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The [Thursday] Papers

A story in The New York Times on Wednesday really lifted the lid on whispers about how University of Illinois football coach Ron Zook could have recruited such a dynamite freshman class given the awful state of his program.

"Illinois, one of the worst teams among the major conferences in college football in recent seasons, has astounded experts and enraged rivals by putting together one of the nation's best recruiting classes," the Times reported.

Among the local follow-ups, Greg Couch of the Sun-Times writes today that "An Illinois official said Wednesday that the school, having been sent so many accusations, hired a law firm to check into them. Understand? While Zook was recruiting, the school was searching to see if he was cheating, paying players and all."

Teddy Greenstein at the Tribune described Wednesday, national signing day for high school athletes to choose their colleges, this way: "This was a day in which whispered accusations gave way to outright hostility, a day on which two prominent recruits dissed Notre Dame, and Illinois was left defending its recruiting practices after signing a top-15 class."

Source Material
"The accusations have been all over, mostly in the form of rumors on the Internet. In other words, in places that aren't credible," Couch wrote in his account.

As opposed to, say, a Sneed column, or the otherwise wholly credible pages of the Sun-Times.

Meanwhile, Greenstein noted that "ESPNU analyst Mike Gottfried angrily defended Zook over the New York Times story. Gottfried apparently remains close to Zook, whom he hired as his defensive coordinator at Cincinnati in 1981 and at Kansas in 1983.

"After calling the story a 'cheap shot,' Gottfried held up a copy and said, 'This is not true. The Bill O'Reilly [program] on Fox [News], he has been after the New York Times all year about getting on President Bush . . . inaccurate facts and all that. This is inaccurate also.'"


Money Store
The Tribune reports that Barack Obama, Jeremy Piven, Richard M. Daley, and Patti Blagojevich are among those whose names come up in a search of, the database of unclaimed property kept by the state treasurer's office - but didn't say how much they were in for or why!

Here's the best I could do this morning -

Obama: Two claims waiting, each valued between $10 and $100.
Piven: One claim worth more than $100 waiting for him.
Daley: Two claims seem attached to the mayor, given that a few Richard Daleys are listed, each worth more than $100.
Patti Blagojevich: No records found.

Binge Journalism
According to a recent study, Chicago is the binge-drinking capital of the nation. How so?

"The study defined a binge drinker as someone who consumed five or more drinks within two to three hours at least once in 30 days."

A companion study, meanwhile, defined binge eating as consuming 50 or more Tostito chips within two to three hours at least once in 30 days.

And a binge living study is expected soon that will recommend anyone enjoying life for two to three hours at least once in 30 days has a problem.

Edwards Country
The America where John Edwards lives.

Chief Phil Wiggum
Police Supt. Phil Cline testified in the trial of corrupt former officer Joseph Miedzianowski.

"I think my testimony [in federal court] showed that back then, when the Police Department got information [about] wrongdoing, the right things were done," Cline said.

A) As opposed to now?
B) Except when it came to torture.
C) And that's why Joseph Miedzianowski got away with for so long, and chief of detectives William Hanhardt ran a jewelry ring, and Cline's predecessor as superintendent was pals with Frank Milito, and, well, you get the idea.

Little Russ
"Sources provide information to Mr. Russert based on their shared understanding that they are communicating in confidence and that he will not disclose publicly either their identities or the information provided by them. Mr. Russert has determined that absent such an understanding, public officials simply will not speak freely and candidly about the most important issues of the day."

Um, so why am I watching your show?

I mean, if that's not a free and candid exchange about the most important issues of the day, what is it doing on the air?

Tiny Little Russ

"Mr. Russert has determined that absent such an understanding, public officials simply will not speak freely and candidly about the most important issues of the day."

That's their problem, Mr. Russert.

They want to tell you things. They're dying to tell you. But what good is it to kiss their ass if you can't use anything they tell you?

When I was a rookie police reporter in Florida, we did stories in my first couple of months that I was on the beat that uncovered wrongdoing in every law enforcement agency in our jurisdiction. Those stories were based on tips, public documents, and straightforward, on-the-record interviews.

Nonetheless, observing that we'd dirtied up pretty much every institution on my beat, I said to my editor one day: "Now they'll never talk to me."

He shot back: "Like they're talking to you now!"

And you know what? He was right. The stuff you get off-the-record is rarely any good. It's what they want you to know. It's games-playing.

Instead, having established the tone of our coverage - tough but fair - I earned the best sources: the law enforcement folks who really cared, and the whistleblowers. Those are the people you want to cultivate as sources, not press secretaries and high-ranking officials trying to make you feel like an insider while giving you nothing of value.

The idea that Tim Russert thinks he has to be so chummy and agreeable to his political "sources" in order to hear their candid views is pure folly, and just the kind of environment that leads to Plamegate.

Besides, when was the last time you heard Russert dispense any unique wisdom based on his secret conversations?

* Battle of the BoDeans tribute bands at Ravinia.

* Rick Kaempfer takes you back to Chicago radio circa 1989, in his media notebook.

* Mold-A-Rama.

* Lincoln vs. Obama.

* Bad form to report the truth.

* The real Whitewater story.

Hope Kept Alive
"I think he has the right stuff," said the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who told The Observer this week that, after considering various other candidates, he planned to support Mr. Obama. "He has my vote."

GI Joe
"Lieberman likes expressions of American power," Jeffrey Goldberg of the New Yorker reports. "A few years ago, I was in a movie theatre in Washington when I noticed Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, a few seats down. The film was Behind Enemy Lines, in which Owen Wilson plays a U.S. pilot shot down in Bosnia. Whenever the American military scored an onscreen hit, Lieberman pumped his fist and said, 'Yeah!' and 'All right!'"

I'll never forget the summer of 1988 when I was an intern at The New Haven Register in Connecticut. I was sent to a Lieberman campaign event - he was then the state attorney general running for the U.S. Senate against the more liberal (and Republican) Lowell Weicker.

Lieberman spoke to a small gathering about his defense policy, including vigorous support for U.S. military action against Libya in retaliation for the bombing of a German disco frequented by American soldiers.

I asked Lieberman after his speech whether it wasn't true that the facts weren't all in - there were still some questions about just who was responsible for the bombing.

Lieberman was taken aback at first - America's small-town press (which is most of it; something like 80 percent of American newspapers have circulations under 75,000) is even wimpier than the worst wimps of the Chicago press. And then he fairly exploded:

"Khadafy's a madman, we should bomb them anyway!"

I thought that was a rather impertinent thing for a prospective United States senator to say; newsworthy for sure. My editors thought otherwise. Bad form, I guess.

Obama's Intellect
"By this measure, thousands of reasonably bright high-school students across the United States are destined to become president."

The Beachwood Tip Line: At your service.


Posted on February 8, 2007

MUSIC - Holiday Hullabaloo.
POLITICS - Bank Profits Soaring.
SPORTS - Chicago vs. Michigan, 1903.

BOOKS - Dia De Los Muertos Stories.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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