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Steve Rhodes' Resignation From Causes A Stir In The Blogosphere

By Jake Guidry in News on Dec 22, 2009 10:00PM


Steve Rhodes - Friend of Chicagoist, local journalist, and head honcho over at the excellent Beachwood Reporter - had been writing for for about a year, contributing a few posts a day about local news and politics that are much in the same vein of his work at Beachwood. But last Thursday, Rhodes resigned from writing for the website. Yesterday, he let us all know exactly why, and boy is it fishy.

As it turns out, on the morning of Dec. 3 Rhodes sent in his usual story suggestions for three posts, the amount he had been getting paid to produce, and his editor liked two of the three, suggesting that a story about "Sam Zell handing over the reins as CEO of Tribune Company [...] to chief lieutenant Randy Michaels" be covered instead. He subsequently wrote up a revealing and interesting post about Michaels and, upon review, the editor replied, "This is great!"

At this point, basic journo/editor dialogue, right? The post was approved and went live, without any hiccups. However, twenty-four hours passed and the post was removed without warning (the link provided earlier is a cached version), and Rhodes went investigating. He only got vague answers, in the process discovering yet another post had been scrapped (concerning Michael Scott's controversial suicide), thus adding to his suspicion. After contacting individuals within NBC, he was eventually told that "'someone from the Tribune sent an e-mail to New York' and 'somebody in New York was contacted by somebody - you can read between the lines.'"

While Rhodes, in order to "bend over backwards to be fair to Tribune Company," admits he still isn't quite sure what happened, the situation seems quite clear: Rhodes was burned by writing pieces a little too expository for NBC and Tribune Co.'s tastes, thus they were removed without regard for journalistic integrity. As described in Rhodes' post, he was led in circles, left to fend for his work in the bureaucracy of mega-media. Given cliched big business buzzwords and buzzphrases like "de-targeted" and "didn't meet the standards of the NBC brand," Rhodes found himself in the blogosphere's version of The Insider.

While the events described by Rhodes are disappointing and discouraging, the local blogosphere has reacted appropriately and generously in its recounting of the story. Windy Citizen is up in arms on the matter, with Rhodes himself joining in on the comments thread. He also chatted with The Reader's media critic, Michael Miner.