There was a tough call in the investigation of Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. It was made by the Chicago Tribune, the now-bankrupt newspaper which has new friends today just because of the enemies it has (By the way, yesterday was a good reminder of why we still need newspaper reporters turning over rocks and making enemies on a daily basis).

The Tribune had the “goods” on Blagojevich’s alleged corruption but didn’t print the story because the feds said it would jeopardize their investigation into Blagojevich. The investigators hadn’t yet placed the bugs in Blagojevich’s home and office, according to reports.

“In the course of doing our work, we talked to the U.S. Attorney to get comment as we would with any story and at that point they indicated if we publish at that moment, it could jeopardize an unfolding investigation,” editor Gerould Kern said. “It’s always a difficult decision.” (See video)

It’s obvious that on this story, the Tribune didn’t need much more than a comment from prosecutors for the story they had, but probably extracted a promise from prosecutors for either additional information, or an early tip-off when the governor was going to go down. There had to be a quid pro quo of some sort (Aside: Read the complaint against the Illinois governor).

Fast forward to a story this morning in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about allegations that a backer of Norm Coleman funneled cash to the senator through a business in Texas. The story was headlined:

FBI reviewing allegations involving Norm Coleman ally, source says

The headline makes clear that the story is based on a single source and while the assertion may be true, there’s no indication there’s any second confirmation, a pretty standard protocol in basing a story on an anonymous source.

It’s not like the Pioneer Press didn’t try as evidenced by two responses it got:

The Coleman campaign issued a statement last night:

“We are not aware of any investigation that is under way, nor have we been contacted by any agency with respect to this matter. As we have said repeatedly, we welcome any investigation of these lawsuits by the appropriate authorities to get to the bottom of these baseless, sleazy and politically inspired allegations.”

And a spokeswoman for businessman Nasser Kazeminy had a similar response when asked if Kazeminy had been contacted by investigators.” We have no information along those lines. What you’re telling me is news to me,” Amy Rotenberg told the Pioneer Press in a statement that invites hours of parsing.

As for the FBI, the Pioneer Press got the same answer you’d get if you called to ask if the FBI was investigating you. “We do not confirm or deny the existence of any investigations.”

Conclusion: The Pioneer Press doesn’t have enough yet to make the feds nervous about jeopardizing an investigation that may or may not be taking place.

  • benj

    Who says they have to have to be newspaper reporters?

  • Bob Collins

    They don’t HAVE to be newspaper reporters. But newspaper reports as a general rule are better at investigative reporting than any other medium presently out there. It’s part of the DNA.

  • benj

    I guess my point is that there seems to be a notion that the newspapers did something heroic by not publishing. When the FBI tells you they’ll give you the governor in handcuffs, you wait it out.

    The headline “Governor under investigation” was already old news in Illinois.

  • Bob Collins

    that certainly isn’t MY notion. I would challenge the assertion that the FBI’s offer to the Tribune was ‘we’ll give you the govenror in handcuffs,” because they gave eveyrone else the governor in handcuffs later. What I would have demanded is a heads up that the arrest was going to take place yesterday, allowing me — the editor — to put out a whole edition to hit the streets on the same day with all the facts.

    As it is, the Tribune Web site today, while robust, features a lot of stuff that everyone else had yesterday.

    From what I understand, the Tribune had more than “gov under investigation.” I think they had “gov takes bribes.”

  • Grace Kelly

    The fallacy of your argument is that you are assuming that the FBI is acting in good faith and that if the FBI had evidence that it would immediately report out. The public scandals of the entire justice department show that the opposite is true. The Republican administration tightly controls the FBI for political ends. The current corruption is only being acted on now because it is Republican political interests to do so. Being a resident and blogger in St Paul, I have many off-the-record sources that paint a consistent picture. So I know there is evidence to find, if someone like the FBI was interested. In any case, I think you pointing the finger of blame in the wrong direction.

  • Bob Collins

    I’m not aware that I’m pointing a finger of blame anywhere.