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When did things change?


The Chicago Tribune, attempting to explain in its Sunday, February 7 edition why the troubles of Scott Lee Cohen didn’t make headlines until he won the lieutenant governor’s Democratic Party primary, acknowledges that Cohen did indeed talk to reporters about his legal problems. However, the Tribune also says Cohen “omitted critical details”.
I remember a time (it seems like maybe it was just a year or two ago) when news reporters would have researched a candidate such as Cohen without regard to whether he said anything or everything about his legal problems. It was the reporter’s job to see if any records of trouble existed and he’d better do it. That was part of a vital and vibrant tradition of not letting news makers tell news writers how to do their jobs. If I understand the Tribune’s explanation, a political candidate now gets to call the shots.
This is a huge change for the Chicago Tribune, one of the news operations that decided the public absolutely, positively had to know what was in the Jack and Jeri Ryan divorce file. I submit that this might not be a change for the better. The state’s Democratic Party leadership has used the late news to justify pressuring a nominee, chosen by the people in a process all the public pays for, to step aside so those leaders can choose their own nominee. Thus, allowing a candidate to play news director has defeated the purpose of the primary system as it is set up today.
Next thing you know, a high ranking lawmaker might decide that as a news director he can tell reporters to stay out of the Senate chambers while public business is being discussed.

Rick Koshko


Rick.Koshko's picture

It's too bad nobody wants to talk about this. Mistake review aids in mistake prevention. I have two ideas about what may have gone wrong.

1. News staff got cut to save money. Cohen mentioned his troubles and everybody who knew about them knew there were some important things to look up. He was running for lieutenant governor and wasn't considered a likely winner, so the research didn't get a high priority. It was one of those things put off for a slow day. But with so many staff cuts, there were no slow days. Then Cohen won the nomination and some news people said, "Oh &*#%. We totally forgot about that stuff he brought up."

2. The Cohen story made the perfect assignment for some new reporters. Cohen was a lieutenant governor candidate with dim prospects. Seasoned reporters could be assigned to more important stories; new ones could cut their teeth on an assignment that felt big but on which mistakes could afford to be made. But as luck would have it, neither reporters' lapses nor Cohen's name were to be buried on election day.

Rick Koshko
WCMY News Director