Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thomas Verdict - More

It might be interesting to read what the competitors wrote about Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court Robert Thomas’ court victory over a Shaw newspaper in Kane County. Shaw also owns the Northwest Herald, which ran its own account of the verdict.

Yesterday's article on McHenry County Blog suggested that more might be at stake than Thomas' reputation.

Now, let's look at what the jurors said.

The Daily Herald article, entitled,

Why a jury gave chief justice $7 million
by Tona Kunz is particularly interesting.
…the Kane County Chronicle’s management was negligent in its oversight of fromer columnist Bill Page,
the first paragraph summarizes.

Here’s what the Daily Herald reporter wrote about the jury deliberations:
Jurors raised concerns over the fact those involved in the columns, including Thomas, were not called for comment.

“Like it would be with any of us - if we were accused of being unethical, we would want to have a voice,” said Ken Sotern, a St. Charles merchandising manager.

“To me it kind of seemed Mr. (Greg) Rivara didn't do his job and didn't care,” said Kelly Groves, a workers compensation claim specialist from Aurora, referring to the Chronicle's managing editor who approved the columns for publication.

“We all understand and respect the confidential sources. We just felt that if (the newspaper) had done a little work they would have been able to find something to back it up and not just rely on confidential sources for allegations that large,” Groves added.

“It wasn't that he should not have printed the article, it just seemed he needed to take a little time so he had something to back it up.”
The Chicago Tribune, a minor competitor to the Northwest Herald, added,
"To have your integrity questioned in front of your family and the world, that was the most important part," said juror Ken Sotera, 46, of St. Charles.

Juror Kelly Groves, 26, of Aurora, said the jury blamed the Chronicle more than Page because the newspaper should have done more to verify the information.

"We all understand and respect confidential sources," Groves said. "We just feel if they would have done a little work they should have been able to substantiate this without confidential sources."
Northwest Herald reporter Kevin Beese included this from jurors:
“It was all about integrity,” said Ken Sotern of St. Charles, a member of the jury. “The way the confidential sources [used in the columns] were handled said a lot. There was no one who ever came forward to substantiate [what was written].”
(Interesting how the three papers spell the man’s name two different ways.)

The Northwest Herald continued,
Sotern noted that when articles or columns break news of wrongdoing, such as the allegations of lesser Gorecki sanctions in exchange for Spence support, an official investigation or some other action follows. He said that when no investigations or other media stories followed Page’s columns, it raised questions for members of the jury.

Juror Rick Shaw of St. Charles [no connection to Shaw Newspapers] also said the lack of support regarding the columnist’s confidential sources weighed heavily on the minds of jury members.

“Someone needed to provide information to go along with those statements,” Shaw said. “Someone needed to testify to the sources’ information. There needed to be some suggestion that [at least] some of the information could be confirmed.”

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