Dave McKinney is a stand-up reporter for the Sun-Times. Or he was.
His letter of resignation was all over the internet today. Bad news for Bruce Rauner who tried to get him fired by his pals at the Sun-Times. And by the way, Rauner’s pals at the Sun-Times are also Rahm’s pals at the Sun-Times.
By late today if you tried to find the Facebook link to Dave McKinney’s letter, you got this:
Overload? Something fishy? You be the judge. Here’s Dave McKinney’s letter:
October 22, 2014
350 N. Orleans St., 10th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654
Dear Mr. Ferro:
I’ve worked for almost two decades at the Chicago Sun-Times because it had a soul.
The home of eight Pulitzer Prizes, this newspaper once set up a tavern to expose graft at City Hall and later listened to a grieving mother who wanted justice for her late son after the system failed her miserably. It has stood for hard news. It has stood for independence.
The Sun-Times is stocked with dedicated reporters, editors and columnists, who work every day with integrity, long hours and not enough pay. They are more than colleagues. They are my friends. They are my family. They are the soul of the Sun-Times.
But today, I’m faced with a difficult decision due to the disturbing developments I’ve experienced in the last two weeks that cannot be reconciled with this newspaper’s storied commitment to journalism.
At issue is the Sun-Times/NBC5 report about LeapSource and its fired female CEO, a story for which I proudly shared a byline with Carol Marin and Don Moseley. The piece focused on litigation involving the former executive, who alleged Bruce Rauner, while a director of the company, threatened her, her family and her future job prospects.
With the backing of our editors and supported by sworn testimony and interviews, the piece took us nearly a month to vet, report and write. It was approved by the legal departments at both the Sun-Times and NBC5 and was posted online simultaneously with Carol’s Oct. 7 broadcast report on NBC5. It was a Sun-Times story done in the finest traditions of the paper.
Prior to publication, the Rauner campaign used multiple tactics to block it, including having campaign staffers vowing to “go over” our heads. We are accustomed to such tactics.
But what does not come with the territory is a campaign 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.
Yes, Ann does political consulting work for Democrats. But she has not been involved in the Illinois’ governor’s race and has focused on out-of-state campaigns. She and her business partner have gone to great lengths to prevent potential conflicts of interest, including creating a legally binding firewall that prevents Ann from participating in, strategizing in, or financially benefiting from the Illinois governor’s race. For that work, her partner formed a separate corporation with its own bank account that didn’t involve Ann in any way. In January, before we were even married, I presented this information to Sun-Times management and received approval in writing to move forward.
Faced with the Rauner campaign’s ugly attack, Sun-Times Publisher and Editor Jim Kirk immediately told the Rauner campaign that this “assault” on my integrity “border[ed] on defamation” and represented “a low point in the campaign.” In other statements, Kirk called the campaign’s tactic “spurious” and “sexist.”
Yet despite such strong rebukes, two days later, I was yanked from my beat as I reported on a legislative hearing focusing on Gov. Pat Quinn’s botched Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. My reporting for that day was then removed inexplicably from the Sun-Times website.
I was told to go on leave, a kind of house arrest that lasted almost a week. It was pure hell. Kirk told me that his bosses were considering taking me away permanently from the political and Springfield beats. He offered up other potential jobs at the paper, all of which I considered demotions. Because of my unexplained absence from my beat, colleagues started calling, asking if I had been suspended. Or fired.
Through all this, I simply wanted to get back to my beat, but the paper wouldn’t let me. And, Carol and I were instructed not to contact you or Tim Knight about the Rauner campaign’s defamatory allegations.
For guidance, I called Patrick Collins, a former federal prosecutor whose name is synonymous with ethics in Illinois. His involvement brought about an abrupt shift in the company’s tone from penalizing me to reinstating me. Ultimately, the company pledged I could return to the job with “no restrictions.”
Yet, on the first day back, I was advised I shouldn’t have a byline on a LeapSource-related story “right out of the gate” even though it was a legitimate follow-up to our initial story. While later relenting and offering me a contributing byline after I protested, the newspaper had failed an important test: It was not permitting me 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?
Does part of the answer lie in what Kirk told me – that you couldn’t understand why the LeapSource story was even in the paper?
Days later, the newspaper reversed its three-year, no-endorsement policy and unequivocally embraced the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun-Times management had declared a defamatory attack on me.
Readers of the Sun-Times need to be able to trust the paper. 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.
It’s had a chilling effect in the newsroom. While I don’t speak for my colleagues, I’m aware that many share my concern. I’m convinced this newspaper no longer has the backs of reporters like me.
I appreciate the recent, public statements of support by Kirk, an honorable man with solid news judgment who got the LeapSource story into print. But, ultimately, I don’t believe he called the shots here.
We reporters have a healthy suspicion of both parties and candidates. It’s our job. It’s regrettable that this issue has emerged in the homestretch of an important election in Illinois, but respectfully, this isn’t about either candidate or the election. It’s about readers and their trust in us. So my decision could not wait. I hate to leave, but I must.
And so, it is with great sadness today that I tender my immediate resignation from the Sun-Times.
- Dave McKinney
WTC President Kathy Schwarz (center).
I heard from Waukegan Teacher Council President Kathy Schwarz this afternoon:
Yet again, the District is making public statements that don’t reflect the reality of what’s going on at the negotiations table. The District’s side refused to discuss any proposals with us. Last night, they dropped off their last proposal and refused to answer any questions about it. Then they issued a statement to the public again filled with half-truths and snapshots of various proposals that do not tell the whole story.
When we returned with our counter proposal, District representatives informed us that they will only communicate with us through our mediator. This just adds another layer between the District and the Union. We now have to send a message through the mediator, who will relay it to the District representatives, who will then relay it to the Board. If they Board wants to respond, they have to go through the same three layers.
A lot must be getting lost in translation through this game of telephone.
If this is how they are going to conduct today’s meeting, we invite them to break their self-imposed bargaining curfew of 6:00 PM and join us for a marathon session.
Rahm’s Race to the Art. The winners get a paint brush and a tray of water colors.
A month ago I posted information about a music teacher who had gone to Donor’s Choose to raise money for a class set of ukuleles.
And I was glad to publicize it. Four days later the money had been raised and the ukes were ordered.
I have mixed emotions about these fund-raising efforts. As a retired Art teacher I am always glad to help raise money for the Arts in public schools. And for this cause, my own pockets are deep as they can be.
It seems as though Rahm is going this route to fund what was his unfunded promise to increase Arts education in the Chicago Public Schools.
A prolific fundraiser with nearly $9 million in his campaign warchest, Emanuel has set a goal of raising $38 million to elevate music and the arts to the level he believes is needed to inspire academic performance and keep students motivated and involved.
I will not even get into a long discussion in this post about Rahm’s view of Arts education as inspiring academic performance. I have no idea what he means by that. As widely understood, it is a dubious concept, unsupported by research. If Rahm thinks math scores will improve if students have access to the Arts, I believe he will be disappointed. The Arts are domains of knowledge, valuable in their own right.
But Rahm is unable or unwilling to fund the Arts in the schools through public funds. So he promises to raise private funds to do it. He has made those promises before. His primary success at raising money, however, is for his own campaign war chest.
Whatever happened to the Infrastructure Trust, where private funds would be raised to pay for bridge and road repairs?
Tangent: It pisses me off that Rahm puts Building a New Chicago sign everywhere some City crews are working. Resurfacing Fullerton is not building a new Chicago. It is fixing stuff that is broken. Having a plumber come to my house and repair a leaking pipe is not building a new house. Streets and San is filling pot holes that were deep enough to go swimming in when it rains. Finally. But it is not Building a New Chicago.
The promise of private funds for Art in the public schools comes with strings.
Doesn’t it always?
School Board President David Vitale said the private donations, $11 million of them already in the bank, will be used to purchase musical instruments, cameras and scripts and fund “new assessment systems to track student learning in the arts.”
New assessment systems to track students. What will that cost? And what will be learned?
Individual schools that excel in the arts also will continue to compete for challenge grants — ranging from $10,000-to-$40,000 — in the arts education equivalent of the federal “Race-to-the-top” program, the school board president said.
Good lord! A Race to the Top for Arts funding.
Maybe we can have first graders thrown into a ring, gladiator style, with the winner getting a paint brush and a tray of water colors.
Vitale said he views the private fund as a “transitional step or bridge” to full public funding of the arts education plan — even in a school system grappling with a crippling budget deficit driven by a pension crisis.
Ah! You knew they can’t address any problem without blaming it on teacher pensions.
The lack of Art in CPS is because of us old folks.
Damn kids. Stop painting on my lawn!
A communication from the Waukegan board president:￼
I have not received an email from you, the vast number of petitions have knocked many emails out of the inbox. I do apologize!
First, let me say that no one wants our students out of school. The Board is committed to reaching a fair agreement and getting our students back into the classroom. I personally do not understand the community’s hostility towards the BOE, when we are simply trying to do what is best for students, taxpayers and teachers (who just received raises in May 2014, retroactive to July 2013 when the Union threatened to strike on April 16). If the community wants to cripple our School District…
I cannot speak to what the Teachers Union is feeling at this point. As you know we have been negotiating in good faith with the Union. We were as surprised as everyone when the Union told us they were walking away from the table. Recently, we have made progress on a number of issues, including healthcare, duration of school year and employment conditions. Including conceding to full release time for the Union President at $90,000 with no teaching duties. The remaining issue is yearly salary increases. We want a fair contract, but it cannot come at the expense of all the other investments we must make to sustain educational quality in our schools.
In regards to the Board using expert negotiators to represent it in the mediation sessions, we believe this is the best course because they represent the school system without emotions. The collective bargaining process requires objectivity, which our representatives have. We never thought the Union would take this drastic measure to interrupt student’s education. Further, all expenses are paid out of the Ed. Fund. I not sure what the issue is. We requested a 2 week postponement to the strike, in order for talks to happen while students were in school, they refused!
Speaking for myself, I have been running children programs in Waukegan for 30 years. I am passionate about theses issues. It saddens me that individuals that don’t know me, can name call, defame me as uncaring, even stupid, when my life’s work has been for children. Whether on the BOE or not I will continue to to what I have been called to do, work on behalf of children and my hometown.
Please know we are doing everything we can without sacrificing our school system’s future. We cannot negotiate with ourselves. We hope that dedicated residents, such as yourself, will help us bring the Teachers back to the table so we can get our students back in class.
God bless you
The vast number of petitions Anita Hanna is referring to is the Moveon petition demanding the Board come to the table.
She mentions that she doesn’t understand the community’s hostility towards her.
Perhaps she is not listening to the vast numbers who signed the petition.
Hanna is totally confused about her proposals.
The union is quoted about the proposals in an article in the News Sun.
“The Board has said that we have settled on the issue of health insurance and that’s incorrect.” (union spokesmen Kenzo) Shibata said.
A proposal that would have the Board continue to pay 100 percent for single coverage insurance has a salary increase percentage that the Union has not agreed to.
Another proposal from the District offers a bigger salary raise but would have the teachers pay a percentage into their insurance coverage. The union has also not agreed to that.
Shibata said that conflicting proposals are confusing and that’s why the negotiating teams and leaders will continue to hit the streets and go door-to-door explaining the issues to those who want to listen.
Hanna admits that the $275 per hour that the board is handing over to the lawyer who is bargaining on the board’s behalf is paid for out of the district Education Fund.
The Education Fund is where teacher salaries come from.
But Hanna doesn’t see what the issue is?
Striking Waukegan teachers have a “working lunch” on the picket lines. The Waukegan board has lunch instead of bargaining.
From: Waukegan Teachers Council
40 minutes ago
Background….In an effort to give the board time to review our latest counter proposal, we emailed them yesterday at 3:15pm in anticipation of them being prepared for today’s meeting.
Today was scheduled to begin at 9am. The district remained in caucus until 11:09am when they finally presented their counter proposal.
The union caucused at 11:21am and returned to the negotiations room at 11:40am to find the entire district team had left for lunch and was not prepared to receive the counter.
As neither the union, nor the federal mediator were notified it is uncertain as to the time they will return. At any rate we are ready and waiting on them.
The team finds it alarming that they are more concerned with running out for lunch than negotiating.
The district attorney claims “simple miscommunication.” We ask how many simple “miscommunications” can there be during such an important time?
Teresa ‘T’ Hansen: How rude! They should have ordered Jimmy Johns Box Lunches for everyone and worked through lunch! #Waukegannegotiationsteamhungry
Like · Reply · 4 · 28 minutes ago
Dorothy Joyce: Do they even care about the kids? I know the teachers do. But does the board really even wonder about them?
Like · Reply · 1 · 11 minutes ago
Lin Waggener: SMH!!! They never cease to amaze me. Hang in there! #waukeganstrong
Like · Reply · 1 · 17 minutes ago
Bud Hicks: Don’t take the bait. Keep calm.
Like · Reply · 1 · 21 minutes ago
Jenny Alexander: Wow! This is incredibly frustrating. I am so sorry they are behaving this way. I’m in Chicago in full solidarity
Like · Reply · 1 · 29 minutes ago
Tom Tavernier: Stay strong teachers.
Like · Reply · 2 minutes ago
Dana Gothelf-Lerner: They obviously want this dragged out.
Like · Reply · 25 minutes ago
Gabriela Bustamante: In good faith???? Waukegan slapped again.
Like · Reply ·