* Jim Kirk, publisher and editor in chief of the Chicago Sun-Times, explains his version of the Dave McKinney back-story…
It is not unusual for campaigns to vigorously argue against publication of a story, especially in the midst of a heated campaign like the current governor’s race.
What happened next, however, is unusual. Just hours before publication of the story, the campaign attempted to get the paper to stop publication by raising an alleged conflict involving a reporter on the story, Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney, and his wife, Ann Liston, a partner in a firm that does consulting work for political clients.
As I told other media outlets over the weekend, the allegations leveled by the campaign were inaccurate and defamatory. We ran the story and continue to back it. And out of an abundance of caution, we did review the matter once again and are convinced Liston receives no financial benefit from any Illinois political campaign specifically because of the extraordinary steps she and McKinney have taken to establish business safeguards.
As I also told other media outlets, McKinney’s work in this campaign and in the more than two decades he has covered politics, including the stories he’s broken on the investigation involving Gov. Pat Quinn and the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, are consistent with the tough reporting he has done on both campaigns. As I also said over the weekend, both McKinney and Liston are conscientious, ethical and among the best at their professions. The Rauner campaign team had no problem citing our investigations into Gov. Quinn when it suited their strategy. And I assure you the governor’s camp was none too pleased at our investigations of the controversial grant program.
* OK, the allegations leveled by Rauner’s people were “inaccurate and defamatory.” I completely agree. But why did Kirk admit this to Greg Hinz?…
Sun-Times Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk concedes that he did sideline Mr. McKinney for the better part of the week after receiving “inaccurate and spurious” charges against him from the Rauner campaign, but he notes that the reporter is back on the beat.
If the charges were so “spurious” and even “defamatory,” then why sideline his Statehouse reporter for five days, with three weeks to go until election day?
* Back to Greg…
The Rauner campaign says “no one reached out to” Michael Ferro, who chairs the board of the Sun-Times’ parent company, Wrapports LLC, and who worked closely with Mr. Rauner when the latter owned 10 percent of the company. But no one who knows for sure is saying yet who pushed the idea of sidelining Mr. McKinney.
I think it’s most likely that Mr. Ferro did not know the details of the “firewall” agreement involving the McKinneys. When the firestorm burst, it’s quite possible that Mr. Kirk decided to throw his outraged boss a bone and spend a few days doublechecking to insure that the promised firewall indeed was in place.
But if I were Mr. McKinney, I’d be outraged, because his de facto suspension tarnished his professional reputation. Any political writer — me included — can understand that. And, pending Mr. Collins’ investigation, no one yet knows for sure who called whom and asked for what.
In that context, the paper’s decision, announced on a Friday evening, to suddenly get back in the endorsement business after a three-year absence is pertinent. In fact, just before midnight on Friday, the paper posted on its website an endorsement of Mr. Rauner that his campaign immediately touted far and wide:
[The link changed on Greg’s column, and it’s now fixed.]
* Robert Feder wrote about Chairman Ferro a while back…
With all due respect to David B. Speer, most Chicagoans never heard of the late president and CEO of Illinois Tool Works Inc., who died November 17. So when the Sun-Times devoted the entire front page of last Monday’s edition to Speer’s passing (and all of Pages 2 and 3 to his obituary and career highlights), it must have struck many readers as odd. But there in the ninth paragraph of Neil Steinberg’s laudatory obit was the answer: Speer was “a mentor and a friend” of Michael Ferro, chairman of the Sun-Times’ parent company, Wrapports LLC. (In 2006 Speer bought a software company Ferro owned, Click Commerce, for $292 million.)
Sources said Ferro personally ordered the Page 1 splash, overriding the judgment of his editors. It was a flagrant abuse of his power as publisher and yet another example of Ferro’s ego undermining the credibility of the paper. Hiring wannabe columnist Jenny McCarthy was merely foolish. But dictating news coverage is shameful and disgusting.
* More recently from Feder…
In recent weeks, sources said, Ferro has been exerting pressure on editors regarding coverage of Rauner, who held a 10 percent stake in Wrapports before he became a candidate for governor.
Rauner campaign complains about story and reporter, paper runs story anyway, apparently more complaints result, paper sidelines McKinney, Mckinney brought back on the job after five days, paper abandons years-old policy and endorses Rauner and nobody else.
I’ll have more on that endorsement a bit later today.