The Chicago Sun-Times published a blistering editorial Wednesday night, denying a police union’s demand that effectively told the newspaper’s reporters to stop doing their job.
“Chicago needs a great police force,” the board wrote. “Chicago also needs great journalism.”
On Tuesday, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police sent a letter to Sun-Times investigative reporters Tim Novak and Robert Herguth and managing editor Chris Fusco, criticizing them over their recent piece on lax discipline for Chicago police officers who violate department policy on alcohol and drug use. Martin Preib, FOP’s second vice president, raised particular issue with the journalists’ attempts to confront their story’s subjects directly for comment.
“It has come to the attention of the FOP that you have gone to the homes of department members in the course of pursuing stories for your publication,” wrote Preib. “This letter is to notify you to cease and desist this practice.”
The tenets of journalism, especially investigative journalism, call for reporters to interview the people they’re writing about to get their sides of the story. The Chicago Sun-Times editorial board
Preib went on to argue that police officers should have the expectation never to be visited by the media at home, and said he had advised his members to call the police on any reporter that visits a private residence.
“Your use of this tactic is unprofessional and unethical, and is further illuminative of your publications’ general bias against the police,” added Preib.
In Wednesday’s editorial, the Sun-Times editorial board said it had no plans to stand down. It also pushed back against Preib’s contention that there was anything underhanded about how the reporters did their jobs.
“The tenets of journalism, especially investigative journalism, call for reporters to interview the people they’re writing about to get their sides of the story,” the board wrote. “Sometimes, it’s an email. Sometimes, it’s a phone call. Sometimes, it’s a trip to their home or office. Many times, it’s all of the above.”
The Sun-Times, which has a weekday readership of more than 500,000, routinely covers both the good and the bad of Chicago police. Last week, the editorial board published an editorial thanking Officer Bernard Domagala for his service. Domagala died on Sept. 5, after succumbing to injuries he suffered nearly 30 years prior when he was shot in the head by a former police officer who was suffering from mental illness.
The outlet has also covered routine misconduct at the department, a pattern that led the Justice Department to release a report earlier this year calling the Chicago police out for “systemic deficiencies.” Novak and Herguth’s most recent story found that nearly 400 of the city’s officers have faced internal investigations from 1997 to 2014 for alcohol or drug use. About 20 percent of those cases stemmed from on-duty incidents.
Neither Novak nor Herguth immediately responded to HuffPost’s request for comment.
But it seems clear that the Sun-Times intends to continue chasing the story, and won’t hesitate to circumvent the police department’s dedicated media representatives to get it.
“Mr. Preib, you do your job and we’ll do ours,” wrote the board. “You keep the city safe. We’ll keep the city informed.”