Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Recently, we lost a good member of the Chicago Newspaper Guild. It was not due to disinterest in the union or a new job opportunity, but for just doing a good job.
Dave McKinney has worked for the Chicago Sun-Times as its Springfield bureau chief for 19 years. For the most part, he’s a lone reporter in the state capital among hundreds of political heavyweights who would love to have his favor in reporting the news, but you don’t get that type of job if you are easily swayed and lack journalistic integrity.
During his years at the bureau, he did his job well, reporting on the good, the bad and the ugly in Springfield politics. But as the recent Illinois gubernatorial campaign heated up, some politicos in that race didn’t like what they were reading under his byline. There were no inaccuracies in his reporting, but still their influence made its way to his superiors at the Sun-Times who wanted him not to pursue these kinds of stories regarding this candidate during the gubernatorial race.
The campaign attempted to kill one of his stories by sending him and his editor an error-laden opposition-research hit on McKinney’s wife, inaccurately claiming she was an agent for one of the candidates in the campaign. Yes, she is a political consultant, but she works exclusively out of state and had ZERO involvement in the Illinois governor’s race, neither offering her services to nor deriving any income from any candidate in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
He was completely transparent about the work of his wife and McKinney alerted management early this year about the extraordinary steps she took to steer completely clear of Illinois politics and the Sun-Times editor and publisher gave their blessing in writing to McKinney in January.
But instead of standing with him against an attack that same editor pulled McKinney from his beat, offered jobs that he considered demotions and ultimately said he could no longer cover politics and state government – all while the newspaper’s editor and publisher insisted he had done nothing wrong.
Only after McKinney retained a well-known former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted former Illinois Gov. George Ryan as his lawyer, did the company back off its plans to reassign him and offer full reinstatement without condition.
But the first day back, management asked him to forego a byline on a story he was working on regarding this particular gubernatorial candidate and relented only after he protested. Mind you, McKinney had done dozens of stories that weren’t favorable to the other candidate, as well, but that wasn’t good enough.
To top things off, as other media outlets were preparing to report on McKinney’s management-imposed hiatus that he compared to “house arrest,” the Sun-Times reversed its three-year policy against political endorsements. Without interviewing any of the candidates for governor, the newspaper sided with the one whose campaign unleashed the attack on McKinney and his wife – the same candidate, who as recently as 2012, was an investor in the Sun-Times.
Abraham Lincoln once said: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”
In that spirit, on Oct. 22, McKinney felt he had no choice but to leave the Sun-Times.
This letter was written in support of McKinney by the leadership of The Chicago Newspaper Guild, and The Newspaper Guild also supports him in his effort to find proper closure to this incident.
Ethics and integrity in journalism is the industry’s foundation and should be protected and the Guild is committed to this. Most people who go to work every day want to do a good job, do it right and produce something they are proud of, and reporters are no different.
We want you stand with the Guild in supporting McKinney because he did his job well; and for that, his integrity was brought into question instead of praise. So far his former colleagues at the Sun-Times have moved in that direction creating a petition in support of McKinney and asking that management come clean about McKinney’s departure and so far over 500 people have signed the petition.
For those who would stand in the way of a reporter’s ethics when it comes to reporting the news is unacceptable. Myself, along with our local union membership, international Guild leadership stand with McKinney and we will increase our vigilance to make sure Guild reporters are able to do their jobs free of intimidation wherever it may come from. We want make sure this unfortunate incident is the exception and not the rule in journalism.
Yours in solidarity,
Chicago Newspaper Guild