A tip of the hat is due our editorial colleagues at the Chicago Tribune. Amidst Tuesday’s shocking revelations about Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was this juicy little nugget: He wanted the newspaper’s editorial board fired, tying a possible purchase of Wrigley Field, owned by the struggling Tribune Co., by the state of Illinois to a wholesale reorganization of the opinion page staff.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, was arrested Tuesday on corruption charges. Authorities said he planned to sell Obama’s now vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.
A day before he was arrested, Blagojevich spent some time pontificating outside the Tribune’s iconic downtown Chicago offices. He repeatedly took aim at paper’s editorial writers, pretty much laying blame for the debt-ridden newspaper’s grim financial situation on them. The paper’s reporters have done some groundbreaking work on pay-to-play allegations involving the governor’s administration; the editorial board has been a repeated critic of Blagojevich’s. Among other radical ideas it’s called for: a state constitutional amendment that would allow the public to recall politicians unfit for office.
People don’t want to read about that "stuff," Blagojevich said to a Tribune reporter Monday. Referring to the company’s real-estate mogul owner, Blagojevich said, "I’m confident that an astute businessman like Sam Zell is going to turn this around. And (I) offer a polite recommendation to him. One thing he might want to do is change that editorial policy and change that editorial board and put some people in there that actually care about the average ordinary working person."
Just a wild guess here: we’re not Chicagoans, but we think there might be widespread interest in the Windy City in a recall for crooked politicians, no matter if your collar’s blue or white. The Tribune board was way ahead of the curve on this one and all the other "stuff" it wrote on the thin-skinned Blagojevich. That this governor who has been accused of such shameful acts was willing to go to great lengths to get rid of it suggests the board was not only doing its job, but doing it well. The Tribune and other newspapers may have challenging financials, but Blagojevich’s ire revealed much about their continued relevancy. The print watchdog is alive and kicking, with sharp teeth and a vital role to play.