Another day, another media story on the fudging of “reality” and “documentary” for the TV camera – this time it’s CNN’s eight-part series Chicagoland, which never got so much media interest as it did this morning when the Chicago Tribune posted a report on emails between the office of that city’s mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the producers. The emails show Emanuel’s office closely controlled access to their guy, that the producers cajoled his office to get shots they wanted, and a good time was had by all. In the world of politics, and the world of television, this is known as “how it works.”
“If it seems as though some scenes of CNN’s documentary series Chicagoland were coordinated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall and the show’s producers, that’s because they were,” the Trib scolded in the report, timed to coincide with the series’ final-episode premiere last night. “City Hall’s frequent correspondence with the producers illustrates how senior aides to a mayor known for shaping his media image managed how their boss would be portrayed on CNN to a prime time national audience,” the Trib marveled.
More than 700 emails reviewed by the Tribune reveal that the production team “worked hand in hand with the mayor’s advisers to develop storylines, arrange specific camera shots and review news releases officially announcing the show.” Among its findings, producers asked the mayor’s office to help them set up key interactions for what CNN has billed as a non-scripted series. Those interactions included Emanuel’s visits with the school principal “who emerged as a star of the show, emails show,” according to the Trib.
The paper seemed most exercised over the emails in which the production team told Emanuel’s staff that particular scenes “would present the mayor in a positive light” including one in which one of the producers said the project would showcase Emanuel “as the star that he really is.” (more…)