Veteran Reporter Resigns, Says Paper Didn't Support Him During Smear Campaign
Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI
Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief Dave McKinney resigned from the paper over what he calls a "breach" in the wall that exists "between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published."
McKinney, a 19-year veteran of the Sun-Times, posted an October 22 resignation letter on his personal blog explaining that he co-reported a story examining litigation involving the former company of Bruce Rauner, now the Republican candidate for Illinois governor. The piece, he wrote, was backed by "our editors and supported by sworn testimony and interviews."
However, according to McKinney, prior to publication in early October, "the Rauner campaign used multiple tactics to block it," including "sending to my boss an opposition-research hit piece-rife with errors-about my wife, Ann Liston. The campaign falsely claimed she was working with a PAC to defeat Rauner and demanded a disclaimer be attached to our story that would have been untrue. It was a last-ditch act of intimidation." Sun-Times publisher and editor Jim Kirk later defended McKinney, calling the allegation "inaccurate and defamatory."
McKinney states that he resigned, however, because he felt the paper didn't have "the backs of reporters like me." He explained that the Sun Times subsequently penalized him and didn't allow him "to do my job the way I had been doing it for almost two decades. Was all this retaliation for breaking an important news story that had the blessing of the paper's editor and publisher, the company's lawyer and our NBC5 partners?"
His former employer also, in his view, "unequivocally embraced the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun-Times management had declared a defamatory attack on me" by endorsing Rauner's gubernatorial candidacy. The endorsement was notable because the Republican "used to be an investor in the Sun-Times' ownership group ... The paper's endorsement of Rauner was its first since it announced in 2012 that it would no longer make endorsements."
The Washington Free Beacon was a landing site for the Rauner campaign's attacks against McKinney and his wife. The conservative site, which has financial ties to partisan operatives, wrote an October 19 article with the headline, "The Chicago Way: Democratic Super PAC in Bed with Local Newspaper--Literally."
The Beacon's attacks were amplified by partisan figures like Fox News contributor and former Rep. Allen West, who wrote on his website: "Yep, that kinda smells, but then again it's Democrat business as usual ... Never forget that Chicago is the home of Saul Alinsky, Barack Hussein Obama, Hillary Rodham-Clinton, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Tony Rezko, Jesse Jackson Sr and Jr, Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, David Plouffe, Bill Ayres, Bernadette Dorn - need I say more?"