Reporter quits Sun-Times, cites ‘chilling effect in the newsroom’
Chicago Sun-Times reporter Dave McKinney has resigned from the newspaper, saying, "I’m convinced this newspaper no longer has the backs of reporters like me" in a letter to Michael Ferro, chairman of Sun-Times owner Wrapports LLC.
McKinney was the paper's Springfield bureau chief and was suspended for five days last week after a Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bruce Rauner, complained about a story on which he co-bylined, because he's married to a Democratic consultant.
In his post, McKinney calls that suspension "a kind of house arrest that lasted almost a week" and says "It was pure hell." The Sun-Times later broke with its recent tradition of not endorsing candidates and endorsed Rauner, who is a former investor in Wrapports.
"Readers of the Sun-Times need to be able to trust the paper," McKinney writes. He continues:
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.
"It is with reluctance that I accept Dave McKinney’s resignation," Sun-Times Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk said in an email to Poynter. He continued:
As recently as this Monday on our Op/Ed page, I stated that Dave is among the best in our profession. I meant it then and I mean it now. The pause we took last week was to ensure there were no conflicts of interest and was taken simply to protect Dave McKinney, the Sun Times and its readers as we were under attack in a heated political campaign. We came to the right result, found the political attacks against us to be false and we stand by our reporting, our journalists and this great newspaper.
I disagree with Dave's questioning the integrity of this newspaper and my role as editor and publisher. I call the shots. While I've been here, our ownership and management have never quashed a story and they have always respected the journalistic integrity of this paper.