Trib Agreed To Hold Story On Blago Probe

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Pat Fitzgerald also talked at his recent press conference about his request to the Chicago Tribune to hold off on a story they were planning to publish on the investigation — a request the paper granted.

About eight weeks ago, before we had the bug installed, and before we had the wiretap up, we were contacted by the Tribune to comment or confirm or deny on a story that they were going to run. Had they ran that story, we thought we’d never have the opportunity to install the bug or place the telephone tap. And we made an urgent request for the Tribune not to publish that story. That is a very rare thing for us to do, and it’s an even rarer thing for a newspaper to grant. We thought that the public interest request that the story not run. It was a very difficult conversation to have because we weren’t allowed to describe what we were doing. And I have to take my hat off that the Tribune withheld that story for a substantial period of time, which otherwise might have compromised the investigation from ever happening.

Here’s the video:

The cooperation from the Trib is ironic because, as we noted earlier, part of Fitzgerald’s investigation involved Blagojevich pressuring Tribune owner Sam Zell to remove editorial board members who had written articles against the governor. And Blagojevich was left with the impression that Zell was willing to do so.

Here’s a statement from the Tribune:

The Chicago Tribune investigated allegations of misconduct involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich independent of the U.S. attorney’s criminal probe.

As a standard practice, our reporters contact individuals involved in these stories for confirmation and comment prior to publication. Consequently, we contacted the U.S. attorney’s office in the course of our reporting.

On occasion, prosecutors asked us to delay publication of stories, asserting that disclosure would jeopardize the criminal investigation. In isolated instances, we granted the requests, but other requests were refused.

The Chicago Tribune’s interest in reporting the news flows from its larger obligation of citizenship in a democracy. In each case, we strive to make the right decision as reporters and as citizens. That’s what we did in this case.

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