Chi Trib went for the hat trick, or maybe trifecta (horse bettors have to help out here), with this pair, yesterday and today, of page one smash-’em stories:
* Sunday’s was about a black man brutalized by drunken whites who got short jail terms in Linden, Texas, described by the Texas NAACP head as one of “a few areas in Texas that have kind of bypassed the civil rights era.” Linden, said the NAACP man, is “an island of the ’50s.” One of a few, an island: unusual. What then is the significance of this story for a Chicago, as opposed to a Texas, newspaper? It does rub raw sores of discontent among most readers. Is this what reporter Howard Witt and his editors have in mind?
* Monday’s, with the startling head “Critics: Pentagon in blinders: Long before 9/11, the military was warned about low-tech warfare, but it didn’t listen” is about “maverick officers, active and retired . . . agitating for change,” including “a chief warrant officer in the Marine Reserves who focuses on gang crime in Chicago as a sergeant in the city’s Police Department [who] recently returned from Iraq after leading a Marine unit against insurgents.” Other “mavericks” are quoted, in their journal articles and in personal interviews. The problem goes back to the Viet Nam war, the article, by Stephen J. Hedges, says. Back to Gen. Billy Mitchell being court-martialed for his stubborn support for developing air power in 1925, it might have said, lending context. Buried in the story is 3rd Cavalry’s commander saying they are learning how to do it in Iraq, which would have made a Wash Times lead. All in all, Hedges did a lot of reporting but was given an awful lot of space — more than 2,200 words! — and (naturally) used it all up. Are there no editors below O’Shea at Chi Trib, any beside the one who devised that sock-’em-bust-’em head, picking on a time-honored fat target?