Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s press office is defending its use of eavesdropping on reporters’ conversations with aldermen.
Many City Hall reporters have experienced it lately: Staffers will pop up behind or next to reporters while they’re conducting interviews with aldermen outside the City Council chambers. The staffers will lean in and type furiously on their smartphones as the interview continues.
I’ve experienced it myself. I caught two of these interactions on tape: Once when I was interviewing freshman Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24), and then a week later, during an interview with Ald. Scott Waguespack (32).
Since a story on eavesdropping is much better heard, not read, we encourage you to hit play above.
Some aldermen and city reporters are “irritated” with this behavior. Waguespack, who says he’s constantly the target of eavesdropping, calls the practice a “waste of time, waste of resources and I really wish they would quit it.”
These incidents have begun to get some public attention: A Chicago Tribune columnist wrote about it after a well-known television reporter tweeted a selfie with a staffer who showed up to shadow one of her interviews.
For their part, the mayor’s press office says this tactic is only used to help reporters. Adam Collins, a top spokesman, declined a recorded interview, instead issuing this statement:
“This is a total non-story. The whole purpose of our press team’s existence is to make sure reporters have what they need, which is exactly what you have here. There should be nothing surprising about that, so I’m not even sure what implication you’re trying to draw. The last time I checked mischievous campaign trackers don’t pose for photos with the reporters they work with daily,” Collins said.
Lauren Chooljian covers Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her @laurenchooljian.