Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chicago Tribune Rehashes Google Subpoena Story, Offers Nothing New

As noted five days ago, the big mainstream media was missing the big story about a Chicago developer who has subpoenaed Google in an effort to learn the identities of some anonymous bloggers in the Uptown neighborhood. Today, finally, on February 12, The Chicago Tribune picked up the story. It was broken by reporter Lorraine Swanson, editor of News-Star, on January 28. The story in the Trib today is a watered-down rehashing of Swanson's report. Unlike Swanson, however, Trib writer James Janega did not include any quotes from the two most important players in the drama: Developer Peter Holsten and his attorney Tom Johnson. In Swanson's January 28 story, she quoted Johnson as saying, "We did issue a subpoena to Google....The subpoena asks for all the information for two particular sites that Google has." Did the Trib talk with the people who brought the subpoenas? I don't know, but if they did they didn't use their quotes. The Trib quoted some people, but they are not key players. Attorney Thomas Ramsdell, who represents local citizen's group "Fix Wilson Yard," is not a key player because Fix Wilson Yard is not a target of the subpoenas. Robert Moss, vice chair of the Chicago Bar Association's Civil Rights and Constitutional Law Committee, is also not a key player. He's not even a minor player. He's just some guy in the Trib's Rolodex of "experts" that they call for a handy quote when the key players don't pick up their phones. The Trib also quoted Matt Zimmerman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), but they are involved only as the representatives of block club Buena Park Neighbors and the two bloggers, What The Helen (defunct) and Uptown Update. Zimmerman's quote in the Trib adds nothing new to the story. "Regardless of what the motivations are, there's certainly a chilling effect as a result of subpoenas sent out specifically targeting sites criticizing this development," he told the Trib. Well, duh. As with that quote, the Trib's story adds nothing new. It's a report, but it's not "news" because by today, the story is "old" by news cycle standards. That's not to say the story has lost its importance. It is still developing and, as Zimmerman correctly said, could have a chilling effect on a segment of the public discussion about not just Wilson Yard, but any subject of public interest. Keep watching for updates on this story from Lorraine Swanson. Although her initial report is now two weeks old, it still has more information than the story today at The Chicago Tribune. RELATED: Holsten's attorney subpoenas Google - Information sought on 2 Uptown blogs (Jan. 28) Developer Targets Bloggers in Chicago (Jan. 29) Big Media Missing Google Subpoena Story in Chicago (Feb. 7) Full Texts of Blogger Subpoenas (Feb. 7) CNB RSS Feed