June 19, 2024

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Illinois city tickets reporter for asking questions about why city flooded during rainfall

2 min read

Officials in a suburban Chicago community have issued municipal citations to a local news reporter for what they say were persistent contacts with city officials seeking comment on treacherous fall flooding.

The tickets from Calumet City, a city of 35,000 located 24 miles (39 kilometers) south of Chicago, allege “interference/hampering of city employees” by Hank Sanders, a reporter for the Daily Southtown, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.

It’s the latest of several recent First Amendment dust-ups involving city officials and news outlets around the country, following this week’s arrest of a small-town Alabama newspaper publisher and reporter after reporting on a grand jury investigation of a school district, and the August police raid of a newspaper and its publisher’s home in Kansas tied to an apparent dispute a restaurant owner had with the paper.

Sanders reported in an Oct. 20 story that consultants told Calumet City administrators the city’s stormwater infrastructure was in poor condition before flooding wrought by record September rains. Officials say Sanders continued to call and email city employees, drawing complaints including from Mayor Thaddeus Jones, who is also a Democratic state representative.

The Tribune, which shares an owner with the Daily Southtown, reported that Sanders was told to channel requests for information through Jones’ spokesperson, Sean Howard, but according to one citation sent 14 emails to the city during a nine-day period in October asking questions about flooding.

Mitch Pugh, executive editor of the Chicago Tribune, said one reason Sanders continued asking questions was for a follow-up flooding story that has yet to be published.

While the citations are not of “the same degree and magnitude” as the other recent incidents, Pugh said, “it seems to be on the same through line of a real lack of understanding of what the First Amendment protects, what a journalist’s job is, what our…

John O’Connor, The Associated Press

2023-11-04 11:19:58

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