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NYT Writer Rachel Shteir Digs Deeper Hole For Herself

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 24, 2013 5:40PM

Author, educator and current civic pariah Rachel Shteir took to the media to defend her much-ballyhooed essay in the Sunday New York Times review. Chicago magazine’s Carol Felsenthal interviewed Shteir about the backlash to her essay.

Shteir, naturally, argues her essay is being “misinterpreted.”

CF: Did the Times editors ask you to tone down the anti-Chicago tone of the piece?

RS: I don’t think the piece is anti-Chicago. I feel sad about the way things are going here … Extremely well-known problems in Chicago which I didn’t invent … I object to the premise of your question. What I suggest is that there is a fear that is haunting Chicago. For anyone to say that no one has ever thought of this, of the drop in population and the problems with crime; … that Chicago could end up like Detroit; that this has anything to do with hating the city, I find bizarre. … Am I congratulatory and boosterish? No. The reaction here proves my point. Can Chicago not take criticism? Is there only one conversation to be had in the city as in “Go Chicago?” That was the point of my piece.


CF: How did a East Coast girl like you end up at the University of Chicago?
RS: I think it’s an amazing place and has phenomenal teachers.
CF: When you were a student there, starting in 1982, did you leave the campus and explore the city?
RS: No, I rarely left Hyde Park.
RS: So after college and a decade in New York, what brought you back to Chicago.
RS: I was offered a job at DePaul.
CF: Do you want to leave Chicago?
RS: I’m hoping some day to be able to get out and move elsewhere.
CF: What city would you prefer?
RS: I don’t know. I fantasize about moving back to New York … I’m too old to do that really … I think I’d like to live in different places, move around … Am I ambivalent about Chicago? Yes. But I’d be ambivalent about New York if I lived there.

Shteir later appeared on “Chicago Tonight” and didn’t give host Phil Ponce much to work with. He could have placed a warm six-pack of beer next to Shteir and it would have been cold enough to drink by the end of the interview.

Longtime local cultural critic Andrew Patner noted in the comments to Michael Miner's follow-up article on the Reader's blog Tuesday that Shteir was "as dishonest as she is incompetent" in her 2010 article where she said Rahm Emanuel wouldn't be elected mayor because he was too Jewish.

Of her smear of Chicago as a town festering with Jew-hatred she tells

"RS: That was an opinion piece … It was my opinion based on certain judgments. A lot of people hated that piece. That was a polarizing piece … Yes, I was wrong, Rahm got elected, but it wasn’t the point of the piece."

No, it was not an opinion piece. And, yes, that *was* the point of the piece, at least as she wrote it. And, as with the NYT Book Review travesty, to the extent that it used facts to bolster "opinions," it got the facts -- plural, at least a dozen in a single piece -- wrong and the "opinions" were ridiculous. Perhaps her "opinion" is that the world is flat or that vaccines cause autism or that George W. Bush was piloting the first plane that hit the World Trade Center. Hers is a complete misunderstanding of what constitutes opinions worthy of consideration or what comprises authority on a subject.

On a more positive note, Shteir has a feature story on the Legends — formerly Lingerie — Football League's Chicago Bliss at ChicagoSide that shows how her writing reads when it's given a good edit.