Thursday, April 28, 2005

When Mora is Less

I have written previously about last week’s celebration [in large part by the Chicago media] of the Fifty Year anniversary of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s first inauguration as Mayor of Chicago. I noted one of the better and more balanced assessments was that by CBS-2 News’ Mike Flannery and Ed Marshall. True, they could have included an interview, or two, with a Daley critic, but still—Flannery and Marshall did raise a number of negative issues and criticisms about Mayor Richard J. Daley-- so someone watching it learned that the Mayor, like most of us mortals, had a few warts.

Now, in contrast to the above accolade-- I bring to your attention one of the worst of the Chicago media’s efforts relating to last week's Richard J. Daley 50th anniversary : Antonio Mora’s interview with Bill Daley, brother of Mayor Richard M. Daley, last Sunday night on “Eye on Chicago.”

Antonio Mora has taken subject matter fluff and pitching softballs to a new high [or should I say low] since joining Chicago’s CBS-2 News to become one of its two primary local evening news co-anchors with Diane Burns and hosting the CBS-2 local Sunday night show, “Eye on Chicago.”[Almost every Sunday night, 10:35 pm, CBS, Ch. 2 in the Chicago metropolitan area].

Given the nature of local television news coverage in Chicago, i.e., in large part murders, fires, robberies, features, sports and weather—you may not notice just how “soft,” Mora’s coverage is. But, Mora's apparent lack of knowledge about politics and public policy-- and his soft coverage of same crops up, from time to time, in his evening news anchor position. For example, this was the case in Mora's 10:00 pm local news "lead in," to the report on the Gang of Nine's rebellion against Cook County Board President John Stroger's proposed tax increases in February of this year.

Moreover, “Eye on Chicago,” almost showcases Mora's soft coverage, fluff and propensity to lob softballs to his guests. True, public policy or political types are a minority of his interviews on the show—but when he takes them on, he can make the most interesting guest boring as Hell.

I have included, below, the ten questions that Mora asked in the eight minute, mind-numbing interview he did on “Eye on Chicago.” I have omitted the answers to highlight just how weak Mora’s effort was. My favorite was, No. 4, “Your dad, though, did get a lot of respect this week, some tremendous celebrations, all sorts of people came to honor him.” I mean, that is not even a question. What was Bill Daley supposed to say—“Listen, you moron, of course he got a lot of respect. What did you think, everyone was going to come and spit on his memory.” Indeed, I would have liked it a lot if Billy Daley had said just that.

Anyone who follows current events in Chicago and Washington, DC knows that Bill Daley is a bright, tough, plainspoken, articulate kind of guy who more than knows the score. He could handle a tough interview and do a reasonably fair and balanced assessment, with the right interviewer, of at least a few of the strengths and weaknesses of his dad, and he could do that well in eight minutes.

Although, out of respect for Bill Daley and his Dad, I would have devoted the whole show to the interview with Bill Daley, or better yet, split the show between Bill Daley and some of Mayor Daley's critics, e.g., former aldermen Dick Simpson or Leon Despres. Further, giving Bill Daley six, or so, hard balls, would have made his Dad and him look better than they did with Mora’s approach.

Indeed, I thought Bill Daley, any minute, was going to burst out with “Antonio, for gosh sakes, stop treating me like a two year old.” A good tough interview would not only have been the right thing to do, it would have been good for CBS-2 News’ sagging local ratings.

I have not read a word from Chicago Sun-times media columnist Bob Feder [or anyone else for that matter] on Mora’s lame effort. On the other hand, Feder jumped all over a purported conflict between the City, the Mills Corporation, Ch. 2 and it’s handling of the Flannery/Marshall production and that special’s “sponsor,” the Mills Corporation.

Perhaps there was a conflict of the type noted by Feder that should have been handled better by the CBS front office. However, and Feder should know this, the harm to CBS-2 News’ journalistic reputation from Antonio Mora’s continuing soft coverage on the CBS-2 News and his soft interviews on “Eye on Chicago,” is an order of magnitude greater than anything that could result from the CBS-2 potential conflict relating to the Flannery/Marshall effort.

Moreover, giving people like Flannery/Marshall more air time and Mora less time would also be a good business decision as it would boost ratings and cost CBS quite a bit less.

Mayor Richard J. Daley used to say that good government is good politics [and vice versa]. Someone should tell Joe Ahern, president and general manager of Channel 2, and Fran Preston, station manager, that, at least sometimes, good journalism is good business. This could have been one such time.
Antonio Mora’s introduction and top ten questions for Bill Daley on CBS-2’s “Eye on Chicago.” [Answers Omitted; The show aired on Sunday, April 24, 2005, but was apparently taped on Thursday of last week]:

This past week on the 50th Anniversary of his inauguration, we’ve reflected on the legend and legacy of former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. Political historian Michael Beschloss calls Daley the preeminent Mayor of the 20th Century. He is remembered not only as a brilliant political mind and visionary builder but also as a loving father. William Daley is one of our former Mayor’s seven children. He has served as U. S. Secretary of Commerce [under President Clinton], chairman of Al Gore’s Presidential campaign and he is now Midwest Chairman of JP Morgan Chase.

1. Great to have you here on this very special week for the Daley family and before I talk about your Dad and the Daleys, I want to talk a little about you.You happy as a businessman? Are you itching to get back into politics?

2. You have worn so many hats as a businessman, a lawyer, you know- an appointed politician. Are you still thinking about some day trying the elected side of things?

3. You, as we mentioned, were the Chairman of the Gore campaign and you really turned things around. When you went in there, he was not doing very well in the polls and it looked like George Bush was going to run away with the election and you got it to within a few hundred votes in Florida. Is that your biggest disappointment politically?

4. Could you see yourself in that position, as the candidate going through-

5. Your dad, though, did get a lot of respect this week, some tremendous celebrations, all sorts of people came to honor him.

6. An editorial writer in the Wall St. Journal wrote that the key to the Daley family’s success was the limited ambition of both father and son, your brother, ah, that neither aspired to anything more than being Mayor of Chicago, do you think that’s the key to their success?

7. Looking at American history, there are surprisingly few families that have storied names like yours: Adams, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Bush where you have multiple members who have made real impact on society. And, I think Daley deserves to be up there with those names—has that been uh-uh burden to you, at all?

8. Do you think the third generation will follow in your footsteps?

9. The Chicago Tribune, in an editorial this week, said that in marking the Anniversary that your brother has posthumously achieved what every father yearns for—a son to have greater accomplishments than his father. Do you think that’s true—that he has been a Mayor, a better Mayor than your dad?

10. I suspect your dad would also be awfully proud that your accomplishments arguably surpassed his, too, I bet: A secretary, running a presidential campaign.

Thank you for coming in.
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at