Tag Archives: Robert Feder

Take This Job and Shove It


Dave McKinney

 Dave McKinney


By Casey Bukro


Once again, one of Chicago’s top journalists is telling his bosses  to “take this job and shove it.”

The latest example is Dave McKinney, a highly respected  Chicago Sun-Times political reporter and Springfield statehouse bureau chief.

McKinney complained of being “yanked from my beat” and placed on temporary leave after staffers for Bruce Rauner, candidate for Illinois governor in an election that was only weeks away, made accusations against McKinney and his wife “in a last-ditch act of intimidation” trying to kill a story about Rauner.

McKinney pointed out that the Sun-Times editorially endorsed Rauner’s run for governor.

“Readers of the Sun-Times need to be able to trust the paper,” McKinney wrote in his resignation letter. “They need to know a wall exists between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published. A breach in that wall exists at the Sun-Times.”

Journalists were quick to come to McKinney’s defense.

The Chicago Headline Club, with a membership of about 500 journalists, said it was “shocked and disappointed” at McKinney’s treatment, and called it “a sad day in the history of the Sun-Times and Chicago journalism.”  The news spread fast.

In response, Jim Kirk, Sun-Times publisher and editor-in-chief, called McKinney “among the best in our profession,” but his leave was intended to “ensure there were no conflicts of interest……” Kirk denied that the newspaper’s ownership and management had any role in the matter. He took responsibility for the decisions.

Chicago tends to take its journalism, and sometimes its journalists, seriously.

The last time such an open conflict over news ethics erupted was in 1997, when Carol Marin and Ron Magers quit as evening co-anchors at WMAQ-TV Channel 5 over management’s decision to hire trash talk host Jerry Springer as a commentator on their news broadcast. Springer was known for hosting a show that featured raucous domestic disputes.

Marin and Magers considered Springer’s role on their broadcast “an affront to their credibility and integrity.”

On the day she quit, Marin had a story in the Chicago Sun-Times, where she is a political writer, with the headline: “Credibility, Thy Name Isn’t Springer.”

The decision to hire Springer turned out disastrous for WMAQ-TV. Not only did it lose two admired co-anchors, its 10 p.m. newscast ratings plunged 13 percent.

Robert Feder, a media columnist for the Sun-Times at the time, wrote that Channel 5 executives admitted that hiring Springer was a mistake after losing the anchors and “sending thousands of viewers fleeing in disgust.”

Springer also quit WMAQ after only two nights on the air, saying “it’s gotten too personal.”

Television viewers often form bonds with TV personalities, who are usually attractive and friendly. It’s as though those people on TV are personal friends, sometimes.

Those kinds of bonds seldom form with the largely invisible newspaper writers and reporters, who sometimes describe themselves as “ink-stained wretches.”

In this multi-media world, McKinney did appear on television via Skype broadcasts, reporting on political developments in Springfield. But it’s unlikely that readers will flee from the Sun-Times over the McKinney affair, as viewers fled WMAQ over the resignations of Marin and Magers.

In one of those strange twists, Carol Marin collaborated with McKinney on the Rauner investigation. Marin responded, saying the Rauner investigation was fair and accurate, although a “scorched earth” philosophy is not unusual in a political campaign.

“And so the Rauner team went over our heads to our bosses at NBC5 and the Sun-Times….” with untrue accusations, she wrote.

Hardball is the way the game is played in Chicago in both cases. But the basic issues are the same: Ethics, credibility and integrity.








Television’s Panhandlers

By Casey Bukro

If you wonder if some journalists are clueless about ethics, consider Susanna Negovan.

Negovan appeared as a freelance contributor on “Good Day Chicago,”  reporting how she attended with her husband a lavish private party in Chicago  for customers of Tiffany & Co. who had spent a million dollars or more on jewelry.

“I had black cod. My husband had filet mignon,” she said. “We probably each had a thousand dollars in wine and champagne.”

Showing a video of herself trying on a $750,000 bracelet, Negovan added: “I was hoping they would let me keep it.” (Okay, this had to be a joke. She can’t be that clueless. But you have to wonder about her smarts for even saying that on live television.)

Nevogan’s enthusiasm reached a peak when she said: “Before the party, it was so cool, they dropped off gifts for me!” including a Tiffany crystal bud vase.

It was a bravura performance in “gimme-gimme.”

Negovan’s full-time job is publisher and editor of Splash, an arts and entertainment supplement published by Sun-Times Media.  The segment in which she appeared was dubbed the “Tiffany Diamond Party” by Fox Chicago, WFLD Channel 32.

The “piece was over the top by any standard,” reported Robert Feder, who has covered the media beat in Chicago since 1980. He called it “more brazen and more obnoxious than anything she’d ever done before. And that’s saying a lot.”

AdviceLine asked Negovan how she responded to Feder’s accusations that she accepted freebies from a company she covers, but she did not reply. Negovan reportedly did not keep the gifts after Feder’s revelations.

The incident was more blatant than usual, but continues a long tradition of Chicago television anchors and others gorging themselves on air with food sent by merchants, or accepting gifts. There is no evidence these TV celebrities pay for any of this stuff, though many of them earn salaries in the six figures or more.

After a segment on Chicago hotdogs, a WGN-TV Channel 9 weather man on air wondered why the hot dog vender failed to send “samples.”

It’s shameful when a well-paid weatherman begs for food on television.

But it did not end there. A few days later,  on October 22, 2013, Mark Suppelsa, a WGN -TV anchor, looked directly into the camera and, with a big grin, said: “We like you better when you bring us free stuff,” after getting a box of Cracker Jack from a reporter.

It’s common to hear television anchors offering thanks for “sending that over,” referring to things like free pizza or other food or drinks. Don’t they know that makes them look cheap?

Journalists are supposed to be representatives of the people. What are the chances for the rest of us getting free pizza or hot dogs?

The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics says “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment….if they compromise journalistic integrity.”

Journalists can stuff themselves on air if they think that’s newsworthy, but at least make an effort to pay for the food like the rest of us.

This might seem like a small point. But it comes at a time when the Gallup Poll released new findings showing that the honesty and ethics rating of journalists continues to slide.

Gallup has asked Americans to rate the honesty and ethical standards of various professions since 1976. A December 5-8, 2013 poll found that 20 percent of Americans rated TV reporters as high or very high in honesty and ethical standards. Twenty-one percent ranked newspaper reporters high or very high.

By comparison, back in 1981, Gallup found that 32 percent of Americans believed that journalists in general ranked high or very high in honesty or ethical standards. That ranking has been falling ever since.

It can’t help confidence in journalists for Americans to see TV freeloaders begging for food and gifts.