December 19, 2007

Glossy fliers, vast right-wing conspiracy doom Co-Op

Monday’s Co-Op Board meeting—which Tim writes about below, and Hyde Park Progress summarizes well—was not only a victory in and of itself, because it closed the Co-Op, but it was also a victory for democracy. 60% of voting Co-Op members punched the chad to kill the Co-Op. Nevertheless, this fell on some deaf ears, particularly those of the Hyde Park Herald. The Herald’s front page story (never a stable link), which does not have a by-line (perhaps because it’s basically unsigned editorial), starts off on the wrong foot with the unbelievably biased headline and sub-headline: “Co-Op board rejects member pleas” and “Vote leaves 170 jobless for January.” Not to beat a dead horse—Tim’s already commented on this—but the Board voted with 60% of the Co-Op's members; it rejected the “pleas” of a vocal minority. How about these headlines: “Overpriced, low-quality grocer closes with 60% of membership approving” and “Community likely to get cheap groceries by February”? The body of the article is even worse. First the piece self-indulgently quotes the Herald’s own owner, Bruce Sagan, prattling on about donating money to the Co-Op. I think he also said something about when he was a lowly newspaper reporter. Don’t really care. The editorial (whoops, I mean news story) continues:

“Nominating committee head Jay Mulberry said ignoring the offer was an act of criminal neglect. ‘Bruce Sagan is offering $500,000, but he has 100,000 friends who have another $500,000. With an offer like that, something can really be done. You simply can’t pass ‘Option A’ when you have an offer like that before you. It would be a crime,’ said Jay Mulberry.”
Now, Mulberry obviously has no idea what he’s talking about, but my favorite part of this is how the Herald turns a relatively innocuous (and obviously not literal) phrase, “It would be a crime,” to mean that Mulberry called it “an act of criminal neglect.” This might fit more closely with what the Herald thinks, but it’s obviously not what Mulberry said. On the inside page, the story finally mentions in passing that there was a vote held and 60% voted to shut the Co-Op down. This is the most important news, and it’s barely even reported. The article goes on to say:
“Many members at the standing-room-only board meeting complained that members had not had time to respond and were taken by surprise by a well-financed public relations campaign funded by the university and including phone banks, direct mailings, and a glossy, full-color brochure urging member-owners who are ‘Hungry 4 Change’ to vote for ‘Option A’” (emphasis mine).
This is definitely my favorite part. It was those glossy, colored brochures that did it!! Without them, the Co-Op would definitely be alive. The article concludes by complaining about the jobs lost, but doesn’t mention—as Tim does in his previous post—that the new grocer will also (obviously) have jobs. And, all current Co-Op employees will get interviewed for jobs at the new supermarket. The Herald’s unsigned editorial is eerily similar to the news article. It’s not worth breaking down, but here’s the best part: “We can all guess who paid for the phone bank (and the pretty four color brochure direct [sic] mailed to Co-Op members).” I'm telling you, it was the darn, four-colored fliers! If only the Co-Op had added a couple colors. Also, can we all guess who paid for the phone bank? Is the Herald just guessing? I honestly don't know. One would expect that Chicago Tribune’s coverage would be a bit less biased than the Herald’s. The Tribune news article, isn’t too bad, but please, please follow this link to watch the Tribune’s video coverage of the story. Somehow, the Tribune reporter couldn’t find a single person against the Co-Op. (Perhaps that's because the only idiots still shopping at the Co-Op are the same ones shouting at board meetings.) A couple highlights from the video: At the beginning it shows a corpulent lady handing out pro-Co-Op fliers. Now, look closely. How many colors do you see on this flier? Two!!! Which is half as much as four. And does it look glossy to you? Not at all. How can the Co-Op even compete against those glossy, four-color fliers? The other good part of the video is the interview with Debbie who works at the Co-Op. (I don’t know for a fact that her name is Debbie, but I'll take a page out of the Herald's book, and just guess. And look at her: Doesn’t she seem like a Debbie?) Our friend Debbie says, “I know for a fact”—for a fact—"that Jewel, Dominick’s, they won’t be able to deliver.” Well, if Debbie, from the Co-Op knows it for a fact… But really, what won’t another grocer be able to deliver? Book fairs? 5%-once-a-month-member-discounts? Uncannily poor service? High prices combined with low quality? Well, then, I hope the new grocer "can't deliver."