Browse Primary Sources

Subject is exactly michael miner

"Undercover Journalism's Last Call" - Michael Miner - Chicago Reader

". . . The strange thing about the Mirage series is that a charge of inauthenticity did it in. It was condemned as an antic, a sleight-of-hand unworthy of journalism's highest honors. "A historic project, it had a historic fall. I found the spot in News Values where Fuller talks about the Mirage--it's in a chapter called 'Deception and Other Confidence Games.' "Fuller begins by recalling how he broke in as a police reporter, working with old-timers that Hecht and MacArthur 'used as models for characters' in The Front Page. He wasn't as wily as they were, 'but I did become a passable liar in pursuit of the truth.' "He admits to the 'thrill' he'd personally felt going undercover. 'Deception carried a hint of danger that ordinary investigative techniques simply did not have. Perhaps I sensed something forbidden about it, the secrecy, the betrayal. Or perhaps it was the recognition that deception invites rage and retribution. The feeling was not entirely pleasant, but still when it was over, I wanted to feel it again.' "That's how we talk about sin. Fuller's notion of journalistic sin is more expansive than mine, and when it occurs he's less willing to forgive it. News Values is up to the important business of setting journalism on a new foundation more honorable than the old, but Fuller sweeps undercover journalism into a bin with a lot of old-time techniques we can agree were outrageous, like stealing photos and posing as a cop. . . . "

Chicago Reader  2002-10-02

"When Undercover Was King" - Michael Miner - Chicago Reader

". . . By 1988, when Gaines won his second Pulitzer, the task force and, for that matter, undercover reporting itself were history. For half a year he and reporter Ann Marie Lipinski and associate metro editor Dean Baquet pored over records and conducted interviews, and in the end the Pulitzer board honored "their detailed reporting on the self-interest and waste that plague Chicago's City Council." Gaines focused on zoning--the way it works and how the way it works lines pockets. "The day after the hospital series broke, the board of health held an emergency meeting. The two hospitals soon went out of business, and Gaines and Crawford testified before a U.S. Senate committee. When I asked what the Tribune's pore-by-pore examination of the City Council accomplished, Gaines said, 'That's a tough one. I'd have to say it just educated people to how the City Council worked. It put it all in one big story people could read. I don't think it reformed one thing.' "Neither did the Tribune's eight-month examination of the City Council ten years later--a study the paper in 1997 hailed as a 'fascinating window into the inner workings of government in Chicago.' Gaines worked on that one too. 'I was able to get into even more depth on how zoning works,' he says. 'I think you could do a City Council series every year--every six months.' "The difference between Gaines's two Pulitzers was the difference between bagging an elk with a gun and bagging the whole herd with a camera. . . . "

Chicago Reader  2001-08-09

"To Investigate and Advocate" - Michael Miner - Chicago Reader

"From 1970, the year I arrived here, through 1976, the Chicago press took ten Pulitzers. Half went to writers and photographers at the Sun-Times, which has won a single Pulitzer (for Jack Higgins's cartoons in 1989) since Rupert Murdoch took over the paper in 1984. The Trib has won four Pulitzers in this century, but only one since 2003. Papers that don't win Pulitzers say they're no way to keep score, but the disdain of Pulitzer judges for papers controlled by Murdoch (and his successors, notably Conrad Black) and Sam Zell is shared by a lot of the Tribune's and Sun-Times's former readers. So many people I know buy only the New York Times that I feel like a bit of a damned fool when I say I subscribe to all three. I know what they're thinking: Well, you have to, it's your job. "Back in the day, the essential Chicago newspaper project was the hard-hitting investigation, naming names and kicking butt. Journalism is never more fun than when the facts are lined up and the presses are about to roll. Unfortunately, in desperate times publishers have awakened to the reality that serious investigations are not only very expensive but of no interest to lots of readers—which means too often we get them quick and cheesy or not at all. . . . "

Chicago Reader  2010-07-15