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The [Thursday] Papers

When Geraldo Rivera and Mark Fuhrman are laughing at your loose ethical standards on Hannity & Colmes, as they were last night, you know you're in trouble.

"A no-brainer," Rivera said last night of the firing of Channel 5 news personality Amy Jacobson. "Absolutely pathetic. Not even a close call."

Unless you're Eric Zorn.

Goose and Gander
Would the Tribune have fired Zorn if he brought his kids along for a swim at the Stebic house and maybe lit up a cigar with Craig while covering the story? The Magic 8-Ball says Yes.

Paging Tim McNulty!

Bright Line
"The case is a serious breach of journalistic ethics. You do not go swimming at the home of someone who is in the news," writes Kevin Beese, the metro editor at the Northwest Herald.

"There is a line that journalists, both print and broadcast, must keep between getting in good with a source and getting so friendly that your news judgment is impaired. Swimming and hanging out at a newsmaker's house doesn't just cross that line, it roars 3 miles past it."

Fast Friends
Jacobson didn't do herself any favors during her interview with Spike O'Dell on WGN-AM yesterday.

"I'm very good friends with Lisa Stebic's family," Jacobson revealed. "I'm friends with Lisa's family because when I'm on a story I don't want to get beat."

It's not clear to me whether she was friends with the Stebic family previous to the story, but in either case this is violation enough to warrant firing. You don't cover stories involving your friends or befriend sources while covering them. That's Journalism 101. It's that simple, and the fact that we have to have this debate says something far worse about the media than Jacobson's actions.

Beyond that, was Jacobson really going to the Stebic home to do some reporting? Jacobson told O'Dell that Craig Stebic's sister invited her over because "she wanted to talk to me. She was upset about something Channel 2 had aired."

And she knew she had a friend in Jacobson who would listen.

And call me naive, but Jacobson also made an allegation that even I find hard to believe: "Channel 2 took extreme measures to get me off the story."

Yes, the next break in the Stebic story is going to make or break the local news wars!

I also find it amusing that Jacobson is angrily accusing Channel 2 of doing the exact thing that she does for a job

Finally, Jacobson said: "If a tape didn't exist, I know I would still have my job."

In other words, if nobody found out what she'd done, she'd still have a job. Not the best argument for the defense.

Kids Corner
By far the most egregious aspect of Jacobson's poolside adventure, though, according to my e-mail, was bringing her children to the Stebic home.

I particularly heard from writers and editors who are also mothers and found Jacobson's behavior, as one put it, "the most appalling and completely indefensible fact of the Amy Jacobson case. Why in the hell would she bring her kids to the home of someone who is clearly a suspect in a possible murder case?"

The Beachwood's Natasha Julius adds this: "I thought Zorn was incredibly off-base with his sexism comments. I think he's responding to what he sees as the insinuation that she was trying to ingratiate herself with a male newsmaker by showing up in a bikini. That's a really old-fashioned reaction that says a lot more about Zorn than it does about Amy Jacobson's former employers. The one thing this analysis fails to account for is the inexcusable presence of her children. Think about it: if a male reporter had shown up at the home of a possible spouse abductor - male or female - with his two small children in tow, he would've been pilloried in the press. There would've been calls for police intervention and WMAQ would not have hesitated to can his ass. Because Jacobson is female, however, she somehow gets a pass on her awful parenting skills. If that's not sexist, I don't know what is."

Good Career Move?
Will Amy Jacobson ever work in this market again? Not at Channel 2! Hello Fox!

Ray's Say
I've appended Ray Hanania's response to the reference I made to him in yesterday's column about Jacobson.

That's Sneed!
Sneed's lead item today:

"Sneed hears a number dialed by Washington, D.C., Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey, whose headlines have sent top politicos scurrying for cover . . . is at the Chicago TRIBUNE!

"Hmmm: Reporting or risque behavior? What does the Tower of Truth have to say about this?"

I think what they have to say about this is that THEY BROKE THE FRICKIN' STORY TWO DAYS AGO ON THEIR OWN BLOG!

And Editor & Publisher, among others I'm sure, noted it at 1 p.m. yesterday.

So when Sneed says she's "heard" something, does that mean someone stopped by her office and told her what they read somewhere?

Shouldn't she be on trial instead of Conrad Black for stealing a paycheck from the company every week?

Trib-Madam Transcript
A) Do you have Prince Albert in a can?
B) May I speak to Heywood U. Cuddleme?
C) You guys are killing me by providing my services for free.

Tool Time
"With rare execption, stations have adhered to a gentleman's (and gentlewoman's) agreement not to report on the foibles and failings of one another," Robert Feder writes. "So when a Diann Burns charges the builder of her multi-million-dollar manse with racism or a Marion Brooks is forced to testify in court about her affair with the former mayor of Atlanta [he was mayor at the time of the affair], other TV newsrooms take a pass."

Scooter Tooter
"A Chicago medical van driver accused by the government of providing money to Hamas terrorists was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in federal prison for lying under oath in a civil lawsuit," the AP reports.

"Muhammad Salah, 54, was also fined $25,000 by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

"Telling the truth is the bedrock of our judicial system and a slap on the wrist will not provide a deterrent," U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve said.

A) The Bush administration immediately moved to fire her.
B) The Bush administration immediately moved to fire prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.
C) Salah was assigned to the cell previously awaiting Scooter Libby.
D) "At least I didn't out an undercover CIA agent," Salah said.

Demolition Derby
"The smart money still has to be against Reilly and [the Lake Shore Athletic Club's] survival. Too many powerful interests feel the need to stop what he's doing in the bud, before the contagion can spread," Lynn Becker writes.

"If Reilly doesn't come up with alternative developers with the resources and commitment to preserve the current building, he can please the developers and still play the good guy - 'Hey, I tried,' he can say, as the wrecker's ball crashes. The stand he took today proves that he's brave. The next two months will determine if he's effective."

My sources tell me Reilly's latest move is less about bravery and more about him trying to navigate the tremendous pressure brought to bear on him to save the Lake Shore building while retaining credibility on the city council as a pro-development alderman whom his colleagues can count on.

Tracking Troutman
"Former Chicago Ald. Arenda Troutman hung out a virtual for-sale sign at her 20th Ward office, demanding cash payoffs from developers and others in return for her support on zoning changes, building permits and the sale of city-owned real estate, a new federal indictment charged Wednesday," the Tribune reports.

"Reached Wednesday evening on her cellphone, Troutman . . . said she was driving and could not talk."

Wouldn't want to get a ticket.

Job Fair
"Cook County taxpayers are now paying almost $30 an hour for a politically connected security firm to provide guards to watch over [10 locked windows with yellow caution tape] at the building at 118 N. Clark St., to direct employees to the nearest alternative fire escape 'in the event of an emergency,'" the Sun-Times reports.

Note to County: I'll do it for $29 an hour.

Rose Bowl
It's good to be the dead mayor's son.

Blame Blago
Springfield is so obviously not in Vermont it hurts. If the governor hadn't made such a mess of the budget, maybe our folks Downstate wouldn't have been too distracted to get this one right.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Now accepting Kwik-E-Tips.


Posted on July 12, 2007

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