Municipal Cyberbullying

Tribune Landlord StoryMy apartment made it onto the front page of the Chicago Tribune yesterday by being on Chicago’s new ‘problem landlords’ list. I can confirm that there is a problem, but it’s with the City of Chicago and the Chicago Tribune.

The previous landlord had a bunch of violations. Then he sold the building to a friend of mine. My friend then made the requisite fixes and then I moved in. That’s a familiar boring story. But this is election season! and there is news to be made people!

I’ll let the Trib tell it:

CHICAGO (WLS) – In an effort similar to its so-called Building Code Scofflaw list, the City of Chicago will begin posting the names of landlords who have been referred for official review for failing to provide basic services and protections to people paying rent… Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new plan comes after an emergency court hearing on Friday. The city took landlords of 20 properties to court to force them to restore heat for renters.

To be fair, it seems like the city had anticipated these grey areas. So I’m going to throw the blame mostly on the Tribune:

Felicia Davis, the city’s building commissioner, said building owners that sell their properties will remain on the list until they pay their fines. Buyers of the buildings would be given some time to correct violations.

If you’re going to report the “cyberbullying of landlords” story with pictures of my house on the front page embarrassing me, my neighbors, and my landlord, then you’ve got to put in more effort than reddit. In that incident the news aggregation website, reddit, had its users falsely identify a missing (and later found dead) Brown University student as being the Boston Bomber.

I’m not suggesting that this situation is on par with that one, but I am suggesting that the mechanism is the same; news happens and then there’s a gold-rush for reporters to get the story and make some money (or in the case of reddit, internet points aka upvotes). If you’ve seen Nightcrawler, you’re probably starting to feel a little creeped out. Just imagine how creeped out you’d be if your home was on the front page of the Tribune… for no reason…