Dear editor:

The Chicago Reader has either run out of news to report or has grown irresponsibly lazy. Had there been any recent developments in the 1998 case headlined in the September 5, 2003, issue [“A Drunk Police Officer, a Dead Pedestrian”], a legitimate reason could have been posited for the retelling. Release of the convicted (April 2002), settlement of the civil action (December 2002), even simply the anniversary of the tragic crash (June 1998)–there are numerous credible reasons, although some more tenuous than others, that it might merit a review in a respectable media outlet. That the Reader did not even attempt to make such a connection suggests it is transitioning from a news outlet to an erratic historical review, or that its motives for publishing the September 5 cover are ones it chooses to hide.

If the Reader believes this 1998 incident–which so painfully altered so many lives, police and civilian alike, although of course to different degrees and in different ways–somehow illuminates or informs recent events, then it has an editorial and ethical obligation (it should have the guts) to state such. Without either a self-evident reason for the rehash, or a clear statement as to its relevance, one is left to wonder what motives the Reader is hiding. Is it rehashing a story that seems similar to a recent story, because it hasn’t the energy to actually investigate the recent story but wants to appear on the ball? Is the Reader attempting to douse sympathy that might be felt by the public for the 25th District, or police in general, as a result of the recent spate of tragedies suffered by the officers there? Is it something else? Or is there no reason, except perhaps a frantic rush for an eye-catching headline, the currency and relevancy be damned?

I have grown to expect more from the Reader than lingering questions about its motives, its currency, or its relevance. Painful stories often must be told. It is not merely the job but the duty of the media in a free society. I sincerely hope that the Reader’s recent editorial decisions do not signal its decline from independent media voice to vacuous tabloid fodder.

Heather Daniel