The Daily Herald’s parent company announced Thursday it would stop printing controversial political publications that were being mailed to homes throughout northern Illinois on behalf of conservative operatives.
The decision was posted Thursday afternoon on the newspaper’s website. Hours earlier, Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker’s campaign sent Paddock Publications Inc., a letter stating he would not participate in an upcoming Illinois Associated Press Media Editors candidate interview in which the Daily Herald was involved.
Pritzker’s campaign said in a statement to the Northwest Herald Thursday evening that in light of Paddock dropping the publications, they are “reconsidering” the governor’s participation.
“Recent news stories and social media posts have taken Paddock Publications, the parent company of the Daily Herald, to task for a printing job it accepted from Local Government Information Services,” according to the note from Paddock Publications’ senior management. “It was a business decision to take on the job. The perception among some has become that the Daily Herald is the publisher of these publications. We are not. The company does not endorse the content of any of the print jobs it does for vendors, including many newspapers. It neither embraces nor condemns them. It merely prints them.”
LGIS has created nearly three dozen publications that have the look of newspapers, but contain content that has been decried as politically charged. Company records filed with the Secretary of State lists Republican insider Brian Timpone as its president. Dan Proft, a radio talk show host and former GOP gubernatorial candidate, is listed as a principal of LGIS’ board of directors, records show. His current affiliation with the company was unclear.
Earlier Thursday, Pritzker’s campaign sent a letter to Doug Ray, the chairman, publisher and CEO of Paddock Publications Inc., asking that the company publicly disclose its arrangement with LGIS.
The Pritzker campaign letter called the LGIS publications “fake and misleading,” and said they “represent an existential threat to quality, independent journalism.”
“This is not an indictment of the hardworking journalists that accurately report the news for the Daily Herald,” Pritzker wrote in the letter. “Rather, this is a five-alarm fire for those who thought it was acceptable to inundate Illinoisans with partisan propaganda and downright lies.”
The Daily Herald is involved with other local media outlets in planning candidate interviews as part of an effort by the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors. Invitations to the governor forum were sent to Pritzker and Republican candidate Darren Bailey by a Daily Herald representative, IAPME President Dennis Anderson said Thursday, but videos and articles resulting from the forum were to be shared across more than 20 newspapers statewide.
Anderson also is the vice president of news and content development for Shaw Media, which owns the Northwest Herald.
“On behalf of our membership and our readers throughout Illinois, it is IAPME’s hope the governor has a change of heart and takes part in the interview,” Anderson said. “The interviews are meant to share the candidates’ views on issues impacting all Illinoisans. This is an important election for the future of Illinois and it’s vital that voters have a chance to hear from candidates directly.”
Pritzker’s campaign could not immediately be reached for comment on whether he now intended to participate in the forum, which is scheduled for Sept. 30.
Paddock did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday afternoon.
In its statement on the Daily Herald website, “the editorial department is kept separate from the printing operation. For instance, the printing operation is ethically prohibited from disclosing to the newsroom when a press operator sees a scoop on another newspaper’s front page coming off our presses. And the editorial department doesn’t seek input on which print jobs the print center takes on.
“The perception for some has become that the Daily Herald favors one party over another and by printing for LGIS, it’s somehow promoting its message. That is not true.”
A story by the Northwest Herald last week first reported the mailers from LGIS were being distributed using Paddock’s U.S. mail postage permits.
In a statement on Thursday, Proft, who also is the president of the People Who Play By The Rules Political Action Committee, compared Pritzker to a king who believes anything he doesn’t agree with, whether its TV ads, newspapers or commentators, should not be circulated. He said the governor sees media as “no different than his equestrian estate in Wellington, FL.”
“Governor Pritzker believes his money guarantees him control of government and entitles him to make all media subservient to his government,” Proft said in the statement. “In short, he ... thinks an election is about his ambitions rather than Illinois families’ aspirations.”
Proft released an additional statement later in which he further criticized Pritzker and said the papers would “continue to be printed and distributed even if we have to return to the Gutenberg press.”
LGIS was created in 2016 ahead of that year’s presidential election, and has continued to mail out content throughout the past three federal election cycles, as well as the current one.
Much of the content on the sites, which include the McHenry Times, the Kane County Reporter, Chicago City Wire and the DeKalb Times, include pieces reporting on what conservative and Republican officials are saying on a number of issues, stories that focus on Critical Race Theory being taught in schools, and the state’s new SAFE-T Act, which is set to go into effect in January.
Timpone could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
The publications are not members of the Illinois Press Association, President Don Craven said last week. He added that he has not interacted with LGIS.