'Chicago Tribune' Editorial Board, Post-Blago, Grows Stronger

Article excerpt

Six months after the revelations that former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich allegedly plotted to get certain members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board fired, editorials have grown enormously in importance at the paper.

Editorials have taken a central role in the Tribune's heavily promoted "watchdog journalism."

At a newspaper that has shrunk its newshole and staff, editorials are taking more real estate than ever, and the editorial board has not been touched by layoffs. (Blagojevich is accused in a federal indictment of attempting to get the Tribune to fire some editorial writers in exchange for a state buying Wrigley Field in a deal that could have saved Tribune Co. considerable taxes. No editorial writer was fired in the several waves of layoffs at the paper, and Tribune Co. has said none of its executives or employees acted improperly.)

For the first time in nearly two decades, the Tribune published its lead editorial on the front pages a few weeks ago. But short and teases to editorials now routinely appear on the front page. Two weeks ago in a Friday edition, an entire page in the two-page opinion section, which is normally shared with letters to the editor, was taken up by several editorials on different subjects.

"We had a lot to say that day," Editorial Page Editor R. Bruce Dold said with a laugh.

Tribune Editor Gerould W. Kern said the editorial have been an important component of its watchdog journalism, especially its ongoing "State of Corruption" package of investigative series, news reporting -- and opinion. Certainly, Illinois has given the Tribune plenty of fodder for commentary. In addition to Blagojevich's arrest and federal indictment on corruption, there is the scandal, first reported by the Tribune, of politicians steering favored kids for admission into highly competitive University of Illinois. There is a state legislature seemingly unable to come up with a budget, and fixated on gutting reform measures, including improving the state's Freedom of Information laws. …