Ex-Chicago Tribune editor: Marine interns were observers, not journalists

From HOWARD TYNER: While I have to admire the intrepid reporter whose sleuthing unearthed infiltration of the Chicago Tribune newsroom 7-8 years ago by the US Marine Corps, I also think a few clarifications are in order.

I had ceased serving as editor of the Tribune more than a year before being approached by a Marine general acquaintance about the visitors' program; at the time I was vice president/editorial for Tribune Publishing and the two marines in question were under my supervision, not the newspaper's. They had an office next to mine--15 floors above the Tribune newsroom--and followed a rotation I organized for them through various Tribune Co. properties in Chicago. They spent far more time with me than any other individual in company.

The Marine presence was hardly a secret. Although dressed each day in standard civilian kit, their haircuts would have given them away to any of the 700 or 800 staff in those newsrooms who didn't already know who they were. It was understood from the beginning--by the Marine Corps, by the two individuals, by all Tribune editors and reporters--that they were present as observers, not journalists and would not engage in any sort of discussion that could be construed as influencing the news report. Neither ever crossed the line so far as I know--and I am certain I would have heard if either had transgressed.

I have no idea if the program continued after our second Marine departed; the job my corporate successor took on at the beginning of 2004 became exceptionally demanding that year and he probably didn't feel he had time for another long-term visitor. For the record, our two Marines were exceptional individuals--highly intelligent, open to all kinds of debate and fun to be with. I used to joke with them about quitting the Corps to work for Tribune, but they would have none of that.

  • Jim Romenesko

    From 1999 to 2011, Jim Romenesko maintained the Romenesko page for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based non-profit school for journalists. Poynter hired him in August of 1999, after seeing his MediaGossip.com, a hobby site he started in May of 1999.


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