After a seemingly relentless war on the due process rights of police officers, Chicago Tribune reporters and editors are facing D-day today in their drive to unionize workers at the paper for the first time in its history.
From Robert Feder a few days ago:
Tribune newsroom employees have given tronc bosses until 11 a.m. today to voluntarily recognize the newly formed Chicago Tribune Guild as their collective bargaining agent. If the company fails to do so, the unit will file signature cards with the National Labor Relations Board seeking a union authorizing election. The Guild claims more than 85 percent of employees have signed on. Bruce Dold, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Tribune, said: “We are reviewing the request of the Chicago Tribune Guild. We believe we can best build on the Chicago Tribune heritage and trust with readers by working together as an organization. We will continue to work toward our common goal of ensuring that the Chicago Tribune is a leading source for news and information, whatever the outcome.”
The timing for the vote is compelling.
For one, Tribune writers have steadily attacked the rights of police officers as established through their collective bargaining rights. These attacks took perverse form in the coverage of the fatal police shooting by Robert Rialmo in 2015, when the city’s civilian oversight agency, mired in its own allegations of misconduct, ruled that the fatal shooting of a bat-wielding assailant was unjustified.
After COPA made the ruling, attorneys for the FOP filed a Freedom of Information request about COPA’s ruling. Sure enough, the attorneys discovered that COPA had hired third-party investigators but failed to mention them in their report.
Yet the Tribune’s coverage of the case, particularly the articles of reporter Dan Hinkel, never uncovered these hidden third-party investigators, nor did they publish any investigation of them.
That’s right, Hinkel never discovered the existence of the third party, the FOP did, and he never followed up on what they concluded about the shooting.
Isn’t the failure of COPA to mention this body of evidence a violation of Rialmo’s due process? Isn’t the finding of hidden evidence a stunning condemnation of COPA? And what does it say about Hinkel’s reporting that he has largely ignored this central theme in the Rialmo saga?
How ironic that Hinkel would conduct such biased, unprofessional coverage of such a key case at the very time reporters at his paper are seeking their own collective bargaining rights.
But there’s more to it.
A few weeks ago, the largest shareholder in the Tribune’s parent company, Tronc, sold all his stock:
Michael Ferro, who resigned last month as chairman of Chicago-based newspaper chain Tronc, has struck a deal to sell his entire stake in the company, according to a filing late Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Ferro, who as the largest shareholder owned more than 25 percent of Tronc, the parent of the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, agreed to sell his more than 9 million shares for $23 per share, or $208.6 million, to McCormick Media, pending approval by regulators. Ferro owned the shares personally and through his Merrick Media and Merrick Venture Management entities.
At first, little was known about the buyer:
The buyer, a distant relation to the McCormick family that controlled the Chicago Tribune throughout much of its history, approached Ferro within the past couple of weeks with the offer, according to a source familiar with the deal.
Sargent McCormick is listed in the SEC filing as the manager of McCormick Media, whose address is affiliated with Harvester Trust, a privately held trust formed in 1900 “to continue the legacy of the McCormick Family, building upon the pivotal role played by International Harvester in the industrial revolution and development of the United States and the world in the 1800s,” according to its LinkedIn page.
This week, more information about who bought the stock:
The buyers of a 26 percent ownership stake in Chicago Tribune parent Tronc include a Chicago native who formerly owned the San Diego Union-Tribune with conservative billionaire real estate developer Doug Manchester.
Longtime radio executive John Lynch, who grew up in Chicago, recently formed McCormick Media with Sargent McCormick-Collier and Ronald “Clancy” Woods to buy the stake from former Tronc Chairman Michael Ferro. The buyers said in a regulatory filing late yesterday that they’re engaged in “discussions with one or more significant stockholders” about activities that could include seeking to sell part of the company, merge it with other businesses, revamp the board, or change management.
Lynch served as CEO of the San Diego Union-Tribune when he and Manchester owned the company between 2011 and 2015, before they sold it to then Tribune Publishing, which was later renamed Tronc.
One question moves to the forefront about the Tribune: Will the new owners, whoever they turn out to be, support the cabal of journalists who have relentlessly pushed an anti-police narrative, particularly those like Eric Zorn, Dan Hinkel, Megan Crepeau, and Jason Meisner?
Will they tolerate Hinkel’s reporting on the Rialmo case, or the lack of it?
And what about the narrative of police misconduct that has dominated the paper for the last three decades? Will the reporting of these journalists and others continue on the numerous wrongful conviction cases that helped spur the release of dozens of convicted killers and rapists and that has fallen under intense scrutiny?
Will the new owners put these writers and columnists in check, despite their union push?
Must be a tense newsroom at the Tribune these days.