David Giuliani: Have a tip? Let us know
Recently, a reader emailed us a good tip for a story about a change at a major local business.
A few minutes later, he wrote, “Do NOT mention my name.”
I assured him I wouldn’t. We, in the media, respect requests for anonymity.
Unfortunately, many readers have information they want others to know, but fear they’ll be revealed in the process. All we need is their tips; we can find other sources or documents to put the information on the record.
In the case of government, if sources can give us ideas on what public documents to seek, we can simply file a Freedom of Information Act request.
Often, we get letters in the mail from people who want to hide their identity but provide information. If you want to avoid the pain of mailing a letter, just call or email us. To hide your phone number, dial 67. It still works.
Two big stories over the last year were the result of anonymous tips. In July, someone mailed us a document showing that then-Kankakee Police Chief Price Dumas had searched two critics of the mayor through the state’s criminal background system, which only should be used for legitimate police purposes. Our story led to a state investigation, the conclusion of which remains unclear.
In October, an anonymous source informed one of my co-workers that a former official at the local sewage treatment plant, the Kankakee River Metropolitan Agency, had come under scrutiny. That tip has led to nearly two dozen stories about KRMA in our newspaper since November.
The upshot: If you have a tip but fear for your job, we won’t release your name. We just want to report relevant information to our readers.
Last week, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker toured the state veterans home in Manteno. Media weren’t allowed to go along, but at the end of the tour, he held a “press availability.” It was a chance to put Pritzker on the record about state spending.
Earlier the same week, Pritzker, who took office only days before, promised to give state employees raises. This was despite his pledge to balance the state budget in his first year, something that hasn’t happened in more than a decade.
I asked the governor what spending he would cut to pay for the raises. Not surprisingly, he had no specifics. He said he would unveil his proposed budget in a few weeks, which he said would contain spending cuts.
I’m not holding my breath.
For four years, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, whom Pritzker defeated in the November election, promised to get tough on spending. But he never did.
In 2017, Rauner proposed a budget that included a $4.6 billion deficit listed as “Working together on ‘grand bargain.’ “
It was Rauner’s way of saying that he would only get on board with spending cuts if he could come to an agreement with legislative Democrats. A grand bargain never happened.
In the abstract, everyone loves to talk about cutting spending. But few talk specifics.
Here’s hoping that Pritzker gives some real answers, rather than accounting tricks. And if he does, we should give him credit.