There is little evidence of “Fair and Balanced” when it comes to WFLD Fox 32 Chicago. Especially not when it comes to covering the race to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. for the Illinois 2nd Congressional District seat. Rather, the station has followed a protocol in which nearly all coverage has focused on the slew of Democrats running while blacking out the remaining four Republican candidates’ existence.
Before candidates even filed to appear on the February 26 primary ballot, Fox Chicago offered extensive coverage of the Democrat field. They have since reported on Democrat candidates getting in the race, getting out of the race, which Democrats are endorsing which Democrats, how much money Democrats are raising, which out-of-state PACs are attacking and supporting which Democrat candidates, what the Democrat candidates’ positions are, and what order the Democrat candidates will appear on the Democrat primary ballot.
Suppose a viewer wished to learn anything basic about the Republican primary--the names of the Republican candidates, for example. Let’s hope they didn’t turn to Fox Chicago. Only one of the five Republican candidates that filed was reported by Fox Chicago--the furthest left-leaning Republican in the race, Lenny McAllister. They then failed to report that four additional Republicans had also filed.
While other news outlets in Chicago haven’t been much better, (click here for coverage on ABC and CBS), Fox Chicago far and away has offered the least Republican primary coverage. While they have had multiple Democrat candidates on their Sunday morning shows for interviews, they haven’t had any of the Republicans on once.
When Fox Chicago’s political editor Mike Flannery moderated a debate in the south suburban end of the district, he covered the Democrat segment of the forum and particular candidates’ views and statements. When it came to reporting the Republican segment of the forum, Flannery only mentioned that one took place, failing to mention any of the candidates’ names (Paul McKinley and Beverly Reid) who participated.
I contacted Fox Chicago to find out why the network has offered so little coverage of the Republican primary candidates. Assistant news director Chris Myers told me he would have their New York offices respond, which never occurred.
And last week when I attempted to interview political editor Mike Flannery at a candidate forum to ask about the lack of “balanced” coverage of the primary, Flannery answered [paraphrasing]: “I want to interview you guys--I want to find out why the people who fund you aren’t getting behind these Republican candidates! How come the Republican big wigs in Washington aren’t behind them? Why should I cover your guys, when their own party won’t get behind them?”
Flannery does bring up one good question--why have GOP leaders have been absent in the race?
But why hadn’t he asked it himself? Is it really a question Flannery finds important? Or is it only important to him when he is on the defensive?
Flannery then said he wanted to interview Breitbart’s Joel Pollak about the Republican party’s absence in the race (which he then did). But on Fox Sunday Morning, Flannery yet again failed to cover the field of candidates, in doing so continuing to keep his viewers in the dark. While Flannery did mention candidate Eric Wallace’s endorsement from the Chicago Tribune, he kept the focus of the interview on the national party.
Pollak explained a very important point:
There are a large number of Republican candidates, one of whom at least is a viable candidate who could win the district, possibly, if the winds go his way and there's just not a lot of attention being paid at all. For candidates who are starting out, it's a Catch-22. You don't get covered by the media because they think you're not going to win. But your chances of winning are lower if you don't get covered by local media.
Flannery reported, “We plan to have the GOP primary winner on here, perhaps as soon as next Sunday and we hope to host a debate with the Democratic winner.”
But does it even matter?
If local news networks refuse to cover an entire primary election, how can voters get the accurate information they need about the candidates’ positions to make an informed choice? And while the local media has been ingraining the Democrat candidates’ names into the minds of 2nd district voters for the past 2 months, without hardly mentioning that there is aRepublican primary, what can we expect the Republican voter turnout will be?
All of this raises another very important question. As long as the local media contends they are justified in ignoring an entire party’s slate of candidates and declares early on that the winner will be a Democrat, regardless of the past history of the district, can a challenger to the Chicago Machine ever really get a fair chance of bringing change to Illinois?
Perhaps if Chicagoans and Illinoisans could count on Fox Chicago to provide “fair and balanced,” accurate coverage of local politics they might see an uptick in their pathetic ratings.
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