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Dave McKinney, Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief, Resigns

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 22, 2014 8:30PM

Dave McKinney, a 19-year veteran Chicago Sun-Times reporter who spent the last several years as the paper’s main reporter in Springfield, resigned from the paper days after news reports revealed the campaign of Illinois GOP gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner may have pressured editors at the Sun-Times to punish McKinney for an article that painted an unflattering portrait of Rauner.

McKinney posted his resignation letter to his personal website and it’s one of the most measured, classiest “take this job and shove it” notices you’ll ever read. McKinney “I’m faced with a difficult decision due to the disturbing developments I’ve experienced in the last two weeks that cannot be reconciled with this newspaper’s storied commitment to journalism,” McKinney writes, before launching into a detailed timeline of the events that led to his decision, beginning with the article that pissed off the Rauner campaign so much, regarding threats made by Rauner against a female CEO of an Arizona-based business-outsourcing firm, her family and her future job prospects.

The final straw, according to McKinney, was the Sun-Times endorsement of Rauner two days after McKinney received a public show of support from Editor-in-chief Jim Kirk. The Rauner endorsement reversed a nearly three-year Sun-Times policy on not endorsing political candidates, and would be the only race the paper would offer an endorsement.

I appreciate the recent, public statements of support by Kirk, an honorable man with solid news judgment who got the LeapSource story into print. But, ultimately, I don’t believe he called the shots here.

We reporters have a healthy suspicion of both parties and candidates. It’s our job. It’s regrettable that this issue has emerged in the homestretch of an important election in Illinois, but respectfully, this isn’t about either candidate or the election. It’s about readers and their trust in us. So my decision could not wait. I hate to leave, but I must.

The alleged intimidation tactics by Rauner and the Sun-Times’ endorsement of him call into question the relationship between Rauner and businessman Michael Ferro, the chairman of Wrapports ,the company that owns the Sun-Times, Chicago Reader and other area newspapers. Media critic Robert Feder was skeptical when he reported the Sun-Times would endorse Rauner. The Reader’s Michael Miner writes the Sun-Times may have undermined itself with the endorsement.

The Rauner endorsement finds the Sun-Times changing its mind in the worst possible way. The editorial board hadn't been interviewing candidates, and it intends to make no other endorsements during this election cycle—though down the road, the Sun-Times promises to endorse again. The more seriously the Sun-Times actually thought about its gubernatorial endorsement, and the more ardent and genuine its conclusion that Illinois must elect Rauner, the more profoundly its intentions were undermined by the way they were carried out.

McKinney has retained former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins to investigate the claims of intimidation by the Rauner campaign.