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Two colleagues, two different takes on a reporter’s resignation

Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

* Bruce Rushton at the Illinois Times writes about his good friend Dave McKinney

Reporters get lied to every day. It’s part of the job. But if you’re a journalist with any gumption, you can’t work with people you can’t trust, and so McKinney had no choice but to quit after this bizarre shell game with his livelihood in the finishing weeks of a white-hot gubernatorial race.

McKinney will land on his feet somewhere, but maybe not in journalism. All newspapers talk a good game, but lots of editors are afraid of someone like McKinney who, naively or not, demands as much integrity from his employer as he does from himself. […]

In the end, then, we have learned nothing about either Rauner or McKinney. We have, however learned a great deal about the Sun-Times. The only thing that can salvage a shred of the newspaper’s credibility now is an explanation that makes sense coupled with a rolling head or two. You can’t suspend a reporter, then say you have that reporter’s back, then yank his byline, all the while proclaiming that everything is on the up-and-up. If McKinney’s marriage was going to cost him his job, he should have been told before the wedding. Instead, the Sun-Times told him that everything would be fine, then cut him off at the knees on the back end.

* McKinney’s former Sun-Times colleague Neil Steinberg had his own take

The news was nauseating when it first hit, but now it’s settled down a bit. I don’t know all the intricacies of what occurred, just what I’ve gleaned from the buzz going around. So my take is both half-informed and skewed from someone who has worked at the Sun-Times for 27 years and did not quit on the countless occasions when I ran into aspects of the business that made me wince.

A previous owner, David Radler used to push for all sorts of squishy stories to benefit his pal, Rod Blagojevich; the trick was to accept the assignment, and then quietly bury it into a Dumpster and forget about it, so ethics weren’t compromised. It worked; Radler’s long gone and Rod’s long gone—both men wound up in prison—but I’m still here. To me, the still-being-at-the-paper part is important. Rauner getting Dave fired and Dave quitting are functionally the same thing—he’s gone either way—and while I admire Dave as much as anybody, I can’t fight the creeping feeling he played into the hands of the Evil We All Oppose.

A few things to keep in mind: A) the newspaper that many are castigating for supposedly caving to Rauner is the same newspaper that just last week was happily publishing McKinney’s sharp pieces shredding Rauner; B) the endorsement of Rauner, though regrettable, is a different beast entirely than the supposed pressure he put on reporters. Every owner in the history of newspapering ballyhoos candidates he likes, a little or a lot, though no one is arguing that this was smoothly done; C) Rauner’s accusations that McKinney’s wife, a Democratic operative, was somehow driving the stories, while ridiculous—a story either is solid or it’s not; it hardly matters who suggested it, not that I have any reason to doubt Dave’s version of events—had a veneer of seriousness that justified investigation, and being nudged off your beat for a week is not, in itself, a big deal. I was suspended for a week last year for what struck me as a truly tenuous reason. But I didn’t tell anybody and few noticed (sigh) making it a whole lot easier to come back and start doing my job again, which is the route I wish Dave had chosen to take since while it is courageous to make a stand for journalistic integrity, you can only self-immolate once, there’s a dramatic flash and then ashes but what have you accomplished? The bottom line is, D) I sincerely believe that had McKinney managed to just step around this mess and gone back to doing his job, an important life skill in journalism, instead of pouring gasoline over himself, and the paper, and striking a match, the whole thing would be over by now and he’d be back to kicking Rauner’s ass, which is what this is supposedly all about; E) I wish this were “The Front Page” era so everybody involved could just go out and get drunk together, shake their heads at their collective stupidity, and go back to work the next day. But F) it’s not. The only upside I see in the real world is that G) Bruce Rauner revealed himself even more starkly as the ruthless, vindictive creature that he most certainly is, eager to try to squelch a story by leaning hard on the little folk reporting it. I can’t imagine anybody wanting that as governor. So maybe it’ll do some ultimate good, though the sting will linger on this one, and now we have to find somebody who thinks it’s a good career move to spend time in Springfield.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

63 Comments
  1. - Peoria Guy - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:19 am:

    The second one was really well written.


  2. - Ducky LaMoore - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:19 am:

    Steinberg’s take is spot one… with one exception…. I think there are those out there that love Rauner’s awful tactics. They are people that want government to suffer.


  3. - Amalia - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:23 am:

    whichever piece you like, more than ever, I hope Rauner loses.


  4. - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:27 am:

    Rushton is right on this one, and Steinberg is wrong (though I often agree with him.) Suspending your reporter for a week at the height of a campaign is extremely serious. It defines “not having your reporters’ backs.”


  5. - Economic Justice - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:27 am:

    Dave McKinney most certainly did the right thing, for many reasons, including for the very important reason written by Steinberg himself, which bears repeating:

    “E) I wish this were “The Front Page” era so everybody involved could just go out and get drunk together, shake their heads at their collective stupidity, and go back to work the next day. But F) it’s not. The only upside I see in the real world is that G) Bruce Rauner revealed himself even more starkly as the ruthless, vindictive creature that he most certainly is, eager to try to squelch a story by leaning hard on the little folk reporting it. I can’t imagine anybody wanting that as governor. So maybe it’ll do some ultimate good…”

    Kudos to McKinney for taking a stand and respecting himself and his work.


  6. - Walter Mitty - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:27 am:

    I think Steinberg has a good counter take. I think that it lays out the issue that there was another way than becoming the story.


  7. - Editor in Chief - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    I’m not a Steinberg fan, but I think he’s right here. I hope McKinney didn’t over play his hand in a self-righteous pique. He had already won the battle with the newspaper, which was back-peddling furiously. Hopefully, he’ll land somewhere good for him. But his stature would have been enhanced if he had actually stayed, and an increasingly barren journalistic landscape wouldn’t have lost yet another good reporter.


  8. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    I think the Sun-Times is selling its cash-cow suburban newspapers to the Trib. I can’t see how they can make a go of it just on their own revenue. The whole ad sales marketing strategy for years has been the Sun-Times suburban network.


  9. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:34 am:

    Neil gets suspended and no one notices. McKinney, in Neil’s words, lights himself on fire and now everyone knows what happened.

    Do you see the difference Neil? Had McKinney listened to your advice he might still be working at the S-T and we might not have known about Rauner’s bullying tactics.

    McKinney should follow another former S-T government reporter and take his talents to UIS. He would be a great teacher and someday head of the PAR program.


  10. - Been There - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:35 am:

    ===But if you’re a journalist with any gumption, you can’t work with people you can’t trust===

    ===skewed from someone who has worked at the Sun-Times for 27 years and did not quit on the countless occasions when I ran into aspects of the business that made me wince. ===

    Compare these to statements. Both stories were well written but in the end which do you have more respect for. The guy with “gumption” or the guy who “winces”


  11. - Peoria Guy - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:35 am:

    This was a tough call for McKinney, but sometimes living to fight another day is the way to go. We all have to do ewhat we have to do.


  12. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:35 am:

    If a reporter falls in the newsroom but doesn’t mention it to his readers, did it really happen?


  13. - admin - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:37 am:

    Disagree with Steinberg on one point. This coupled with the Sun-Times bizarre reversal on its endorsement policy and its singling out of Rauner - a former owner and pal of Mr. Ferro’s makes this whole things reek like my granddad’s underpants.


  14. - Sunshine - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:44 am:

    Dave McKinney should have considered losing the battle, and winning the war. Bravado might make one feel good for the moment, but the long term effect gives the enemy reason to celebrate.

    Keep your eye on the long term goal and always remember the saying “vengeance is best served cold”!


  15. - Willie Stark - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:47 am:

    Steinberg is in denial about the state of American democracy and the rise of the plutocrats - exemplified by Rauner, Ferro, Griffin, etc. His failure to consider what happened to McKinney in that bigger picture is a serious shortcoming of his analysis. He thinks it was ever thus, but he’s wrong. The better parallel is to the Gilded Age and the yellow journalism era.


  16. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:47 am:

    ===Dave McKinney should have===

    Meh. He had to live with himself. If he couldn’t live with himself at the Sun-Times, then he had to do what he had to do. He put up with a lot there. So it wasn’t his first rodeo ride.


  17. - Anonymous - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:47 am:

    IF McKinney was already fed up and ready to split, the action by the Sun Times gave him the opportunity to go out in flames


  18. - Empty Suit - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:48 am:

    Meanwhile out in the real world heard not one person comment on this.


  19. - Walter Mitty - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    Rich.. And that is where this should end… Very well done. .. It was hs last straw.


  20. - 2 Cents... - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    Here’s a good piece on Rauner via the Sun-Times.

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2014/10/28/bruce-rauner-is-a-successful-businessman-why-exactly


  21. - Quiet Sage - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:05 am:

    Re McKinney, Rutherford, etc.: Rauner’s modus operandi is to attempt to destroy people by remote control, leaving as few footprints as possible. That’s how he gets ahead. That’s his essence.


  22. - Peoria Guy - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    Only Dave McKinney could make this decision and I would never second guess it, but an interesting take on it by Steinberg


  23. - jeffinginChicago - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    One big difference between what happened between NS and McKinney. McKinney’s wife’s was involved(slurred maybe). That would be hard to bite your lip and take a week off. I can take any insult (heard worse most of the time) but question me and my family? Now we have to fight.


  24. - walker - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:08 am:

    Two different takes on McKinney — but both seriously critical of Rauner-as-candidate.


  25. - Mighty M. Mouse - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:09 am:

    This whole episode certainly has resulted in a black eye with legs for Rauner, even though many say the buck really should stop at the Sun-Times.

    The story wouldn’t have legs like it does if McKinney hadn’t quit, so maybe that explains at least in part why he did it.

    Payback. He blew Rauner a big, wet kiss. A kiss of death. This ongoing story ain’t helping the Sun-Times endorsed candidate.


  26. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:17 am:

    Chicago was a newspaper journalist’s dream markets. Not anymore.

    As a kid who was raised looking forward to every Saturday night with a pile of a Tribune to love, clip out and admire, it is a bit shocking to see these institutions whither away so quickly.

    But not only are they falling silently as their circulation numbers, so are the journalists whose reporting was eagerly anticipated.

    Today our new power players are bigger than the newspapers. So, when a veteran reporter tips over their plans, the editorial staffers aren’t able to take the flak these new power players shoot at them.

    We can’t expect two bankrupted historic newspapers to weather the daily challenges they used to be able to weather in order to defend their place in our communities. As readership falls, as advertising disappears, as profits tumble, the power they once had is disappearing.

    Rauner isn’t the bad guy. He is just another politician. The editors aren’t the bad guys either. The bad guy is technological change with swept newspapers into the paper recycling bins to be made into brown shopping bags in Green Bay.

    There is a future in truth and opinion. They just don’t hang around old printing presses anymore.


  27. - Peoria Guy - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:17 am:

    On one hand, few voters care (or are even aware) of this story. On the other hand, it may only take a few to turn this election, so every vote counts.


  28. - archimedes - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:23 am:

    Some comments are that this is another illustration that Rauner is a tough guy and willing to pull the levers to meet his end. Some will say that is a good reason to vote for him - he’ll pull the levers that Quinn doesn’t seem to know about or is unwilling to pull.

    However, all the lever pulling has been to enrich himself (more money = success) or advantage himself (in the election)or advantage his family (Payton Prep).

    Where is there any example of pulling the levers to govern or pass policy to the advantage of something other than himself?


  29. - A guy... - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:29 am:

    In my mind, I believe Dave had to project forward what it might be like if his marriage to a partisan professional was going to be any kind of continuing conflict; real or perceived. I think he decided that it likely would be and he was better off severing a very distinguished 20 year career at a proud publication he carried a lot of water for.

    I stated before and was criticized by some, that some colleagues felt like Steinberg; no personal animus, but he did scorch every other professional journalist writing under that banner on the way out. Some of the scorchees agreed. More than Neil did not. Even though Neil is as partisan a Democrat and left winger (self-admittedly) as exists in journalism. That’s saying something when you work with Mark Brown and Mary Mitchell.

    Papers change ownership over the years. We’re not quoting Col. McCormick or Marshall Field IV any more. Most scribes are thrilled that investors will still bolster the Banners and bylines they work for. The fact they don’t always, or even rarely agree; that ain’t news folks. Hasn’t really ever been.

    Reporters do get sat down. They get reassigned. They get edited. It’s part of everyday life. Objectivity is difficult to maintain- hell, I’d argue it’s impossible. I’m like Steinberg in this case; I wish Dave stayed. I’ve come to realize for his own very personal reasons, in addition to his principles, he made a choice and opted to make a choice. That choice was in favor of harmony in his own life which changed lately. This likely could have been a bone of contention within his own marriage. I respect him a lot more for that choice than even the principled case being made in print. Good for him.

    I only wish he left without the last sentence which basically stated everyone left reporting there were doing so in a severely altered environment that didn’t allow any of them to report truthfully or ethically.

    There are too many well recognized great reporters there for that to be the truth, including Pulitzer winning journalists. In his hurt, Dave didn’t do them justice. I would guess he feels bad about that part.

    Every campaign pounds on journalists. Every company does in the business pages. So do theatres in the entertainment section, restaurants and grocers in the food section, sports owners in the police blotter, er sports pages. It’s an everyday event. The Quinns, Durbins, and other campaigns from the other side bang as hard as the GOP does. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose.

    Some guys even make some of their living doing just that. Specifically those guys, will miss Dave. A lot of people wish he stayed. More than one guy doesn’t agree with his exit note. But at least you’ve now heard from one.


  30. - Under Further Review - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:30 am:

    Steingberg nails it and that is a change.


  31. - PT Ferro - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:37 am:

    I remember Neil Steinberg from the Sun-Times. He’s a nice fellow and he’s a fighter, and I agree with is “lose the battle win the war” philosophy. I didn’t know Dave McKinney well. He seemed nice enough.

    Having been at the Sun-Times (and I quit - wasn’t fired like many), I can well understand McKinney’s reaction. You’re on the 9th Floor, working your tail off - no privacy, no support, no respect. Your pay has been cut. They’ve destroyed the union. It’s a nudge nudge, wink wink kind of world where Jenny McCarthy gets more respect than a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer. It gets to you.

    Then there’s Ferro behind locked doors in the inner sanctum of the 10th Floor with his short-skirted bimbos, game room, candy and Starbucks. The unholy triad of Ferro, Knight and Kirk, absconding with the goods just like the rotters before them.

    It gets OLD. Good for you, Neil. I’m glad you have the tenacity to stick with it. But, for some, it just gets too damned stinky and disgusting as one monied thief replaces another as publisher.


  32. - From the 'Dale to HP - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:39 am:

    The one flaw in Steinberg’s pretty good take is that if McKinney wasn’t able to do his job any more–and McKinney said this is why he left–then McKinney didn’t have the “suck it up and get back to work” option. I think it’s a lot easier for a columnist to suck it up than a reporter.


  33. - Wensicia - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:40 am:

    I think McKinney did what he felt he had to do, resign. This story was almost buried until he did.


  34. - Deep South - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:40 am:

    You don’t have to go back to “The Front Page” era for the behavior described in E. Perhaps only 20 years or so. But, yes, the little things that once made journalism enjoyable will probably never return.


  35. - Soccertease - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:49 am:

    Aren’t we talking ethics? McKinney took the high road where a lot of people would have laid down and ignored it as ‘part of their job’.


  36. - Louis G Atsaves - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:51 am:

    === it hardly matters who suggested it, ===

    Oh? Steingberg ought to know better than that.

    Yes it does, although I still feel the Sun-Times totally blew this one. You don’t suspend someone for writing a story that gets published, but it is the job of the editor to see to it that (1) the story is accurate and worth publishing, (2) there are no personal axes to grind on the part of the reporter, and (3) there are no conflicts of interest. Which editor took the fall for this? As far as I can tell, no one.

    Although the Sun-Times claims the accuracy of the story and that it was somehow carefully vetted, the unexplainable part is the suspension or grounding of the journalist who partially authored it. Was Marin also “suspended” for five days as part of their internal investigation?

    What happened the journalist standard of: “if you mother says she loves you, you still check it out?”

    Making the reporter the fall guy for the failure of internal checks and balances and editing is the shame of the Sun-Times here.


  37. - Demoralized - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    ==Bruce Rauner revealed himself even more starkly as the ruthless, vindictive creature that he most certainly is==

    Personally, that’s the jist of what I got from this whole episode. It’s a matter of character and Rauner displayed a big character flaw in this ordeal.


  38. - Louis G Atsaves - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:54 am:

    Perhaps I should have expanded my last sentence to include: “failure or success of vetting . . .”


  39. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 12:02 pm:

    A Guy, you do know that McKinney wrote a letter that is available for you to read in which he explained his actions?

    Why do you feel the need to engage in uninformed speculation as to his state of mind regarding his marriage?


  40. - The Historian - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 12:14 pm:

    To me, PT Ferro just up above is the best comment yet, & interestingly he’s the very 1st commenter to mention Jim Kirk. Doesn’t Kirk come out of this smelling even worse than Michael Ferro & BR?


  41. - Rod - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 12:24 pm:

    T thought this section, “I sincerely believe that had McKinney managed to just step around this mess and gone back to doing his job, an important life skill in journalism, instead of pouring gasoline over himself, and the paper, and striking a match, the whole thing would be over by now and he’d be back to kicking Rauner’s ass, which is what this is supposedly all about…” in Neil Steinberg’s article was fascinating.

    It appears to me at least that Neil Steinberg simply can’t conceive of being anything other than a journalist, therefor at all costs one must stay in the game. Given the reality of the Sun Times Mr. Steinberg and many others may find themselves without employment and without the title journalist then what?

    It seems to me that McKinney looks at the world more broadly than does Steinberg. There may be a life after journalism. Noreen Ahmed-Ullah the former excellent Tribune education report left her position and is now in private business in Canada totally unrelated to journalism. There are others who have done the same, maybe McKinney will be one of them.


  42. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 12:26 pm:

    ===I believe Dave had to project forward what it might be like if his marriage to a partisan professional was going to be any kind of continuing conflict; real or perceived. I think he decided that it likely would be and he was better off severing a very distinguished 20 year career at a proud publication he carried a lot of water for.===

    Dear goodness gracious, the man spoke for himself as to why.

    Please read what he wrote. Are you questioning his integrity as to why he left his job? It’s as though the only honesty, integrity, ethics, or morals muddy come from what you believe people think, even after you are literary told what they are from their own mouth.

    At least come at things with a smidge of honesty; the man told us why he left. Told. It’s like facts you seem acceptable are weaved into your yarns for a fodder of a false overall narrative.

    Ok, to the Post,

    I read them both, but where I had to take pause is the Steinberg article fails for me is this premise that choices are possible, and after McKinney’s own boss backed him, he say him.

    He backed him, then sat him.

    At done point, it’s not about taking your medicine, it’s about the cure killing the patient, and in this case, killing the base ideal reporters have, their credibility that their paper and boss back their work. The “cure” to appease Rauner, killed McKinney’s belief in his paper standing by McKinney’s integrity.

    The instant, in very narrow specific fields, you sell off your own credibility by accepting the unfounded questioning of others, you have to move on.

    The by-line? The moment MvKinney couldn’t get his name on work because the boss who backed him 100% back off, McKinney had to back away for good.

    That is what is at play here, not an idea conjured up as Dopey speculation in complete denial of McKinney’s own letter. It’s the premise, the standard, the belief, the need…that if yiu are going to be in a business of trust, you need to be trusted, as much as you trust. Dave McKinney lost to the muscling of Rauner, banking on Fredo Kirk golfing to Ferro. It worked, McKinney walked, and didn’t slink bank after being sat.

    I back you Mr. McKinney, just as I did from Junp Street. I don’t need to say I think I know how you came to your choices, I read them, they came from you, and even these to “takes” take nothing away from where I started.

    OW


  43. - jimbo2 - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 12:56 pm:

    To me the difference is summarized by this statement by Steinberg: “the trick was to accept the assignment, and then quietly bury it into a Dumpster and forget about it”.

    Obviously, in his case, there wasn’t follow up. The powers that be didn’t pull him of his beat and reassign him. They didn’t thru actions, if not words, question his integrity. There is no comparison.


  44. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 12:58 pm:

    Lie Down and Take It: The Autobiography of Neil Steinberg


  45. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 1:11 pm:

    If Rauner was so good at intimidating opponents, why do we hear about him doing it, but didn’t hear a peep when Blagojevich succeeded in doing it?

    Rauner did nothing Blagojevich didn’t do - and you guys let him get away with it from 2001-2009.

    So spare us the shock.


  46. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 1:22 pm:

    VMan , I remember reading and commenting quite a bit about Blago squeezing Zell over the Wrigley Field deal to muscle the Tribbie edit board.

    I guess you chronic victim guys remember what you want.


  47. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 1:23 pm:

    VanillaMan
    Don’t you mean 2003-2009?


  48. - Norseman - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 1:41 pm:

    Neil Steinberg’s take on the story reminded me of the Star Trek episode entitled Galileo Seven. In the episode we see an endangered group led by Spock (McKinney) depending upon a damaged shuttle craft (Sun Times) to get them into a position where they can be rescued by the Enterprise (ethical journalism standards). As the Enterprise was forced to move in a different direction making a rescue a more remote possibility, Spock (McKinney) chose to jettison the fuel and ignite it (leaving his job at the paper) creating a giant signal flare for the Enterprise to see. Asked why he took such a risky maneuver, he responded that taking drastic action was the logical thing to do. We’ll see if McKinney’s logical response works out for him and he’ll get rescued from the damaged Sun Times.

    On the other hands, Steinberg’s preference is to stick with the damaged shuttle craft for a few more trips around the world until it and his career end in the future.

    One man chose self-respect, the other chose self-security.


  49. - D.P.Gumby - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 2:03 pm:

    Steinberg’s argument sounds like the same reasoning that has led to all the endorsements of Brucie by all the “upstanding” newspapers of this state.


  50. - Because I said so..... - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 2:07 pm:

    How do you lose the battle and win the war by coming back to work for the paper and not telling your story?

    A lot of good points have been made here. For me;
    1. McKinney had to do what he felt in his heart, needed to be done.
    2. The Sun Times lost a lot of credibility on this one.
    3. This was yet another example of Bruce Rauner’s pattern of bullying and intimidation.

    That’s not how to run a government


  51. - À guy - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 2:30 pm:

    Slinger, you posited that the entire newsroom signed a petition. I said some felt a bit different. You were wrong.


  52. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 3:04 pm:

    A Guy, you see and hear so much that others don’t. Where do you see that Steinberg didn’t sign that letter?

    But I’m sure McKinney is grateful that you straightened him out on the real reasons he did what he did. He probably feels pretty silly that he wrote his letter explaining his resignation without checking with you first.


  53. - In a Minute - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 3:35 pm:

    I read the Illinois Times piece and for some reason was immediately reminded of a great piece Dave did last summer on Penny Severns and Terry Mutchler. It was about much more than journalistic ethics and explained very some complicated emotional issues for the subjects, but it did note that Mutchler could never forgive herself for actions she took as a journalist covering Severns simply because she loved her so much.
    To his credit and perhaps relevant here in terms of past practices at the paper, the piece had a disclaimer stating that Mutchler and McKinney are friends.

    The IT piece on McKinney also talks about how smitten he was in his new relationship. He was obviously aware of the perceptions and took steps to wall himself off. I just wonder though if his feelings prevented him from fully understanding how things appeared when allegations were presented that the wall had been breached.

    Mostly though I read the IT piece and see another friend defending Dave. Dave needs to get out there and defend himself. He does a great job of asking the tough questions of politicos, now he should sit for some himself.


  54. - Sunshine - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 4:02 pm:

    OW 12:26 great points about “At done point, it’s not about taking your medicine, it’s about the cure…..”

    Perhaps what we have absolutely determined here is that Rauner is ideally suited to be in the pit with the other slugs….that pit being Illinois politics at its worst.


  55. - West Sider - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 4:22 pm:

    Rushton is spot on. I disagree with Steinberg, except for this: “….. and now we have to find somebody who thinks it’s a good career move to spend time in Springfield.” So, you know, good luck with that. Because if the ST wouldn’t back McKinney, they’re sure not going to go out on a limb for some new hire.


  56. - DuPage Grandma - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 5:39 pm:

    It was my understanding that McKinney could keep his job but was taken off the Rauner story. If that is what happened, then his resignation is more understandable….and of course his resignation was a fight for freedom to report the truth or the whole story….a noble act.


  57. - Anonymous - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 6:11 pm:

    “Every owner in the history of newspapering ballyhoos candidates he likes…”

    Resorting to the lame everybody-else-is-doing-it excuse is so pathetic.


  58. - Tabula Raza - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 7:11 pm:

    The Sun-Times has either jettisoned its best staffers or they left out of disgust or desperation. Despite what Neil says, no one leaves on the spur of the moment - in a ball of flames. When someone “impulsively” walks out, there is usually months - maybe years - of frustration behind the decision.

    You can count on the fact that the Rauner incident was not the catalyst in Dave McKinney’s resignation, but the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was likely the end result of years of pay cuts, benefit cuts, seniority cuts and attempts by the Sun-Times to break the CWA. It was perhaps the result of a “do as I say, not as I do” administration, and the long-term effect of the elitist attitude that was reflected in the crowded, haphazard newsroom that looked like a telemarketing call center.

    Workers at the entire Sun-Times News Group have been on a horrible downer for the past six years, beginning with Conrad Black bankrupting the company and perhaps culminating in the dismissal of the entire photography department. Loyal and talented staffers were tossed out the door like so much refuse. No matter the quality of work or how many awards you won the company, you were only as good as yesterday’s news.

    What made it worse were the “celebrity reporters and columnists” like Richard Roeper and Michael Sneed, who were treated like royalty while others - every bit as talented - were left to wither on the vine.

    Neil, you’re correct in many ways. Yet, we’ve been hearing and seeing proof of the demise of newspapers for a couple of decades now. Every single year, for the past ten years, conditions have degenerated for journalists/photographers and other newsroom staff. Your wait and see attitude appears nothing more than wishful thinking. “If we persevere, maybe we can bring back tough guy columnists like Mike Royko.” Even if we could clone Royko, he would either end up as a superstar, if he flattered the right people, or kicked to the curb if he refused to compromise his integrity. Eating crow to keep your job is safe - for a while - but you have to continually gag down your pride as it attempts to assert itself. I think Dave McKinney did the right thing. If nothing else, he gave voters a glimpse of the real Bruce Rauner right before the election.


  59. - Ginhouse Tommy - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 8:30 pm:

    I don’t know if ST has a replacement yet but whoever it is I’m sure that it will be someone who will play it safe and be kept on a short leash. What good will that do. A political reporter who can’t follow his/her instincts and ask questions. The editors may as well write the stories for them.


  60. - Responsa - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 9:07 pm:

    It is good to see the two articles posted here- from different perspectives– that were written by people much much closer to the situation than most of us are. In the past week there have been quite a few other quite good national media articles/blog posts written about McKinney and the Sun Times through a mostly journalistic rather than partisan lens. They did not all agree either, and most were not linked here. The more one tries to look back on this objectively it becomes clearer that no key party mentioned in the heat of the kerfuffle really comes out looking all that great in the end, and that pretty obvious errors in judgement i.e., “mistakes were made” by pretty much everybody involved.


  61. - CD - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:37 pm:

    Steinberg’s need to do whatever it takes to keep his job at the Sun Times has already been discussed at length here, but it’s an important perspective. Neil needs to keep a decent paycheck coming from the Sun Times to retire and what McKinney said/did hurt the paper.

    As to McKinney, what stood out to me is that after he went to great lengths to separate his personal and professional life, he was not only suspended, but offered other beats. Think about that for a minute. You’ve been a political reporter for over 2o years and now they’re telling you to cover something else. That’s your employer saying they’ve lost confidence in you. Then, right after you are allowed back, they’re already messing with the story you’re working on. Steinberg’s wrong, it was never going to be the same for McKinney again and he knew it. The guy gave the better part of his life to that paper and asked his new wife to make changes in her professional life to accommodate his. He had no real choice but to leave and tell the truth. Steinberg should wish he had the same standards.


  62. - Ginhouse Tommy - Thursday, Oct 30, 14 @ 11:52 pm:

    CD If I might disagree. I don’t think that Steinberg’s employer lost confidence in him but I think that they were afraid that what he was writing might upset certain important people. Because of this they sat on him and then put him on a short leash. In a way isn’t that censorship? I know it’s subtle but it’s still putting a muzzle on a reporter.


  63. - Tabula Raza - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 6:36 am:

    @Ginhouse Tommy. There is nothing subtle about putting a 20-year veteran on a new beat and keeping him on a short lease. That is very obvious censorship and the promotion of propaganda rather than genuine news. Very sad.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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