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A serious allegation against the Tribune

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014

* From Sunday’s Tribune story “Clout for Teachers”

Michael Jacoby, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials, is critical of narrowly drawn bills. “I don’t think it’s good public policy to run bills to support one person’s issue,” he said.

* As I told you Monday, there are serious questions about pretty much all of that Tribune story. Jacoby was the only Illinois “critic” quoted in the story, and I’d heard through the grapevine that he may have been quoted out of context, so I reached out to him.

The above line in the Tribune story referenced a bill pushed by Rep. Tom Cross

Cross earlier pushed legislation to help a donor, Karl Karantonis, of Naperville, who wanted a license to be a chief school business official. ISBE said Karantonis didn’t qualify because he had a master’s of public administration rather than the required master’s in business administration, finance or accounting.

But a bill filed in February 2011 inserted language so that someone with a master’s degree in public administration could qualify. Former state Rep. Ron Stephens, a lawmaker on Cross’ leadership team, said he filed the measure after Cross talked to him about Karantonis.

As we’ve already discussed, Karantonis was hardly a major donor. And the bill was actually a darned good idea.

* It turns out that IASBO’s Jacoby agrees with me, and he says he told that to the Tribune. Here’s what he texted me yesterday…

After the quote I also said, but if the issue has legitimate impact on a larger group of people, then it is justified.

In fact, we supported the addition of an MPA degree to the CSBO endorsement because it would open the door to other highly qualified candidates.


Look, I’ve made more than my share of mistakes. But in all my years, I have never once hacked somebody’s quote like that to make it fit into my own personal perspective. I wouldn’t be in business very long if word got around that I couldn’t be trusted. Campaigns, on the other hand, do that all the time. But reporters are supposed to call out people who pull this sort of crud, not engage in it themselves.

There were so many easily documented problems with Sunday’s story to begin with. But now, we have a quoted source claiming that evidence was essentially fabricated.

“Civilians” were dragged through the mud by the largest newspaper in the state for simply pointing out some very real problems with current state laws. And now it turns out that the only quoted “critic” says he isn’t actually a critic.

Something needs to be done about this.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 9:49 am:

    I’m not familiar with the two reporters who wrote the story, but am confident the Trib. will investigate and clarify the situation rapidly.

    They may not be the only journalists who have ever chopped a quote, but it seems doubtful the Trib will stand for it if t turns out the “chop” modified the meaning. Has Mr. Jacoby complained to the Trib yet?

  2. - DuPage - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 9:50 am:

    This reinforces my opinion that Tribune articles often lack credibility.

  3. - Try-4-Truth - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 9:52 am:

    Nothing can be done. The Trib is just a large example of what is going on all over the State (Nation?). These media outlets are bleeding to death slowly and painfully. They are all looking for a way to be relevant. The problem is, most of the reporters / editors have become lazy. They don’t get paid very much anymore and so they howl at the moon. Government has become an easy target for them. They can claim that they are “standing up to the powerful”. Really, I think it’s jealousy. They hate the pensions because theirs is either gone or severely limited. They hate public employees pay because their salaries have been obliterated over the last several years. It’s a big problem.

  4. - illinifan - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 9:53 am:

    Totally agree. We depend on the media to provide facts. Not only should the reporter be held accountable so should the editor. It is time we stop all of this “yellow journalism”. It did not work well in Hearst’s day with the Spanish American war, it does not work now. The press needs to fully understand their influence on the public discourse and use this power appropriately.

  5. - Just Trying to Survive - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 9:54 am:

    There have been many “manipulated facts” so to speak by most of the Trib’s articles and editorials about the pension funds as well. Yet, to many readers, it must be true if it’s printed in the Trib. What a misinformed public we have, thanks to the almighty Tribune. It is a runaway train that needs to be stopped. I find little difference between the Tribune and the gossip magazines lining the checkout line at my grocery store.

  6. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 9:56 am:

    This is why IPI, while they strongly desire to be considered as delivering news, and thus are reporters should not be considered as such. Similarly, the Tribune has ceased to be a newspaper, and is instead a propaganda mill.

  7. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:00 am:

    The comment screeners block such random things sometimes.

    Has Mr. Jacoby complained to the Tribune yet?

  8. - walker - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:02 am:

    ===”Campaigns, on the other hand, do that all the time.”===

    Enough said. A lot of news outlets have such close ties with certain political power brokers, that they fall into the campaign publication mode. Having a traditional slant is one thing; altering the meaning of specific quotes or evidence is going too far. Freedom of the Press is too important a concept for America, for it to be lazily lost.

  9. - Bogey Golfer - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:06 am:

    Every Sunday morning, the Trib is plopped on my driveway and the headline is ALWAYS some investigative piece. I truly believe they are trying to gain attention at the newstand so folks will drop a couple of bucks on their rag rather than the Sun Times, NY Times, et al. Make the news article fit the Headline.

  10. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:08 am:

    == They hate the pensions because theirs is either gone or severely limited. They hate public employees pay because their salaries have been obliterated over the last several years. It’s a big problem. ==

    After that recent PEW study showing the drastic decline in Illinois statehouse reporters, this could just as easily describe them. Or virtually any print journalist.

  11. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:10 am:

    Wow. I didn’t think that story could get more embarrassing.

    They didn’t have a real story even with the hacked quote. I read it twice and couldn’t understand what I was supposed to be outraged about. Constituent service? Laws based on citizens’ experiences? What a scandal.

    Didn’t these guys ever watch “Schoolhouse Rock?” “I’m just a bill….”

    This “outrage” from a company that has high-paid lobsters on the payroll to push their corporate interests in the city, Springfield and Washington.

    I suspect they made an early commitment to this being the Sunday Page One local story, and when they realized they had nothing they hacked the quote to try to gin up something. They didn’t have anything local to replace it and didn’t want to banner wire service copy.

    A wire service Page One would have been less embarrassing.

  12. - Bourbonrich - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:10 am:

    This also speaks to the reduction in Editors at all newspapers. Fact checking won’t help as he did say what they quoted but using it as the basis of the story is at least unconscionable. There should be a retraction and apology but even if the Trib does that, they will bury it in small print.

  13. - CircularFiringSquad - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:11 am:

    The reporters are an education vet who usually does better and another who served as BrickheadJoe’s in house pr flack while still working for a paper
    BTW the Madigan donor who was accused had not mae a contribution for about 12 years before asking for help for a daughter who was also being helped by her principal who wanted her to start work.
    BTW-2 the out of state critic is part of a suspect group that has drawn a lot of national heat.
    Otherwise this was brilliant piece of journalism

  14. - Thomas T. - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:12 am:

    This is why the Tribune Editorial Board’s hyperbolic and self-rightious rants are a problem.

    It’s one thing for a columnist with a byline to take shots at pols and climb out on a limb on an issue, but when a nameless and faceless editorial board does it — and does it repeatedly — it can create the notion that a newspaper isn’t covering the news as much as it’s pushing an agenda. That notion becomes something real when combined with shoddy front page journalism, which is what we’re seeing in this teacher certification story. It appears the Tribune established a conclusion first with this story, and then set out looking for supporting facts and quotes.

    Big trouble here, Tribbies.

  15. - William j Kelly - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:16 am:

    Don’t pay any attention to those gadflies at the tribune, it only encourages them!

  16. - Stones - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:16 am:

    Shoddy journalism on the Tribune’s part. It hurts their credibility big time.

  17. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:16 am:

    This sounds like the selective editing tv does quite a bit of the time. It is not right then and is not right this time either.

  18. - Easy - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:18 am:

    oddly bizarre and very confusing to myself, but I agree w CFS

  19. - Reformed Public Servant - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:22 am:

    “Something needs to be done about this.”

    Defamation? Some other privacy or disparagement tort? If Cross wants to bring it, then there are no shortage of IL lawyers to file that action. Tacky.

    Maybe the AG should investigate? A bill could be sponsored to establish a newspaper review tribunal (1st Amendment issues aside)? Launching a missle to kill a mouse.

    I applaud your article, as more press about bad press is the highest & best way to address the matter.

    Kudos to CapFax.

  20. - A guy... - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:24 am:

    Send your quotes in email whenever you can with a confirmation reply requested. It avoids this. They don’t make ‘em like they used to when it comes to journalism. Agree or not with Rich, I always believe he uses a “print journalism” standard for the blog. That’s not a universal practice these days.

  21. - Diogenes in DuPage - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:31 am:

    This is yet another reason why I read Capitol Fax and have dropped my Tribune subscription.
    I hope Mike complains to the Trib editors.

  22. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:32 am:

    I have worked with both reporters, and find them to be top notch.

    Maybe they made the edit, maybe the editor did.

    But I would not be so quick to pass judgement over what was most likely an honest mistake. We all make them.

  23. - Archiesmom - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    I think credibility suffers. A lot of people I know read the story and the reaction was “so what”? If the Trib trumpets this as investigative journalism on political corruption, it undermines the quality pieces that still get turned out. I think there must be a lot of pressure on the editorial staff to produce “big” headlines. I’d like to know by whom, and what the motivation is. Dollars? Political scores? Prizes?

  24. - Jimbo - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:36 am:

    With integrity like that, it’s no wonder the Trib backs Rauner. #notevensnark

  25. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:39 am:

    Does the Tribune still have an ombudsman or public editor? IIRC, it was Don Wycliff, but it’s been a while since I cared enough to read the names on the editorial page, much less the editorials.

  26. - Ret. Prof - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:42 am:

    Journalism is simply rampant with generalized editorialism anymore because it sells. Unbiased journalism has always been a myth.

  27. - olddog - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 10:49 am:

    === Something needs to be done about this. ===

    You’re doing it, Rich. They went over a red line here, and you called them on it. Doctoring a quote like that is unethical even in an editorial, and this one was on the news side.

    But with an outfit like the Trib, the best remedy is in the marketplace. I try to do my bit by never buying it anymore. Used to read it every morning, but I quit when it went up to $1.25 in the racks downstate. My digestion’s better, too.

  28. - Willie Stark - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    Could Andy Shaw please look into this? /snark As long as we are bemoaning the decline of the Trib, its candidate endorsement process for the statehouse has also become a total joke for the last two election cycles.

  29. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 11:09 am:

    @YDD - good point. I’ll join you in giving both reporters the benefit of the doubt until we learn more. We’re all human.

    Hopefully Mr. Jacoby complains to the Tribune and they figure out what went wrong, whether it was intentional or a just miscommunication.

  30. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 11:15 am:

    I have experienced this with local reporters/newspapers. As time goes by, word gets around, and fewer and fewer people are willing to talk to those reporters. I am not familiar with the Trib reporters, but if they have done this kind of thing before, it might explain why they have only one in-state source.

  31. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 11:18 am:

    Diane Rado and Christy Gutowski - Woodward and Bernstein they ain’t.

  32. - Woodward - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 11:37 am:

    I don’t agree with Yellow Dog about Diane Rado. She has operated as an extension of the editorial board for years. Go back and take a closer look at her stories. She’s a pro at hacking quotes and taking them out of context. The Trib still has some good reporters, but Rados role has become an advocate for the editorial boards positions.

  33. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 11:42 am:

    I guess this means I cancel my subscription to the…oh wait. I’ve never had one.

  34. - Just Trying to Survive - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 11:43 am:

    Have gone ’round with Rado, challenging the distortions about teachers and salaries/benefits in years past. She brags about her educational credentials while bashing the folks who got her where she is. Cheap. Shoddy. Ingrate.

  35. - ZC - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 11:54 am:

    In other news today, though, I’ll give some credit where it’s due to the Tribune editorial board - buried under the lead, they had the harshest critiques I’ve ever seen so far for Bruce Rauner, in their top editorial about Preckwinkle:

    “… Any candidate running for office has to level with voters about how he or she will accomplish that. About how he or she will craft budget and tax policy. About how he or she will attempt to lead a broke and beaten government into lasting solvency. Neither Quinn nor Rauner is doing much if any of that….

    “…. At arguably the worst moment in Illinois’ two centuries of statehood, Quinn has signed a fictional state budget for the current fiscal year; Rauner offers no prospective budget at all, only talking points. Both of them are failing the people of Illinois….

    “…. And ask yourself: What has Rauner told you he will do to broadly reconfigure state government, its financial obligations and the retirement systems that strangle its spending on other priorities? Rauner’s campaign so far has been a thin gruel of “Elect me — I’ll think of something” and “The failed incumbent is too weak to manhandle the other Democrats who run this state.”….”

    Not exempting the Tribbies for their other recent botched storylines, but we’ve got to encourage them when they show signs of editorial independence from Rauner Inc., maybe they’ll keep it up.

  36. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 11:54 am:

    C’mon, YDD. The quote was intentionally hacked because the story desperately needed a hook, any kind of hook.

    It didn’t really do the trick, but it’s all they had.

  37. - Joan P. - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 12:09 pm:

    @ZC -

    “we’ve got to encourage them when they show signs of editorial independence from Rauner Inc., maybe they’ll keep it up.”

    They’ll keep it up until the day they endorse him, in thundering tones.

  38. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 12:16 pm:

    @Wordslinger -

    “We supported Leader Cross’ legislation because it was strong public policy that helps school districts attract the best and the brightest. If this had been legislation that benefited we would not have supported it, but this was a good bill.”

    Miscommunication is a two-way street.

    You lead and close with what you want readers and reporters to remember. Tack it on after the “but” and you are really taking your chances.

    Tacking it on after the “but” also makes it seem like you are trying to soften your punches, not withhold them.

  39. - Wensicia - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 12:28 pm:

    This wasn’t a mistake by a couple of reporters, it was reviewed and edited, placed front and center on the Sunday Chicago Tribune:

    “Lawmakers used clout in teacher licensing”


    I’m glad Rich Miller is watching them.

  40. - AlabamaShake - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 2:15 pm:

    **But I would not be so quick to pass judgement over what was most likely an honest mistake. We all make them.**

    Come on, YDD, really? An honest mistake? The entire article was a complete joke. This was just one example.

  41. - CD - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 2:29 pm:

    Yellow Dog, so it’s not the reporter’s job to accurately portray what someone said? Come on now. I don’t know why you’re trying to protect her. She’s not a rookie. She knew what she was doing.

  42. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 5:50 pm:


    What was the old Jordan ad? 31 times, with the ball in his hands and the game on the line, he missed?

    People make mistakes. Professionals make mistakes too, not just rookies.

    Bill Gates warned that one of the dangers of success is that it deludes smart people into believing they are infallible.

    The measure of greatness in a man is not his perfection, but how he copes with life’s imperfections, whether in himself or others.

    And in that regard, I’ve been taking very careful measurement of our two leading candidates for governor.

  43. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 6:13 pm:

    YDD, is it your contention that the intent of the Tribbie reporters was to include the full quote that undermined the premise of their story, but because of a “mistake,” only a partial quote that falsely portrays Jacoby as supporting the premise made the papers?

    Keep spinning like that and you’ll fall down and hurt yourself.

  44. - Lt. Guv. - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 7:03 pm:

    Trib ed board maintains a bias, we all know that. “Formerly Known As,” Pew has various bias as well. I deal with them all the time. They mean well, but they very much carry bias into their conclusions.

  45. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Jul 16, 14 @ 11:48 pm:

    Wordslinger, the interviewee remembers one thing. The reporter wrote something else.

    In my experience, the truth is most often somewhere in the middle.

    Do I think these Tribune reporters intentionally hacked a quote
    To fit their story? Nope.

    Here is an idea: let’s call them and ask them!

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