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The [Tuesday] Papers

Now is about the time to start thinking about the Blagojevich jury coming in. All this media wrangling about how long they've been out has been nonsense. Did the pundits expect the jury to return a verdict within a couple days? There are 120 pages of jury instructions alone! It probably took a couple days just to organize themselves. Think about it: 28 counts between two defendants in a seven-week trial with reams of documents and hours of tapes.

Not only that, but the trial of a former governor. You better be thorough; if the jury came back inside of a week you'd wonder if their verdict would have any credibility. Past corruption trials tell us that these juries are serious about their work; they must look at every charge, the evidence from the prosecution and the defense, and the law. In this case, they must determine - among other things - if a conspiracy was "furthered." And they must be able to show the public that they've done their due diligence.

Due diligence isn't exactly the media's forte, though. But they're great at wasting time and resources. Here's thought: When nothing is happening, don't feel compelled to report on the trivial. For example, stories about how the media is waiting for something to happen. (Spare me Camp Blago; I've seen it and it's boring.) Nobody cares - and they shouldn't.

More egregious was Elizabeth Brackett's "exclusive" interview last night with Blagojevich attorney and blowhard-in-arms Sam Adam Jr. on Chicago Tonight. First, calling any interview with Adam an "exclusive" is like calling an interview with Ozzie Guillen an exclusive. These are two guys who never stop talking. They give interviews to strangers on the El.

I mean, didn't we just read this in the Tribune?

Second, if you are going to call an interview an "exclusive," you better bring it. Getting a tour of Adam's office does not qualify, even if we now know where the paralegals sat.

And poor Sam Adam! There's a million things maybe he would have done differently! And by the way, if the jury is watching, Rod Blagojevich saved my kid's life!

This time the story went not that he didn't have health insurance, but that he didn't have maternity coverage. Perhaps the pregnancy was unplanned. After all, Adam has already said that if it wasn't for Rod Blagojevich's All Kids, his wife may have aborted. (It must be a pro-choice jury.)

Of course, Adam has another motive: Polishing his image so his reputation isn't too badly damaged after putting on a disastrous defense. (Or, rather, not putting on a defense at all.)

If you're going to get a formal interview with Adam, maybe think ahead of time about the questions you really want to ask - besides, you know, how are you holding up?

Start with these:

* Do you really believe in your heart of hearts that your client didn't try to extract a campaign donation in exchange for funding for a children's hospital?

* Hasn't the "it was just politics" defense failed in every previous corruption case from George Ryan to Robert Sorich to Al Sanchez to Scott Fawell?

* If your client is so stupid, as you portray him, how did he get elected to the governorship of the country's fifth most populous state twice? Did the people of Illinois make a grave mistake? Should we have elected someone else?

* Was the argument with your father about whether Rod would testify staged? Would you testify to that in a court of law?

* What kind of evidence did you expect the government to produce that they didn't when you planned on putting your client on the stand?

* Did you fail to put on a defense because every friend and insider of your client had already testified for the prosecution?

* Were there ever any discussions about cutting a deal? And you would testify to that in a court of law?

* Tell me about how you planned your media strategy. Is this interview part of it?

* How much are you getting paid? Where is the money coming from - isn't Rod broke?

* Do you really believe R. Kelly didn't urinate on an underage girl in that video?

Ask the questions you really want to ask. That's the job. You're not supposed to be all cozy-like with everybody, acting on Gentleman's Agreements that you won't ask the tough questions. If Sam Adam Jr. says he loves the ex-governor . . . check it out, for godsakes.

Trib Squib
Let's pretend the story went like this:

"Two top executives at United Airlines engaged in 'intentional fraud' in late 2007 when working to finish the $8.2 billion sale of the company, an examiner said in a 1,500-page inquest into its bankruptcy."

I bet it would get more coverage than the real news alleging that very thing about two top executives at Tribune Company is getting. As Joe Biden would say, this is a big frickin' deal - not just because of the scope of the alleged misdeeds, but because it imperils Tribune's emergence from bankruptcy. Like it or not, Tribune is one of the city's most historic, longstanding and influential companies with properties across the country. The story is totally getting underplayed.

Take, again, Chicago Tonight last night. In the business segment, moderator Phil Ponce asked the usually strong, smart and respectable Kris Kridel if a criminal prosecution of Tribune executives could follow. After all, they've just been accused of fraud.

Good question, and one I've wondered myself.

Kridel didn't know, which isn't a crime (no pun intended), but a little preparation would have been nice. Worse, Ponce asked her to name the two executives. She couldn't recall their names. Huh?

The best she could do was to say that one is the current CFO (that would be Chandler Bigelow) and the other is retired (that would be Don Grenesko).

Now, let me be the first to say that things can slip when you're on live television. For the grace of God . . .

But Kridel is a pro - when it comes to TV, I certainly am not - and so is Ponce.

In fact, it's quite obvious that Ponce almost always asks questions that he already knows the answer to. He's basically a set-up guy. So chances are he already knew the names of the executives he asked about. But he kept that to himself. (If he didn't know, he's got no business hosting that segment.)

Ho-hum. Another day of misplaced priorities and media bumbling.

Now, if Brackett can get an exclusive interview with Chandler Bigelow, we may have something.

The Chicago Way Network
Forget Oprah's OWN; here comes The CWN.

The Clown Prince of Illinois Politics
On the weird new book by the Assistant Majority Leader of the Illinois Senate, Rickey R. Hendon (the "R" stands for Hollywood.)

A New Cubs Drinking Game
Spiral into the gutter right alongside your favorite team.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Gutter-ready.


Posted on August 10, 2010

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