Aren’t newspapers supposed to expose corruption?

Aren’t newspapers supposed to expose corruption?
Screenshot of a tweet by Journalist David Giuliani

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article published in Chicago Now titled, “Don’t let the presses stop,” featuring a young reporter, David Giuliani, who stood up to a local Mayor. You can read the article here.

Hired as a watchdog by the Daily Journal, David is a thorough investigative journalist, a good writer, and fearless. He brought a level of sophistication to a small community newspaper that signaled the paper was serious about its role as the Fourth Estate.

David brought an ethical code that should be the envy of every newsroom. He dedicates his work to root out corruption without regard to party affiliation or local friendships. He strives to keep his personal and political bias out of his articles. David has the enthusiasm of youthful idealism. His dedication to principles ran up against the reality of a community whose political traditions are not winning any ethics awards.

It’s challenging to change a community’s culture, and that is what David was attempting to do. He brought light to dark places, and it upset a lot of people.

Allow me to make a general statement about newspapers endorsing political candidates. I loathe the idea. First, show me how people’s minds are changed because a bunch of people sitting around an editorial board meeting decides they like Frank better than they do Mary? Who are these people making moral judgments?

Newspaper endorsements, whether from the Washington Post or the Daily Journal, are arrogant and filled with an air of self-importance to be borderline narcissistic behavior. That is my objection to them, and it is a moral objection.

A community depends on a newspaper for facts and information.

Newspapers are not the Holy Grail of virtue signaling, yet that is the role too many papers try to play. Perhaps that has more to do with the decline of newspapers than the internet. Just maybe newspapers who have principles and don’t play favorites flourish? The public isn’t stupid, and they see through the scam.

The State of Illinois has one of the most aggressive anti-pay-to-play laws in the nation. Pay-to-play is the practice where government contractors kickback money to politicians who approve their contracts.

In the Tweet above, David alleges that he caught Kankakee County Board Chairman, Andrew Wheeler getting a contribution from a Springfield lobbyist who Wheeler hired to represent Kankakee County, then pressured the County Board to approve the contract. His management killed the story, and David alleges it is because the General Manager wants to make the County Board Chairman look good.

David resigned from the Journal and is tweeting about what he sees as ethical breeches at his former employer. The allegations erode the trust the public should have for the local newspaper. It is one thing to give endorsements on the editorial pages. It is quite another to cover up stories.

A local newspaper should not be a tool of propaganda for corrupt politicians and an enabler of corrupt practices, yet that is precisely what David’s allegations chronicle. How is the community supposed to trust anything they see in the paper with this going on?

It leaves the impression that there is no watchdog for the community.

If the ethics of Journalism have any meaning whatsoever, management perverting them is not in the best interest of the news organization. People don’t want to read propaganda. Readers don’t like coverups, and the public repudiates treating them like dummies.

The premise of my article two years ago is that even a lousy newspaper is better than no paper at all. Now, I’m not so sure. If it covers up corruption as David alleges, then what use is it?

Leave a comment