Friday, July 27, 2007

Sun-Times’ Jennifer Hunter: Doesn’t check facts and proud of it

Jacobson and Hunter don’t get it :

By now, the Jennifer Hunter approach to journalism is almost as famous, or infamous, as that of Amy Jacobson [See here]. Hunter’s deficiencies were noted and well summarized, early on, in Dan Curry’s blog and his link to others. Curry, coincidentally, is a former mainstream Democratic journalist, whose politics went from admiring the conservative Democrat JFK to admiring and working for the somewhat conservative Republican Illinois AG Jim Ryan to the consistently conservative Republican U. S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald.

The primary similarity between Jacobson and Hunter is that, even after all the notoriety, neither gets what is wrong with her journalism. Jacobson didn’t quite get what was wrong about being friends and chums with those she covered, or apparently giving information that she didn’t air [or discuss with her bosses] to the police.

Hunter doesn’t check her facts and she is proud of it. Apparently, she never heard that saying of that great Democratic Senator and adviser to President Nixon, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Sir, you may be entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Jennifer Hunter’s crowd reaction.

When Jennifer Hunter gets crowd reaction to a speech, she never asks people to identify themselves, other than their name or where they are from. She doesn’t investigate those people, she’s never investigated those people in 32 years of journalism, she told this reporter in a phone interview last Friday.

She disputed the notion that one can easily get a list of contributions for a donor from say,, or other web sites. Hunter said she had to pay $15 to get a list of political contributions and she did that, at some point, for attorney James Ronca, listed in the contribution lists as being from Harrisburg, Pa. But, even if one had to pay $15, isn’t the truth worth that and then some to Hunter’s husband, Publisher John Cruickshank of the Chicago Sun-Times.

As a result of that political contribution search that she did and that was thrown at her by many critics and bloggers, Hunter concluded that Ronca gave money to both Republicans and Democrats, including Republican Senator Arlen Specter. She did not dispute, in our telephone conversation of last Friday, that most of Ronca’s contributions went to Democrats [this source lists 10 of 12 contributions in last 12 years going to Democrats, including Senator Kennedy in ’95 and John Edwards and John Kerry in ‘04].

Hunter tries to defend Ronca.

Hunter argued to me and in her column that most of Ronca’s contributions to Democrats occurred after Bush was elected, so clearly "his contributions reflected his unhappiness with Bush," she said. She did not seem aware or able to deal with the fact that Ronca had contributed to Senator Kennedy and other Democrats way before the Bush election.

Hunter asked me “why would a person mis-identify himself as a Republican or Democrat.” When I tried to explain hypothetically why that might happen, she cut me off and apparently was not interested in that explanation. I was left wondering—was that a real question from Hunter? Does she really not know why a partisan might play that game?

Hunter’s assessment to this reporter of her reader response to her first column on this matter [complaints of bias and ineptness reflected in her failure to fact check] was that “Republicans are hysterical about losing the election,” and thus, “there is a tremendous over reaction to columns like hers.

Jennifer Hunter: no apologies given for failing to investigate

Hunter stated she would not apologize for anything she wrote and she would not apologize for not doing any kind of investigation of Jim Ronca before she wrote her column in which she chose to characterize Jim Ronca as a “Staunch Republican,” who became certain last Sunday, after watching five Democratic Candidates for President, that “He is not going to vote Republican in the 2008 Presidential election.” Hunter also quoted Ronca as saying, “I’m not only going to vote Democratic, I’m going to financially support the Democrats.” [See here].

Hunter tried to argue to me that her column was really about what five of the Democratic Presidential candidates said at the July 15, 2007 trial lawyers association [AAJ] meeting in Chicago. And, she argued elsewhere that she did not write the headline, “GOP lawyer sold on Dems.” True enough, but the lead to the story, which she did write, was about a “staunch Republican,” deciding that day he wouldn’t vote for a Republican for President and that he would financially support the Dems.

Hunter wrote in a follow-up column [see here] that her description of Ronca as a Republican was supported by the “fact,” that neither his wife nor his Democrat friend [both of whom were at Ronca’s side] disputed Ronca’s description of himself as a Republican.

Does Jennifer Hunter’s spouse agree with her?

That’s how you check facts at the Chicago Sun-Times? Does your spouse agree with you? I don’t mean to be mean spirited, but this is the problem with nepotism: Hunter’s ultimate boss, Publisher Cruickshank, is also her husband. Perhaps too much of Hunter’s perspective, for that reason, comes from asking that question: does my spouse [boss] agree with me?

On the other hand, reliable sources have stated that nobody can edit Hunter at the Chicago Sun-Times because she is the boss’ wife. If so, that would be sad for Hunter. Any good journalist knows that a good editor is the key to good columns. Think of how this mess of Hunter’s could have been avoided if an editor had asked how sure she was that Ronca was a staunch Republican. Did she do a computer check of his contributions? I mean, how many staunch Republicans do you know who have contributed to Democratic Senators Kennedy and Edwards and Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry?

The final self-inflicted embarrassment on this matter to Jennifer Hunter was her column of earlier this week which she turned over to Jim Ronca for him to explain to her readers what he means by “life-long Republican.” "Life long Republican," to Ronca means never supporting people like President Bush and Karl Rove, going back to their tenure in Texas, because of their opposition to things like unlimited jury verdicts and corresponding unlimited attorneys fees for trial lawyers handling personal injury, medical malpractice and consumer complaints.

Ronca, although he lists a number of Republicans he has supported, doesn’t address in the guest column given him by Hunter the fact that his political contributions, at least during the last twelve years, have been skewed heavily toward Democrats. [See transcript of this Tuesday’s Brit Hume’s Special Report] Nor does he address how a “life-long Republican," supports, at least financially, Senators Kennedy and Edwards and Presidential candidate Kerry. Also, how does a “staunch Republican argue, as Ronca does, that [the Republican Party] “makes an effort to pressure journalists to print what they want and avoid what the Republican Party does not like. No free thinking or free press is allowed.”

In short, Ronca is first and foremost a Trial Lawyer. He may have grown up around and with Republicans, as he claims. However, what is important to him, based on what he wrote, is working with Republicans and Democrats to elect state court judges who will be “friendly,” to trial lawyers and their collective goals and working with Democrats and Republicans to get federal judges appointed to the bench who will be friendly to trial lawyers. That might mean supporting Pennsylvania Republicans like Thornburgh, Ridge and Specter and Democrats like Kennedy, Kerry and Casey. Now, that kind of a person might be a lot of things, but “Staunch Republican,” isn't one of them.

None of the above is addressed by Jennifer Hunter. Again, the saddest part of Hunter’s writing is not her bias, but like Amy Jacobson, Hunter just doesn’t get it. Maybe the Sun-Times Publisher, her husband, can explain it to her. Apparently, nobody else at the paper will. This reporter would be happy to explain it some more, but he doesn't think Hunter will be speaking to him a great deal in the future. However, since this reporter and show host is tough, but fair, Hunter has a standing invitation to come on “Public Affairs,” and argue the issue. If the show was good enough for Democrat Presidential Candidate Bill Richardson, it should be good enough for Jennifer Hunter.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at You may watch "Public Affairs," shows with Presidential Candidates Richardson, Obama, McCain, Giuliani and Cox and many other pols at