CHICAG0 – In this “City of Big Shoulders” and
soaring skyscrapers, the Society of Professional Journalists
bestowed on ex-News-Press editor Jerry Roberts the high honor of
its annual Ethics in Journalism Award Saturday
Roberts and eight other News-Press reporters and
editors were honored after they quit last month rather than
remain at the paper because they felt that under owner
Wendy McCaw the paper had fallen far short of the
SPJ’s Code of Ethics. (That list includes this columnist.)
Since then eight other newsroom staffers have resigned.
In what some feel was an attempt to throw cold water on the
ethics awards and distract from them, it was learned on the eve of
the SPJ convention that McCaw had filed a $500,000 claim against
Roberts, alleging breach of her contract with him and “causing
damage to the News-Press.”
I don’t know what, if any, damage Roberts has done to the paper,
but the whole town knows that McCaw’s actions resulted in the
ongoing meltdown at the paper.
Then, after the L.A. Times published a short item about
the claims filed with an arbitrator, McCaw issued one of her
PR statements blaming Roberts or his
representatives for telling the Times about it.
The Times cited sources at the paper. Since Roberts was
in Chicago at the time and reportedly surprised that the claim
story had broken, some suspicious folks are speculating that
The Times’ sources might have actually been management or
close to it.
But Times reporter Jim Rainey, who
wrote the story, told me that neither Roberts nor management were
his sources. Rainey wouldn’t say whom, but when a former top editor
gets hit with a half-million-dollar claim, word travels fast.
At Saturday’s award ceremony, Roberts received a standing
ovation. “We pay tribute to the courage and principled sacrifice of
these nine journalists, who opted to risk their livelihoods rather
than remain in a position where they felt their journalistic ethics
and professional credibility were being violated,” said SPJ
president David Carlson.
As for McCaw’s claim that some of the journalists who left had
personal agendas, one of the departed cracked, “Right, we all
wanted to be unemployed.”
The other eight former News-Press journalists honored
by the SPJ were managing editor George Foulsham,
deputy managing editor Don Murphy, sports editor
Gerry Spratt, business editor Michael
Todd, city editor Jane Hulse,
presentation editor Colin Powers, reporter
Scott Hadley, and myself.