Oct 19, 2022 - News

Local ex-reporter draws ire for turn to political pitchman

Photo of a man talking in front of several microphones

Darren Bailey talks to reporters at the Illinois State Fair. Photo: Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The outrage over former ABC-7 chief political reporter Charles Thomas' ads for gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey has spread to his former colleagues.

Why it matters: Chicago journalists don't usually attack one another publicly.

Context: Thomas retired in 2017, but he's back with a new series of local ads called "Real Talk with Charles Thomas."

  • According to Capitol Fax, a PAC supporting Bailey paid Thomas $50,000 to do the ads.

Driving the news: This doesn't sit well with Thomas' former colleagues at ABC-7.

  • Former sports anchor Mark Giangreco tweeted about it during last Thursday's Bears game:
Screenshot of a Tweet on Twitter.
Screenshot of @mark_giangreco

Thomas responded with:

Screenshot of a Tweet
Screenshot of @CThomasdrum

Then came former news anchor Ron Magers:

Screenshot of a Tweet
Screenshot of @RonMagersABC7

What they're saying: "I was surprised to see Charles, my longtime ABC-7 colleague and successor as political reporter, starring in a political ad," retired reporter Andy Shaw tells Axios.

  • "Former newsies rarely engage in high-visibility partisan politics, and that’s one reason several of our former colleagues were so critical."
  • "Beyond that, Charles doesn't represent ABC 7 any longer, so he's free to support any candidate in any way he chooses, as are the rest of us."

The intrigue: There have always been strict ethical guidelines for working journalists on political issues. Columbia College Chicago journalism professor Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin tells Axios that Thomas is not bound to any code of ethics since he's retired.

  • "That said, he is being paid by the campaign specifically because he was a reporter for a quarter-century, and his credibility rests on his having abided by journalistic ethics and having avoided conflicts of interest all that time."

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