The Tribune is Booted from City Hall

Jayne Byrne wins

In June 1980, as Jane Byrne was starting her second year as Chicago’s first woman mayor, a strange media brouhaha briefly transfixed the city. She had become enraged at a Chicago Tribune story and in a fit of anger had banned the paper’s City Hall reporter from occupying space in the building’s press room.

The article that triggered her wrath disclosed the details of a transition report she herself had commissioned after she had beaten the remnants of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley’s fabled political machine and secured the nomination of the Democratic Party for mayor in the February 1979 Democratic primary election.

While she had received the transition report shortly after she had won the general election the following April, she and her staff had subsequently kept a lid on it.

The front-page story reporting on the details of the transition report that appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Sunday, June 22, 1980, revealed me to be an author of part of the previously secret report, as well as the immediate source of its startling revelations.

How the report came to light, and my part in it, was a combination of highly unlikely circumstances. However, for all the ensuing media Sturm und Drang of the day, any telling of the story will always seem akin to some like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and just a tale “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” In retrospect, perhaps its only lasting effect was to reinforce the public perception of Jane Byrne as trouble prone, often due to her own devices.


Tribune Frontpage Montage

I would never have ended up in the middle of this particular to-do without the political engagements I had earlier in the 1970s after I left the Army. My involvement in the media train wreck relating to release of the report naturally grew out of my work in the 1970s with two liberal, non-machine politicians.