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Mirage Tavern investigation to be revisited during the 2006 SPJ National Convention & Journalism Conference

For Immediate Release:

Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927-8000, ext. 211, bking@spj.orgNerissa Young, Project Watchdog Committee Chairwoman, (304) 876-5209, nyoung@shepherd.edu

INDIANAPOLIS – It was the ultimate journalism embed. Reporters bought a rundown Chicago bar and ran it four months to see for themselves if the stories they’d heard about corrupt officials were true.

They were. Nearly 30 years after journalists from the Chicago Sun Times and officials from the Better Government Association discovered city permits and code violations were for sale, the journalists return to the scene of the crime to discuss the Mirage Tavern investigation and how it applies to today’s civic journalism. The program is part of the 2006 Society of Professional Journalists National Convention and Journalism Conference.

“The Mirage investigation, which received national coverage from ’60 Minutes’ and other media, is a great piece of Chicago history,” said Nerissa Young, chairwoman of SPJ’s Project Watchdog Committee. “More important, it raises today’s relevant issues of how far journalists should go to cover a story. How involved is too involved? Can reporters fairly cover stories in which they are participants? What are the benefits of uncovering corruption verses the liabilities of journalists running sting operations?”

The questions are still being debated, and the public is invited to join the debate Friday, Aug. 25, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Brehon Pub, 731 N. Wells, the very building where the shady deals occurred. The program is free and open to the public.

Panelists include Abdon Pallasch, legal affairs reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, Pam Zekman, investigative reporter for CBS2 Chicago, Zay Smith, metro columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, Bill Recktenwald, professor of journalism at Southern Illinois University and Jim Frost, photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times.

“There were many surprises along the way,” Smith said. “But the project’s main duty was to prove if what we suspected was true. Mayor Richard J. Daley would always say to reporters who asked him about corruption in the city, ‘Where’s your proof?’ The Mirage investigation offered an answer to his question.”

The program is presented in cooperation with SPJ’s Project Watchdog, a national initiative designed to inform the public about how members of the media do their jobs. Specifically, its goal is to educate readers and viewers about the importance of a free and ethical press.

For further information on Project Watchdog, visit http://www.spj.org/projectwatchdog.asp. For information about the 2006 SPJ National Convention & Journalism Conference or to register, visit www.spj.org/convention.asp.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.


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