By: MARK FITZGERALD
SEVERAL HUNDRED PUERTO Ricans and other Latinos marched to the downtown offices of the Chicago Sun-Times Feb. 12 to protest a series of articles that documented the controversial ways a local high school uses anti-poverty funds.
Protesters accused the tabloid of anti-Puerto Rican bias in its coverage of Roberto Clemente High School, where, according to the Sun-Times articles, anti-poverty money was used to fund militant advocates of Puerto Rican independence. The articles portrayed a school in the thrall of political activists who even removed the American flag from some classrooms.
Brandishing signs that read “Stop Yellow Journalism” and “Sun-Times is Racist,” the protesters issued a list of demands, including an apology, a meeting with editor in chief Nigel Wade, the hiring of more Puerto Rican or Latino reporters, the inclusion of a Puerto Rican or Latino on the editorial board, and a regular column on Latino interests.
“We are here to demand that the Chicago Sun-Times stop immediately its anti-immigrant, anti-Puerto Rican, anti-Latino slant, and begin to cover issues in our community factually and with journalistic integrity,” Jose Acevedo, an organizer of the so-called “Vigil of Dignity,” told the crowd, according to a Sun-Times story by reporter Daniel J. Lehmann.
“The Sun-Times articles slander our local leadership, undervalue the Puerto Rican community’s legitimate right to affirm its culture, and portray as subversive the legitimate discussion of the status question in Puerto Rico,” Acevedo added.
A Chicago alderman, Billy Ocasio, said the Sun-Times “is saying that just because someone is talking about independence that they are a terrorist.” Ocasio was quoted in a story on the rally by Extra newspaper reporter Hayley Carlton.
In an opinion piece in Exito ? the free Spanish-language weekly published by the Sun-Times’ local rival, the Chicago Tribune ? Latino Institute executive director Millie Rivera said the Sun-Times unfairly linked Clemente High School officials with members and supporters of the violent, and virtually defunct, pro-independence group Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN in its Spanish initials).
“The Chicago Sun-Times represents the free press,” Rivera wrote. “But in this series of reports, it opted to use the power of its free speech to try to deny to a community its right to assembly, association and free speech.”
In a prepared statement, Wade defended the stories.
“Our exclusive coverage of the Clemente High School scandal speaks for itself. Taxpayers’ money that should have been educating children was spent on political propaganda to defend convicted terrorists. We believe our reports serve the best interests of parents, their children and the community.”
?(“Taxpayers’ money that should have been educating children was spent on political propaganda to defend convicted terrorists. We believe our reports serve the best interests of parents, their children and the community.”) [Caption]
?(Nigel Wade, Sun-Times editor in chief) [Caption]