Former Managing Editor of the Northwest Herald Chris Krug is now in charge of the Illinois News Network, where he has brought along former NWH Dan McCaleb.
Krug wrote the following column about his reporter’s dealing with Mike Madigan:
Krug: INN asks the tough statehouse questions regardless of Madigan’s bullying
By Chris Krug | Illinois News Network Jul 10, 2017
I don’t spend much time criticizing media in the state – even in the most generic sense.
I freely admit it: I am a fan. I spent a fair amount of 2014 through 2016 in countries where there was no free press, where the control of media was obvious and, frankly, equal parts laughable and terrifying.
If you want to take your local paper to task, just know that it gets more and more challenging each day for the few journalists still in the business to perform the daily miracle. The economics of legacy media are awful, and worsening with the further evolution of retail, classifieds and alternative options for advertisers who seek to target small, segmented markets.
Illinois News Network advocates for the free press, and is an ardent supporter of our partners in infinite ways. It is our public mission to benefit legacy media outlets by providing relevant, accurate and timely content to them.
We have dealt with backlash at INN during my tenure, and certainly INN caught flack well before I arrived. Some editors would rather not provide a story than provide one from our team. But we work hard, and we create good work.
To be clear: We brush off that backlash and perform an important journalistic function for Illinoisans, which is to report the truth.
I took a long-view pause in consideration of the past six months. I’m pretty sure that even our most staunch critics would have to say that ILNews.org has become a force in the state.
Unprecedented growth: Our traffic at ILNews.org nearly quadrupled since February (without incendiary, hyperbolic or willfully provocative storylines), and our content has been utilized in some of the largest newspapers in the state over the past several weeks.
We’re in more newspapers now than ever before, because editors from across Illinois have had an opportunity to engage with the quality, consistency, fairness and accuracy of our work. And our commentary, clearly labeled as opinion, is on target, interesting and evokes meaningful conversations in local communities.
Over these past six months, while the legislature was in session and then through the so-called special session, we provided more statehouse slugs and delivered them with more velocity than the world’s largest newsgathering agency, The Associated Press, or any other statewide news provider that distributes its content.
We provided editors on all media platforms with meaningful and consumable content that helped their audiences untangle the mess in Springfield with highly consumable stories that ran across ILNews.org and through our other digital distribution channels seven days a week.
We’re glad to be making an impact. We’re proud that our efforts have made a difference, and we thank our partner editors for their trust and belief in us.
In spite of challenges: And we’ve done this in spite of Speaker Michael Madigan’s consistent pattern – specifically over the last two weeks of session – of antagonizing our statehouse reporter, Greg Bishop.
Some of the time, these barbs were echoed by chuckleheaded giggles of the Springfield Bubble Press Corps, who at any time could have intervened and stood up for the rights of journalists to ask difficult questions. Rather than respect the profession, they either burbled like a 1970s TV sit-com laugh track or stood by and said nothing. So fake. So weak. So typical.
Only once, when Capitol Fax owner Rich Miller told Madigan to knock it off when he was assailing Bishop for the fifth consecutive day, did anyone on the statehouse beat have the fortitude to stand up to Madigan’s bullying.
When people ask me how Madigan has managed to maintain his grip on the state, I tell them that it’s two pieces.
- One, he owns his district. He’s had it on lockdown for decades.
- Two, he owns the Springfield Bubble Press Corps, who seem only too willing to amplify whatever anyone blows into their recorders. Some of that reporting brings to mind the foreign press I observed in my world travels.
Look, I know it takes courage to do the right thing in the face of perceived authority. But, c’mon. There’s no journalistic ethic in withering. There’s no drive. There’s no fight for fairness. If there were any of those attributes, that group would have rallied around Bishop the past two weeks or more than a year ago during Illinois News Network’s effort to gain credentials to the House and Senate floors.
Instead, crickets. Those fighting for a free press shouldn’t be silent when it’s jeopardized. The shortsightedness of that is galling, and anyone who stood idly by and watched should be ashamed of their shrinking.
Not that access has much mattered this year.
Competing with inferior statehouse access, ILNews.org more than held its own with the collective this winter, spring and summer. And that’s when it wasn’t whipping its collective ass…ortment of scribes.
Led by Bishop’s work from the statehouse, our team oftentimes provided timelier, more accurate, more insightful and more meaningful news than any other outlet with full access.
That says something about INN that I guess we’ll have to say for ourselves.
= = = = =
Chris Krug is publisher and general manager of Illinois News Network and the digital hub ILNews.org. He welcomes your comments. Contact Chris at email@example.com.