Friday, May 16, 2014

Ugly tidbit tips a part of the job when trying to figure out what is “news”

I found a Chicago Tribune story amusing – one in which they admitted burning anoperative to Mayor Rahm Emanuel who was trying to feed them dirt on potential opponent Toni Preckwinkle.

Tip beneficiaries?
No matter how many times the Cook County Board president has said she’s seeking re-election this year, rather than running for mayor next year, there are those who want to believe there will be an Emanuel/Preckwinkle matchup in the 2015 election cycle.

IT WOULD SEEM there are those within Emanuel’s camp who are taking such speculation seriously. For the Tribune reported about how one of Emanuel’s people sent them an e-mail message filled with story suggestions.

All of which – if written in the same tone suggested by the aide – would have made Preckwinkle look ridiculous or inept in the way she has managed the Cook County Board president’s post.

Which would go against the conventional wisdom of Preckwinkle being one of the few competent people within our local government – a view held by many county government people themselves, who find her absolutely wonderful by comparison to her predecessor; Todd Stroger.

It’s humorous to me that the Tribune would feel the need to so quickly reveal this e-mail – which caused the aide in question to have to issue a public apology (and privately to add a pair of Tribune reporters to his “enemies” list).

ALTHOUGH I’M SURE those reporters will be able to sleep at night. This might be one of those instances where revealing the tactic was newsworthy in itself – it shows the degree to which Emanuel takes Preckwinkle seriously. I’d have thought less of them if they had just eagerly lapped it up – the way some people want to believe CNN did with their recent “Chicagoland” documentary series.

Even though publicly, the two say they “work together” (with many people still getting their chuckles from a recent Preckwinkle appearance on the WTTW-TV program “My Chicago” in which Preckwinkle abruptly said she and Emanuel “work together,” then refused to elaborate).

In my own time, I have received my share of tips and tidbits and suggestions about the way I should cover things. Usually from people who want to ensure that I don’t think much of their political foes.

For that matter, the campaign of Bruce Rauner for governor sends me nearly daily e-messages informing me of their latest spin about how despicable we should think Pat Quinn is. Although that effort differs from the Emanuel attempt – in that they send their messages to everybody they can think of, and don’t try to be secretive about it.

THERE ARE TIMES when they do get secretive, and they usually go through such covert efforts to cover up their tracks. Which is what makes this direct e-mail message so unique.

Not like the telephone call I got just the other day telling me about a suburban police chief who supposedly is trying to get other village officials to turn against the local mayor. Not sure yet how truthful the tip is – hence the lack of details.

I recall one person who tried to feed me a nasty tip once about a would-be political candidate. He wouldn’t say anything over the telephone. He insisted on meeting me face-to-face in a neighboring town.

Then, when we were standing at an obscure intersection in a residential neighborhood and he was convinced no one was watching, he fed me the dirt – which as I recall offended my editor (it involved an act of oral sex performed on the candidate while on government time) so much we didn’t rush to write it up.

WHEN IT TURNED out that the candidate in question ran into troubles and couldn’t even get on the ballot for the upcoming election, the tip died with the candidate.

Although I suppose if this candidate ever tries a political comeback, the tip could be resurrected – and written up if it actually checks out.

Because one thing about such tips. They’re usually somebody’s wishful thinking about what they’d like the story to be. Reality doesn’t always turn out that way.


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