Why I Left
October 23, 2014 7:50 AM   Subscribe

"It’s about readers and their trust in us." Dave McKinney, longtime Chicago Sun-Times political reporter, resigns after the paper appears to cave to pressure from billionaire Illinois Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner to punish McKinney for writing an article that portrayed Rauner as a thug. After supporting McKinney publicly but attempting to remove him from the political beat, the paper reversed its three-year-old policy of not endorsing candidates by endorsing Rauner, who until recently owned 10% of the company that owns the paper.
posted by goatdog (27 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 


Rauner, who until recently owned 10% of the company that owns the paper.

Welp, I'm off to the pub to both toast the fact I don't live in Chi-town and lament the death of journalism by one billion cuts.
posted by Mezentian at 8:01 AM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


I am so glad to see a post on this. Hubs and I are heavily active in state politics, as are about half of our friends, and OMG my boundless unspeakable anger about this specific incident and Rauner generally and THIS INSANE CAMPAIGN. I don't really even know how to comment because I have MANY FEELINGS and MUCH BACKSTORY but I'll keep the thread open and answer questions if I can.

For people who want to follow the story, the single best source for Illinois statehouse politics is Capitol Fax, which is where all the state employees and officials go for their gossip and news (he had something like 100,000 hits from within the state capitol building during times when the legislature was in session this past spring). It was loading SO SLOW yesterday because all of Springfield and the entire Thompson Center in Chicago were reading and obsessively refreshing at once. Slow again this morning, everyone must be catching up on the overnight developments.

CapFax on McKinney, CapFax with some Rauner oppo dumps.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:03 AM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


Like all of the resignations during the Bush years, I wonder if, by leaving, this reporter has affirmed the intimidation tactics, and weakened the moral fiber of the company he worked for. In the end, it seems to have worked out great for the newspaper...
posted by Chuffy at 8:22 AM on October 23, 2014


I wonder if, by leaving, this reporter has affirmed the intimidation tactics, and weakened the moral fiber of the company he worked for.

I'd say he left because the fallout from his story was just taking that piece of moral fibre and sidelining it. Accepting that situation would have compromised any remaining high ground he had left, and let the company tokenize him as a "good" journalist.

This makes an interesting juxtaposition with the NYT being flooded with requests for the early buyout package, which was supposed to put a humane face on the next round of layoffs.
posted by fatbird at 8:30 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Perhaps Illinois should just send newly elected Governors directly to prison upon certification of the election results and have them serve their terms there.

I mean it would seem to solve a whole raft of problems.
posted by Naberius at 8:33 AM on October 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


Chicago Mag has an interesting summary, via Romenesko, that notes McKinney had been doing some equally hard-hitting journalism against Democratic governor Quinn, Rauner's opponent, just previous to the Rauner piece.

As an aside, simply characterizing the article in question as "an article that portrayed Rauner as a thug" is a bit of a disservice. It uses quotes from sworn depositions that claim Rauner threatened to hurt someone's career and family, notes that much of the lawsuit, including those accusations, was thrown out without a determination as to their validity, but claims the lawsuit nonetheless offers a unique window into Rauner's business dealings because it's the only time we have him on record in situations like this (of which there were apparently many). There's an argument to be had about how newsworthy it was, but everyone above McKinney in the newsroom backed it.
posted by mediareport at 8:46 AM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


Mike Royko is spitting out his beer somewhere in heaven.

Meanwhile, those of us from Chicago who told our friends Kelsey Grammer's Boss was trying too hard are avoiding the social media feeds for a little while.
posted by C.A.S. at 9:04 AM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


"Like all of the resignations during the Bush years, I wonder if, by leaving, this reporter has affirmed the intimidation tactics, and weakened the moral fiber of the company he worked for. In the end, it seems to have worked out great for the newspaper..."

Nah, the Sun Times is generally a cheapo rag, the NY Post of Chicago. Last year (or maybe longer? God, I'm getting old) it fired its photographers in order to use iphone snaps. The biggest reason to buy it was that it had four pages of comics and you could roll it up to hit people with on the El.
posted by klangklangston at 9:13 AM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yeah, cheap rag, always was a cheap rag but somehow getting bought by Murdoch (thus the NYPost effect) made it even worse.

I was stuck in a Starbucks in the burbs with nothing else to read last trip home, I literally could not believe the lack of content. Unless it was Bears camp gossip.

But - it used to have a cool ugly building on a good stretch of the Chicago River (sold to Trump of course), it used to employ Mike Royko, and it was the fictional employer of John Belushi in Continental Divide. That is the crap paper I prefer to remember.
posted by C.A.S. at 9:18 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was quite disappointed by the outcome of our Republican primary. Neither Rauner nor Quinn are anywhere close to being the leader that most of the people of Illinois deserve, but never get.
posted by michaelh at 9:21 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Like all of the resignations during the Bush years, I wonder if, by leaving, this reporter has affirmed the intimidation tactics, and weakened the moral fiber of the company he worked for. In the end, it seems to have worked out great for the newspaper...

Well, when the choice is between being forced to be complicit in bad journalism as a condition of continued employment, or quitting and losing your influence, is there really any difference in the outcomes of the choice? Is it better to be an inanimate corpse, dead and buried and maybe irrelevant, or a zombie that's got no choice but to be an active force for doing more harm (i.e. complicity)?

It's not clear to me there's any acceptable choice when things get this far out of whack. All the choices are bad, only some less bad than others.

In the end, I wouldn't blame anyone for saying, to steal a line from an old poet, "There is some shit I will not eat" when continuing employment requires them to actively work against the fundamental goals of their profession and the professional standards and ethical codes that bind them as professionals.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:29 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am also glad to see this posted here. I wanted to do something about it yesterday but my Rauner feelings meant there was no way I could without it being RAHR RAHR RAHR. And that would have just been the title.

But this particular issue is much more than that. Personally, I think if Rauner is elected, there is the very strong possibility that he'll be the Scott Walker of the much more populous state to Wisconsin's south.

But even if I didn't feel that way, this sort of bullshit from a newspaper, even one I don't respect at all anymore (chicagosuntimes on MetaFilter previously), should bother anyone of any political leaning.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:47 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Steinberg's blog post reads to me like he's trying to make himself feel better about his own decisions to follow the path of least resistance. As saulgoodman says above, when your only choice is to either stick around and be complicit in bad behavior or walk away, then you aren't playing into anyone's hands by walking away.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:47 AM on October 23, 2014


I'm not really sure what Steinberg is supposed to do by staying at the Sun-Times if they've actually removed him from the political beat, which is obviously what he wants to do and what is known for and the only place where he has any "professional capital" to use in this sort of fight.

If he kept speaking out that publicly while assigned to whatever new beat they stuck him on, which is pretty much the only option I can see, he'd be fired anyway. But if there's some sort of 'change from the inside' path that I'm not seeing, I would seriously like to know what that would be.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:09 AM on October 23, 2014


Personally, I think if Rauner is elected, there is the very strong possibility that he'll be the Scott Walker of the much more populous state to Wisconsin's south.

More than a strong possibility. A strong probability. Indeed, a nearly safe bet.
posted by blucevalo at 10:10 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


A thug? Sounds like he'll fit right into Illinois politics.
posted by gyc at 12:08 PM on October 23, 2014


I think if Rauner is elected, there is the very strong possibility that he'll be the Scott Walker of the much more populous state to Wisconsin's south.

I think that's exactly what he wants to be, but - maybe I'm naive here but in order to succeed at that won't the legislature have to go along with him? Democrats currently control both houses of the state legislature, and assuming that doesn't change, than how would Rauner ever get a bill passed?
posted by dnash at 12:17 PM on October 23, 2014


Man, I'm glad that Roger Ebert isn't around to see this.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:22 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is making the rounds this afternoon

Plutocrat (The Ballad of Bruce Rauner)

I've been humming, "I'll hammer and shake that capitol dome / Like it's a grandma stuck in a nursing home," for the last hour.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:42 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ben Bradlee, so soon already turning in his grave.
posted by NedKoppel at 1:35 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


This story made me so mad I voted early for the first time (Quinn over Rauner). The system may be broken in Illinois, but anyone who thinks Rauner will do anything other than make it even worse than Quinn and the democrats hasn't done their research.
posted by Perko at 3:53 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


This makes an interesting juxtaposition with the NYT being flooded with requests for the early buyout package

Yes, the NYT got over 300 applications for the 100 buyout spots, but the "flood" was actually an act of solidarity among the reporters, not a sign that hundreds of reporters are eager to jump ship, according to this article at Capital New York. For the first time, instead of sending buyout offers automatically to everyone eligible, the NYT brass asked interested folks to apply, which made some staffers nervous that applying for a buyout could make them more of a target for the next round of layoffs.

So, to help cover for the staffers who were interested in seeing what their buyout offer would be, and to poke back at the NYT management for changing the system of offering buyouts, hundreds of NYT reporters flooded management with applications for buyouts even though they have no intention of leaving (a Newspaper Guild official is quoted saying he'd be "stunned" if the NYT got 100 folks to actually go through with it). It was a neat bit of direct action, and probably shouldn't be taken as any kind of sign beyond that.
posted by mediareport at 7:18 PM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm from Chicago; and when I've been back the last year, it's been all Rauner ads. I can't believe my peeps will elect that guy. It just can't happen.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:31 AM on October 24, 2014


Being the only one around with any sense of integrity sucks.
posted by mikelieman at 1:50 AM on October 24, 2014


Re: this previous comment's first paragraph.

RAHR RAHR RAHR
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:41 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Update on the NYT buyout front: Mother Jones is reporting that, contrary to the "300 folks applied for buyouts!" story, the NYT will probably not get 100 folks to take buyouts, which means some layoffs will be necessary.
posted by mediareport at 7:42 AM on November 21, 2014


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