The loss of DNAinfo and an independent media.

Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 6.27.18 AM

Anne and I were at a protest last week at Lurie Children’s Hospital to join our friend Pidgeon Pagonis and other intersex activists protesting unnecessary surgeries on intersex children.

As far as I can tell, DNAinfo was the only mainstream media present and reporting on it.

It is an example of why DNAinfo served as a valuable source of street level information.

The problem is that DNAinfo was owned by a right-wing union-hater, Joe Ricketts.

Media reporter Robert Feder describes Ricketts as “patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs, has been losing money on DNAinfo since he founded the hyperlocal digital news service in New York in 2009 and expanded it to Chicago in 2012. He added Chicagoist in March.”

But losing money in the short term has always been the business model of an internet company. It took Facebook five years to make a dime.

What Trump supporter Ricketts wouldn’t tolerate is journalists working for DNAinfo joining a union. So when his New York workers voted to join one, he shut the entire nation-wide operation down.

The loss of work for hundreds of writers and journalists heading into the holiday season is cruel. The loss of a street-level information source is a shame. We need more outlets for information, not less.

It is why I am concerned about what went on in Washington the other day where internet information is controlled by a smaller number of multi-billion dollar companies and where the government is threatening tighter controls.

Meanwhile, there needs to be a growing independent media.

As the journalist A.J. Liebling said, “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.


By popular demand: Klonsky brothers on the air and live internet streaming.


Due to popular demand, my brother, Mike Klonsky (who blogs at Small Talk) and I will be doing a live radio show, Hitting Left, on Friday, February 3rd at 11AM, CST.

Our in-studio guest will be Troy LaRaviere, President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, former principal at Blaine Elementary and Rahm critic.

We and the good folks at WLPN, 105.5 FM Lumpen Radio, Chicago’s community radio station are trying this out as a pilot broadcast.

If you like it, let them and us know.

Talking school funding issues with Ria Rai Harris on Straight, No Chaser.

Tune in on Monday, May 23rd at 6pm cst to The Straight No Chaser Show as I discuss the “pay for success” social impact bonds, Illinois’ formula for funding public schools, charter schools vs public schools and the failures of the Chicago Public School System with host Ria Rai Harris. H Cortez will provide us with part 2 of his 8 part special series in the “Money Moment.” View us LIVE at and subscribe to the YouTube page The Straight No Chaser Show.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 6.23.23 PM

I’ll be talking Chicago and Illinois’ #pensiontheft on social media. Join the conversation.


Al Jazeera produces a really interesting show using social media to discuss important issues.

Tonight I received a Tweet from Frank Matt, an Associate Producer of Al Jazeera’s The Stream.

Tomorrow night they will go live to discuss the Chicago #pensiontheft.

Frank asked me to video tape a series of 30 second clips that they will use on the show.

30 seconds doesn’t sound like much. But I can say a lot in a couple of 30 second clips. And The Stream will use those clips to move the discussion along.

“While many are familiar with Detroit’s pension crisis, few realize Chicago’s is worse. Funds for city workers are $19.5B short of meeting obligations – a gap of more than $7,000 per resident. For firefighters that means for every $1 owed in benefits, there’s only 25 cents in the bank. So with a system that’s only 35% funded, how can Chicago maintain its reputation as a “city that works?” Join us Tuesday at 7:30pm ET.

We also hope you are able to watch us at 7:30pm ET and tweet your thoughts on this topic to @AJAMStream! Our show format thrives on social media contributions.

You can join the conversation on Twitter.


Aaron Swartz. RIP. How the kids fought for civil liberties and pissed off the Feds.

Aaron Swartz was found dead in his New York apartment on Friday. Apparently it was suicide.

His family issued this statement:

“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”

The in box. Chicago Newsroom summary.

Public pensions take the spotlight in today’s discussion, featuringMayoral tutorial’s Don Washington and education blogger Fred Klonsky.

At the urging of many activists and civic groups, the referendum issue on the state ballot last week that would have restricted the ability of legislative and policy bodies to increase public pensions and benefits –  was defeated.  Both our guests agree that the defeat was a good thing. But they emphasize that the battle over how to fund the gaping hole in the state’s public pensions has only just begun.

Yesterday, Ty Fahner, writing for the Commercial Club of Chicago, said that the pension issue was “unfixable”, and he urged immediate, drastic cuts in pension benefits, increases in eligibility ages and other actions.

None of this impressed Klonsky.

“Here’s a guy who, when he was attorney General under the governorship of Jim Thompson, it was the worst time for the funding of state pensions under any governor,” he says. “They went from paying 90%of their obligation to 30% of their obligation. While Ty Fahner was the Attorney General. Now Ty Fahner goes on Chicago Tonight on WTTW and says that if an employer in the private sector were to do what the state did to their employees (renege on payments into their retirement plan), they would be indicted. So he would have had to indict himself.”

We asked Don Washington if it didn’t make some sense that many taxpayers, frustrated by their own dwindling paychecks and benefits, would think it unfair that public workers continue to receive what taxpayers might consider extravagant benefits.

“What’s happened to the private sector is that it’s been cannibalized,” he says. “It’s been eaten whole by corporations that have wiped away union protections, wiped away good, middle-class jobs, good working-class jobs, where they’re…basically devouring the base of the economy. And the only thing that’s left are the public workers who have public unions. They’re the last guys standing before a third-world country.  We shouldn’t be up in arms about how good the people have it who still have public jobs. We should be up in arms about the fact that the people who run our politics and our economy are so dysfunctional that they’re turning everybody into what amounts to wage-slaves.”

And Klonsky offers a fairly simple, if politically unthinkable, approach. “The actual solution for the funding problem in Illinois is for the Legislature to enact a progressive income tax. It makes no sense to think that you can fund the State of Illinois by taxing those who make the least the same as those who make the most.”

Last week’s election also resulted in a lopsided victory for a non-binding referendum in 327 Chicago precincts calling for an elected school board for the city. Don’t expect one to materialize any time soon though, since Mayor Emanuel and the leaders of the state legislature (who would have to approve it) are obviously opposed.

So wouldn’t an elected school board bring on a raft of unanticipated consequences – like special interest money buying seats, and mediocre candidates being elected by a handful of apathetic voters? Maybe, says Washington, but that’s the price we pay…

“When you ask for an elected anything, what you’re volunteering for is an endless fight. You’re volunteering that you’re gonna care enough about this body to be directly engaged in it. The more people are engaged in it, then you won’t have these problems. It’s just like any other political system. The more alienated and the further away people get from it, the more it becomes purchasable, the more it becomes reflective of the people who have powerful interests that never go away.”

And there’s another factor to consider. This Board will be determining how to manage the schools our children attend. If it involves children, parents will get involved, both  panelists assert. Further, Klonsky says not having an elected Board essentially disenfranchises a largely minority population that is the school system’s largest client.

“It’s simply a denial of the right to participation in a democratic system to say that only mostly minority people in the City of Chicago are not allowed to choose the people who run their school system. Everyone else (in Illinois) can do it, but not the folks in Chicago”