First Look: Fawning WYCC videos of Jones and Watson revealed

One frame from the tribute to Wayne Watson WYCC produced earlier this year. | Credit: WYCC
  • By Peter Sachs
  • Staff Writer
  • August 27, 2009 @ 6:00 AM

The Daily News now knows what was in some of the videos WYCC produced over the last few years – videos that sparked a state ethics investigation and a federal lawsuit.

According to an internal e-mail and a federal lawsuit we wrote about earlier this month, the City Colleges-owned PBS station produced videos that never aired but which appeared to benefit politicians and friends of former chancellor Wayne Watson.

In one, a fawning nine-minute tribute to then-State Sen. Emil Jones “salutes” the politician and refers to him as a “City Colleges champion.”

The video includes brief interviews with several of Jones’ friends, his son and daughter, and narration about his upbringing.

“He’s not, what you want to say, full of himself,” Jones’ daughter, Renee Jones-Rose, says in the video. “He’s not caught up into being, you know, Senate President Emil Jones.”

While the video includes references to Jones’ time as a student at Loop College (now Harold Washington College) and chronicles some of his broader efforts on education issues, the salute appears to have little to do with the City Colleges.

The Daily News got that video and others in response to a records request filed earlier this month. The Jones salute was provided on VHS, while the other videos were provided on DVD. 

Another video that was subject to the state investigation is an hour-long panel discussion between then-Ald. Todd Stroger and his father, then-Cook County Board President John Stroger. Held in October 2004 at Olive-Harvey College, the two men discuss voting trends and take questions from people in the audience about voter participation.

Most of the rest of the video the Daily News obtained consists of unedited footage. It includes “B-roll” from five consecutive years of Jones’ youth foundation golf tournaments showing people gathering, driving golf carts, taking swings and sinking putts. A few seconds of that footage ended up in Jones’ salute video.

One undated video (below) consists of the raw footage of several takes of Jones talking about his youth foundation. 

Emil Jones Youth Foundation PSA from Chi-Town Daily News on Vimeo.

In a letter accompanying the videos, General Counsel Jim Reilly said some videos couldn’t be found. None of the material related to Rainbow PUSH, an organization for which WYCC had previously produced spots, our reporting has shown.

The Daily News also got a copy of the recently produced tribute video showcasing Wayne Watson’s tenure as chancellor. That video was not part of the state ethics investigation.

Wayne Watson - Milestones from Chi-Town Daily News on Vimeo.

The nearly 19-minute video features documentary-style interviews with every City Colleges president, including the recently resigned Valerie Roberson and Sylvia Ramos, as well as several other current and former top administrators.

A good portion of the tribute chronicles Watson’s upbringing from the streets of Englewood (“My world was jumping from one roof to another roof,” Watson says) to becoming a star high school and college wrestler, to his time at Northwestern University when he sported a slightly lopsided afro and spotty beard.

Xiomara Cortes Metcalfe, the district's human resources director who is at the center of a racial discrimination lawsuit, says she "learned a lot from the chancellor."

The administrators gush about Watson's unwavering commitment to education and dedication to lifting up and empowering impoverished students in Chicago. There's even footage of Watson next to Mayor Richard M. Daley at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Kennedy-King College several years ago. 

One section discusses the 2004 teachers strike in broad strokes, describing it as a difficult time in which Watson stood firm but after which the district healed quickly.

To get the full touchy-feely impact, you need to watch the whole thing. But the first three minutes and the last couple of minutes starting at the 14:30 mark will give you plenty of that flavor.


Daily News Staff Writer Peter Sachs covers higher education. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 18, or peter [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.