Greising: While Mourning the Loss of Muckraker Bill Recktenwald, Here’s Some Good News for the Future of Newsrooms

The death of government muckraker Bill Recktenwald is a loss. And we have plenty of reasons to mourn the state of newsrooms. But there is hope on the horizon for locally created news.

Bill Recktenwald(SIU)

BGA President David Greising writes every other week for the Chicago Tribune Opinion section.

In the heyday of undercover reporting in Chicago, Bill Recktenwald was a master of disguise.

For a probe of election fraud in the late 1960s, he went undercover as an indigent drifter. Registering multiple times to vote, he signed with names such as James Joyce, Jay Gatsby and Henry David Thoreau. He worked incognito as a prison guard and as a private ambulance worker.

In perhaps the most flamboyant investigation in Chicago journalism history, Recktenwald posed as a bartender in a watering hole — the Mirage Tavern. It was purchased by the Chicago Sun-Times, working in partnership with Recktenwald’s employer (and now mine), the Better Government Association. Their 25-part series in 1978 exposed pervasive bribery and led to changes to state inspection codes.

Unassuming but groundbreaking. Hiding in plain sight, but with the power to change government. That was Bill Recktenwald.

Read more at the chicagotribune.com.