The Chicago Tribune reports that advisers to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel were closely involved with the development of certain scenes in CNN's "Chicagoland" documentary, which aired its final eighth episode Thursday evening.
After obtaining hundreds of email exchanges between the documentary's producers and City Hall staffers through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the newspaper has learned that the mayor's office helped craft Chicagoland plotlines and set up shots of Emanuel. The mayor's team also looked over releases sent to the press to formally announce the "Chicagoland" series, which CNN had advertised as non-scripted.
The email exchanges, however, reveal that the series' producers did not always get the behind-the-scenes footage of the mayor they requested. A good deal of the access to the mayor was organized by Emanuel's team, which "eternally frustrated" Marc Levin, Chicagoland's creator and executive producer, the Tribune reported.
"Everything the mayor does is stage-managed. Everything. That is the way he operates, so I'm not going to dispute that," Levin told the newspaper. "I would be the first to acknowledge that you don't get into Chicago … and get access without having to do a certain dance."
"I'm not saying these people had editorial control. They didn't," Levin added, referring to Emanuel's staffers. "But at the same time, yes, we were sensitive that we were moving through this city and getting access to a lot of places because we had developed a dialogue with the mayor."
Sarah Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Emanuel, provided the Tribune with the following statement :
As we do with any news outlet working on a story, we work with them to highlight the great work being done in Chicago. This was no different. The producers of 'Chicagoland' were not from here and, as such, had very little background on the city and the work being done. They asked for examples of work taking place and events they could attend, which we provided. This is no different from information we provide reporters — including the Tribune — every day.
The Tribune reported that neither the Chicago Public Schools nor the Chicago Police Department have yet to hand over documents as part of the newspaper's FOIA request seeking more information about how the documentarians were able to shoot video at Fenger High School and conduct interviews with CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
Click through for more of the newspaper's extensive reporting on the Chicagoland documentary.