EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – MARCH 25, 2009
By Rich Trzupek
Wake up. Grab the paper. There I be: top of the fold, page one, the most exalted position in any newspaper, although it is a spot that your humble correspondent is rather used to occupying.
Wait a minute…
Our esteemed publisher was quite pleased that I had somehow managed to secure advertising space for the Mighty Examiner on page one of a big daily. I might even get a raise, though I rather doubt it. Besides, the credit for this coup doesn’t rightly belong to me. That honor goes to Streamwood Trustee Jim Cecille, who may be able to secure a position as circulation manager for this publication, once his term in office is over.
Bluff Jimmy turned over a private e-mail authored by yours truly that became the basis of the story. Not that I have a problem with that. Hell, if I had been aware that Jimmy wanted to be on my e-mail list, I would have forwarded him advertisements for those male enhancement products a long time ago. Thirty per cent is thirty per cent.
What we seem to have learned is that this paper, in general, and yours truly, in particular, have opinions and – shocker – that those opinions also manifest themselves as action for candidates and causes that we, and I, believe in.
Hmmmm. Was this really news to anyone who reads this paper, or who pays the slightest bit of attention to the goings-on in Examinerland? I don’t really think that we could make our position any more plain. Nor do I think that there is anything unusual or untoward about our attitude.
The esteemed philosopher, Dr. Gregory House, famously said: “everybody lies”. The analogy, in journalism, is that “everybody is biased”, and no matter what side of the ideological divide they fall on, this is as true of journalists as it is of anyone. If you watch Fox or if you watch MSNBC, you understand that the “news” will reflect two quite different ideologies. The same holds true if you read National Review or the New Republic; or the Washington Post or the Washington Times. The list goes on and on. Hell, we just had an election in which dozens of national journalists openly worked to secure the election of our current Commander in Chief.
This paper’s mission, as we see it, is two-fold. One, we support our communities by covering as many local events and organizations as we possibly can. If you want to read about high school sports, the Cub Scouts, the local VFW fundraiser for the troops, etc., you know where to come for the news. Two, we support small government, low taxes, free enterprise and the candidates and elected officials who reflect these beliefs. We do not, and never have, support candidates and elected officials who have other agendas, or whose goal – in our opinion – is to accumulate power for power or profit’s sake.
Most of our reporters agree with that philosophy and, like me, many also work hard in our private lives to support the causes and the candidates who we believe will further those goals. Does that color our reporting? Some people think so, and that’s an inevitable point-of-view. I rather think that being aware of your opinion and knowing that everyone else is aware of your opinion makes you work harder, when writing a straight news story, to do a better job. Everyone knows where we’re coming from and, pardon me, but I think that’s a hell of a lot more responsible than trying to pretend you don’t have an opinion.
The problem of course comes when candidates and elected officials are at the wrong end of that equation. As both were willing to admit, Jason Speer and Jimmy Cecille saw nothing wrong with accepting my help in 2007. The conflict of interest accusation, such as it is, only arises when somebody is working against you.
A conflict of interest might occur, in my view, if someone simultaneously used their bully pulpit on this paper as a way to leverage personal profit or power from a candidate or elected official. Then the reporter’s agenda would indeed be hidden, and that would be a problem. I can’t speak for everyone who has every worked for The Examiner, but I know of no one who has ever helped out a candidate or cause for any reason than that they believe in that candidate or cause.
I help people like Mike Kelly and Billie Roth and a bunch of others, for the same reason I hustle peanuts for the Kiwanis, or help out at community events, or ring the Salvation Army bell at Christmastime: because it benefits the community, for these are people who work their butts off for the community. I never asked for a dime from anyone and wouldn’t take one if offered. (Contrary to what the Herald reported, I have never taken any money from Billie Roth for her website – or anything else. Those $10 per year in site fees are donated gratis, courtesy of this supporter of good government).
Like the other reporters who work for The Examiner, the stay-at-home moms, young people working three jobs and those who, like me, have day jobs that provide our primary source of income, writing at The Examiner is a kind of community service, a chance to make a difference.
We’re there, all the time, at the meetings and events that nobody else covers any more. We don’t just show up to a board meeting when an elected official tips us that “there’s going to be fireworks tonight”. We go to every one, No-Doze in hand, and we’re the only member of the fourth estate there, ninety-five per cent of the time. We see the whole picture and if you wonder why we don’t interview any candidates before we issue our endorsements, it’s because we don’t have to. We’re the only paper that’s engaged with our communities every single week. We see who’s throwing the bull and who’s running with the ball. We know the players and we know the issues. We don’t make our decisions or reach our opinions based on thirty minutes of rhetoric. We base them on years of observation.
So no apologies kids. We’re The Examiner. We’re THE community paper in these Northwest Suburbs and our first priority is to part of building the best communities we can. That’s our mission, and we choose to accept it.