Custody cases should be private matters between the families involved in them. The facts of the cases are usually so personal, so intimate that no one wants to see the details splashed across the front page of the newspaper. When a child is involved, they should not be fodder for gossip, and they definitely shouldn't be used by two local newspapers as a chance to one-up the other. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times are doing with Brian Urlacher's custody dispute over his three-year-old son, Kennedy.
On Wednesday, the Sun-Times published a report from court documents questioning Urlacher's parenting skills. Urlacher wasn't being accused of neglect or abuse; instead, Kennedy's mother said that the boy had painted fingernails and once wore a pink diaper. Was it news? Maybe, if you're the Star or Us Weekly, but the Sun-Times is supposed to be a respectable newspaper. Not only does reporting such drivel sully their reputation, but it also makes the football reporters' jobs more difficult. Urlacher won't talk to the Sun-Times now. How are they supposed to do their job when the best-known player won't speak to them?
Yesterday, the Tribune, which never misses an opportunity to prove that they are the respectable newspaper, printed an interview with Urlacher. It seems that Urlacher's aim in speaking with Tribune Bears reporter David Haugh was to take shots at the child's mother. Haugh's aim was to take shots at the Sun-Times: This "news" doesn't suggest Urlacher is a bad dad. It proves he is a famous dad.
The article, originally reported by the Joliet Herald-News, part of the Sun-Times News Group, was accompanied by a photo of the boy's painted toenails and was the second-most-viewed story on the Sun-Times' Web site as of Wednesday night. Mission accomplished.
Haugh also called the attention paid to Urlacher's custody case uninvited and tabloid-like. Mission accomplished, indeed. The Tribune reinforced the idea that this story doesn't deserve attention by giving it attention. Two articles about Urlacher's legal troubles with his child's mother appeared on the front page of the Tribune sports section.
The Sun-Times and Tribune both scored huge stories this week. Their online numbers are through the roof, but it's pretty sad to know that they did it because of a custody battle over a three-year-old. As I read the Tribune story yesterday, my father said to me "There's her side, his side and the truth." That's very true. The Sun-Times and the Tribune, however, are two sides that don't belong in that scenario.