I met Anna Davlantes when she interviewed me for an NBC story about Jovan Mosley, a young man I'd represented who was in a county holding cell for nearly 6 years without a trial. (The book about Jovan, Long Way Home, will be released September 14). Then Chicago Magazine hired me to write a story on Anna about her PBS show, Rewind. Recently, Anna moved from NBC to Fox, and is a shining example of a smart, authentic anchor/reporter who really cares about her city (yes, she's a born and bred Chicago girl) and the issues. Since she deals with Chicago crime stories on a regular basis, I thought she'd be a perfect interview for the Outfit.
You seem to have hit your stride lately as an anchor, but especially as a news reporter now that you're on Fox. Is that due to the network, the sabbatical you had between the two jobs, or something different?
My contract didn’t allow me to work for three and a half months. It turned out to be a blessing personally, but professionally it had even a bigger impact. The time off gave me a fresh set of eyes. I started watching news as a consumer for the first time since college. I realized that the complaints people were telling me about news was true – teases lead nowhere, the coverage of crime is constant, and often there’s no context or perspective to a lot of stories. It made me realize it was time to change how we deliver the news and give people a real alternative. Fox is going to be more issue-oriented and not as reactionary. We don’t want to simply report every shooting. We want to ask the questions like why are these shootings happening? And we want to help find solutions, rather than just issue-spot. We’re going to be discussing what to do about politics and corruption and other the other issues that arise in Chicago.
A huge verdict recently happened in Chicago - Detective Jon Burge, long believed of torturing suspects at Area 2, was convicted of lying about that torture. What are your thoughts on the verdict?
The verdict helps bring a very dark period in our city history to a close. To truly close the door, though, anyone who had a hand in sustaining systemic torture at Area 2 needs to examine their actions. And changes have to be made so people can be confident in the integrity of law enforcement and the legal system. We may have gotten some closure, but I wonder how long until confidence is restored.
Seems to me with people like Blago and Drew Peterson, there is rampant narcissim in Chicago. What's with that?
I never thought of Chicago being a town like that but there are so many high profile examples of it now, I suppose we have to own it. You’d like to think that after we deal with Peterson and Blago our work is done, but it’s not. Because much of the political system that propped Blago up still exists. What I’ve seen covering the news for Fox is that it’s great political theatre for us in the news biz, but at the end of the day, you go home sad that this is the reality for our city and government.
Is there anything to be done?
Restoring accountability to government is the answer, but the solution is much more complicated because the people who run for office are usually bolstered by the current system. The time is right for candidates who have an independent message. Really. The time is now.
One more question. Recently you were in the news for the possibility of taking over the morning show on Fox. True?
Oh, who knows. I’ve worked nights for so long. Really, I haven’t even owned an alarm clock since college, I don’t want to get addicted to coffee, and I don’t know if I could give up my late night crime dramas on A&E .
We’re hoping to keep Anna talking about the hottest Chicago news stories. Stay tuned…