Working the Story: Covering campaigns is harder than it used to be

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Political junkies, reporters and people concerned about the role of the media in holding politicians accountable should watch this conversation between veteran Sun-Times political reporters Lynn Sweet and Mark Brown about how getting information on the whereabouts of the candidates and what they are doing has changed (not for the better).

“Working the Story” is a video feature of the Chicago Sun-Times that explores how our reporters do their jobs.



LYNN SWEET: [00:00:00] If we went back 10 years or more you would have had. All the news outlets would have had it. Reporter assigned to the Republican, Democratic governor, there would have been a van covering the attorney general with reporters at least running around with him regionally. Now I can’t even get schedules. Mark, you and I used to be in planes with the candidates. Can you just reflect in the minute or two we have left how campaign coverage has changed?

MARK BROWN: [00:00:29] Well that I think it goes. I think it’s changed. It might go back 20 years with it. You know the change and then change is twofold. The changes are on our side the media say there’s fewer of those. We don’t have the resources to devote to it.

LYNN SWEET: [00:00:48] We were full time, whatever year it was between when Neil Hartigan ran against Jim Edgar. That’s all we did right to all that.

MARK BROWN: [00:00:58] That was it, right. One of us would have been with one of have been with the other one and maybe we would switch off at some point. And in those days, you and I would decide OK this is what this is one story. This is what the news. This is what we’re going to try to get make news on this subject. And we would pick our subjects and then. We had a lot more influence on what what’s going on. Now the candidates control the news now. They control everything.

LYNN SWEET: [00:01:35] Because they use social media just bypass.

MARK BROWN: [00:01:38] They just bypass they don’t. They don’t. We have no idea where they are on. Most of the time, we don’t know what they’re telling people. And that’s where they want it. They don’t they don’t want us mucking up the works.

LYNN SWEET: [00:01:55] So even if we have the resources I can’t find out I’m covering .. it is a technique the candidates on both sides use now not to give out schedules because they’re also afraid of trackers with video cameras catching them saying something wrong and then it becomes a crisis in the campaign.

MARK BROWN: [00:02:16] Or twisting something so great but you know it’s yes.

LYNN SWEET: [00:02:21] It’s a different era. I do wish I say this all the time that at least candidates and when they get elected would make their appearances public. I’m not talking about going to the dentist, Mark, saying if you’re going to the Chamber of Commerce to talk about your election, let us know so we can go cover it. It would be ours, let us choose. The other thing is back in the day Mark we only had one story a day to do. Now we’re all I mean one a day on the campaign with maybe sidebars or significant other developments. But now we’re on video helping our viewers in Chicago figure out what is happening in the closing days of the campaign. I appreciate your taking time to. Listen to us today. Appreciate it very much. I encourage you to visit the Chicago Sun Times voting guide at We have profiles of all the candidates running for statewide office, Cook County and Congress, plus the judges. I can’t speak enough about our voting guide. If you just want pure information. Credible information, the questionnaires the candidates filled out for the Sun-Times, just read and decide for yourself to make up your own mind at your convenience. Please go to our voter guide.

LYNN SWEET: [00:03:35] Our livestream sponsor AARP Illinois invites you to visit to learn more about how to get involved to hold Illinois elected officials accountable. On behalf of the AARP and the Chicago Sun Times. We will be here every day this week at noon I’d like to say noonish. Mark, thank you so much for joining me. We’ll see you tomorrow and vote through November 6th to make your voice heard.

This week, Sweet is hosting a livestream each midday to talk about the latest news and trends in the Illinois races. You can watch her live today and tomorrow on our voting guide page at noon. 



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