of the story,’ ” he said, adding: “There is no other side.”

Dart then implored the students to strive to do better.

“As you guys go forward . . . there’s big things at stake here,” he said. “Our society has more issues, and they keep multiplying, and if we have a disengaged electorate who is ignorant of the important issues, things are not going to get better.”

Then, as if he was conducting a press conference, Dart concluded his remarks by adding: “I’d be happy to answer questions.”

Email: bslodysko@suntimes.com

Twitter: @BrianSlodysko



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