How Mayor Daley Controls the Media

Note: this post was written prior to Mayor Daley announcing he will not run for reelection. However, this message is important because if Chicago’s next mayor adopts Mayor Daley’s media strategy, the manipulation of the press will lead to more corruption and higher taxes while you receive less city services.

Limited Accessibility and Limited Information

Since his election in 1989, Mayor Daley has controlled the media by limiting the media’s access to him. Throughout the world unscrupulous political leaders use state run newspapers, radio, and TV stations to spread their propaganda to the masses. By limiting access and information, Daley manipulates the media for enough favorable press to have keep himself as mayor for 21 years. Daley doesn’t officially oversee the media like dictators of foreign countries, but the outcome in Chicago is pretty much the same.

Mayor Daley limits the media’s access to him in at least three ways: Mayor Daley only meets with the media for brief periods of time during “micro press conferences.” 2. Mayor Daley doesn’t sit down with TV and print journalists for lengthy one on one interviews. 3. Mayor Daley hasn’t participated in a political debate since 1989, that is five mayoral elections ago.

A few times a week Mayor Daley shows up for a dedication at a school or park, or some other public event. Daley expresses his remarks that he or his publicists prepared before the event. Daley knows it only takes a few sounds bites for him to provide journalists with enough information for them to write or air their stories. Unless Daley’s information is highly favorable to him, the mayor intentionally provides as little information as is necessary for journalists to meet their professional obligations. Daley’s media appearances are so brief and thoroughly scripted, journalists covering the mayor in person are not allowed enough time to ask probing questions.

The question and answer periods between Daley and journalists after Daley finishes his prepared remarks often end abruptly. When reporters ask Daley too many threatening questions about corruption or malfeasance in his administration, the mayor or his press secretary ends Daley’s micro press conference. It is part of Daley’s master public relations modus operandi that when reporters challenge Mayor Daley’s authority, he leaves to attend to some other business.

Mayor Daley’s “micro press conferences” has enabled Daley to stay in office in spite of a 15 year job rigging scheme (1989 to 2004) and many other scandals. Compared to full blown press conferences, Daley’s brief press conferences expose him to little or no scrutiny. By not subjecting himself to lengthy press conferences, Daley has never fully answered questions about the Hired Truck scandal, the job rigging scheme, his son Patrick’s city contract, his nephew Robert Vanecko’s $68 million pension deal, etc. Citizens and reporters have many unanswered questions, but with Daley’s reoccurring communication pattern with the media, journalists and voters will never get a chance to elicit more detailed information from Daley.

Press Releases and Press Surrogates

Mayor Daley also uses press releases and surrogates to shield himself from negative publicity. After the FBI uncovered the Daley administration’s job rigging scheme, Mayor Daley’s then Chief of Staff Ron Huberman held press conferences to explain the city’s plans to implement new hiring procedures. By not attending the press conferences related to the job rigging scandal, Daley avoided questions as to why the job rigging scheme occurred in the first place.

Sometimes Mayor Daley asks someone to act as his surrogate during the middle of his press conference. After a recent spate of homicides, reporters asked Mayor Daley about the murders. Daley said, “Don’t ask me. Ask him,” as he pointed to Police Superintendent Jody Weis. Mayor Daley directing questions about the homicides to Jody Weiss, allowed Daley to avoid answering the difficult questions about how the city was planning to reduce violence and murders in Chicago.

Press releases allow Mayor Daley to get information to the public without an initial onslaught of reporters’ questions. For example, through a press release Mayor Daley let reporters know that he was considering privatizing the city’s recycling and lake front festivals. If Mayor Daley had announced his latest privatization plans in a press conference, reporters would have also grilled him about the privatization of the parking meters. Not surprising some aldermen are questioning Daley’s new privatizations because of what happened with the privatization of the parking meters

The Absentee Mayor

Chicago TV stations air 30 to 60 minute political shows where the host interviews Chicago’s political experts and leaders for extended periods of time. For example, “Chicago Tonight” on WTTW conducts lengthy interviews each night Monday through Friday. Other local stations air their political forums every Sunday morning. Lengthy interviews allow journalists an opportunity to deeply probe their guests about their political decisions, motivations, and opinions.

Since he was elected mayor, Daley has not sat down for a 20 minute or longer one on one interview. Unlike one of Mayor Daley’s controlled micro press conferences, Daley can’t leave in the middle of a 20 minute TV interview because he knows it will reflect badly upon him. The real reason Daley doesn’t sit down for extended interviews is because his poor decisions and scandalous administration make him too vulnerable of a target.

Your Tax Dollars Pay for Daley’s PR Machine

Your tax dollars have been paying for Mayor Daley’s publicists who have been putting a spin on the corruption and parking meter stories. The vicious public relations cycle ends up costing you more money. The corruption and incompetence in the Daley administration creates a need for Daley to award contracts to his spin doctors. Daley’s spin doctors come in and clean up Daley’s mess. Thanks to his spin doctors, Daley retains his political power, which eventually leads to more Daley administration scandals. The new scandal requires more spin doctors and the corruption-spin-doctor-reelection cycle repeats itself.

Public relations firms and spin doctors don’t come cheap. After mounting criticism in 2009, Mayor Daley cancelled 11 public relations contracts. Daley was paying each public relations firm an average of $5.5 million or $55 million in total. Don’t feel sorry that poor, old Mayor Daley doesn’t have any public relations support to help cover his ass. Your tax dollars are still paying for an army of public relations specialists on the city payroll. The city’s public relations specialists’ first and only priority is to protect their Boss, Mayor Richard M. Daley

Mayoral candidate Jay Stone says honest, ethical, and good government is the best public relations for Chicago mayors. If mayors serve the people who elected them, they don’t need an army of public relations experts putting a spin on negative stories. When mayors consistently do things right, they don’t require public relations experts to convince the public of their intentions, honesty, or integrity.

Note: Mayor Daley sat down for an extended interview with WTTW’s Phil Ponce after Daley announced he wasn’t seeking reelection. Daley refused to discuss the questions that remain about the Hired Truck scandal, job rigging scheme, and his son’s Patrick’s city contracts.