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Misspellings, grammar errors put county mag on ice
INDEPENDENT? | $24,999 for 'positive press' for Stroger

Sunday, July 27, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times

Tired of getting "pummeled by the newspapers every day," Cook County Board president Todd Stroger's administration has decided to counter with a new magazine overseen by county officials.

Publisher/editor Theresa Tracy said Cook County magazine would be "independently published" and a "credible, compelling and valuable resource" for county residents.

But county officials have the final say on what's published. And Tracy accepted $24,999 from Stroger's administration last November to launch the magazine -- $1 under the amount that would have required the approval of the full Cook County Board.

Tracy said there should be no "perception that we were just a house organ."

But, according to an agreement between the Stroger administration and Tracy obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, county officials were seeking a "non-threatening news environment that ensures regular, positive press -- to counter-balance negative press often found in the mainstream media."

Tracy also agreed to give the Stroger administration final say on whether to distribute the magazine.

County Commissioner Robert Steele, a Stroger ally who's listed on the masthead as "Cook County Board liaison," said Stroger's press office was instrumental in the creation of the magazine.

"The press office looks at it, reviews it and says whether it's the message we want to get out," said Steele, who added that he "referred several ideas to the editor and talked to the press office about whether that's the message we're trying to get out. I'm supportive of it."

Tracy said that initially she "wanted a whole lot more money" for putting out the 32-page glossy magazine but that the Stroger administration said $24,999 was the most it could provide at the time.

"They said, 'If we like the product, we might consider to give you more,' " Tracy said. She said she plans to make the magazine work financially by selling advertising, but the "Spring/Summer" edition includes only three ads.

The cover story is an interview with Stroger that starts by asking him, "How are you feeling these days?" There's also a short obituary for Stroger's late father and predecessor as county board president, John H. Stroger Jr., who died in January. It misspells his name.

The magazine also includes tips on gardening, planning a picnic and getting the proper permits, as well as a recipe for orange crab salad.

But don't expect to get your hands on a copy. Stroger spokesman Eugene Mullins said he has 5,000 copies of the issue in his office -- and that's where they'll stay.

"I was asked to review it and decided not to distribute it -- not because of content, but errors and omissions in the article" about John Stroger, Mullins said. "Judging on grammatical stuff -- something misspelled or that's not a complete sentence -- falls back on the president. And this is a Cook County magazine. I have to find a way to get rid of them. I'm not distributing them."

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