Politics

Reboot Illinois: Independent journalism or billionaires' propaganda?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Some Chicago area billionaires are bankrolling an internet effort aimed at influencing Illinois politics. The group launched a website about a year ago called "Reboot Illinois" to support their plans.

Is Reboot Illinois journalism, or an on-line propaganda mill? With deep pockets to back it up, the site appears to be thriving.

Madeleine Doubek insists she is still an independent journalist. The former executive editor at the Daily Herald is now the boss at the website called "Reboot Illinois."

"We are editorially independent and non-partisan," said Madeleine Doubek, Reboot Illinois.

Reboot is run out of a tiny office of nine people focused daily on Illinois' fiscal issues, from unpaid bills to unfunded pension debt.

"Twenty cents of every dollar we send to Springfield is going to pensions and we still have the worst funding crisis in the nation," said Doubek.

Advertising does not pay the salaries or the rent at Reboot. The site is financed by Chicago billionaires and founded by hedge fund manager Anne Dias Griffin, joined later by industrialist Lester Crown and his son James.

"They wouldn't exist but for that money," said Henry Bayer, AFSCME 31.

Union leader Henry Bayer suspects Reboot is another attempt by the super-rich to build public contempt for workers and government.

"They want to wipe out unions in the country and they want to diminish government in this country because they don't want to pay their share of the taxes," said Bayer.

"They started this organization which is run independently and the editorial viewpoints and decisions that we choose to take are our own," said Doubek.

Reboot's newest feature is called "Soundoff." It will link users to the e-mail of their favorite, or least favorite, politicians.

"And then, let all your friends know on social media that you did that so they can join you," said Doubek.

Ms. Doubek says her website's wealthy owners are no more involved in daily newsroom operations than wealthy owners of other media. She also conceded that if Reboot is successful and Illinois' fiscal situation is reversed, the website could put itself out of business.

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