Thursday, October 23, 2014

Democratic Strategist Integrity

The husband of political consultant Ann Liston quit his job yesterday, citing political interference and implications of pillow talk between spouses.

At the same time, Sun-Times reporter Dave McKinney resigned from the paper, citing political interference and implications of pillow talk between spouses.

These two sentences are essentially the same, but the description of the protagonist has been slightly altered to show, rather than tell. Dave McKinney is a political reporter for a Chicago newspaper, and his wife is a political consultant. Your head is now drawing lines from Point A to Point B and you're arriving at Point 'Journalistic Integrity'.
Are they talking politics?

Mr. McKinney penned an in-depth article about Republican candidate Bruce Rauner and Mr. Rauner's involvement in a lawsuit that touched on operations of one of the many companies his hedge fund operated. The article painted him in a bad light, which is what you'd expect from an investigative journalist.

But does it make a difference to your sense of integrity to know that his wife is a Democratic consultant whose firm works with Illinois Democratic candidates to get them elected?

The journalist blames the new owners of the Chicago Sun-Times, one of whom was Bruce Rauner before he gave up the investment when he decided to run for governor. Mr. McKinney says that the publisher was put under pressure by the paper's owners to kill the piece by the Rauner campaign, but the article ran anyway. The conflict of interest angle was then floated, but still the article was published.

But right after it ran, Mr. McKinney was relieved of his politcal beat and given other options at the newspaper, none of which he cared to accept.

The reporter defended his editor, in the belief that Jim Kirk would never do that to him. Jim Kirk has been defending his integrity by insisting that no one above him was pulling his strings and it was his decision to pull the plug on a good reporter who, it turned out, married into an enormous conflict of interest.

Ms. Liston herself is not working on the Quinn re-election campaign, but her company is, and the average reader would not believe that she is so isolated in her office that a word is never passed between her and her colleagues.

That becomes a problem for a newspaper that is concerned with journalistic integrity. The owners of the Sun-Times don't want to get a reputation as the spokes-paper for the Democrats, especially in Chicago where the Democrats are famous for corruption and one-party rule. They are competing with the conservative Chicago Tribune, and while a liberal slant is fine, a lack of independence from the politicians being covered is deadly.

Mr. McKinney believes his demotion was ordered by the paper's owner, Michael "Charles Foster Kane" Ferro, and he has retained some high-powered legal bulldogs to make a case that shows Mr. McKinney was the victim of political machinations at the highest level.

Is his wife the political strategist advising him?

What do they talk about when their heads hit the pillow? Should the readers know?

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