With Blago book on the docket, Korecki shifts to politics
Now that reporter Natasha Korecki is leaving the federal courthouse for the political beat, her Sun-Times readers and Twitter fans won’t be getting the scoop from her on corruption trials and other juicy cases anymore.
But thanks to Korecki’s soon-to-be-published book, Only in Chicago, they’ll still have another chance to savor the inside access she had to former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s legal ordeals and surrounding circuses.
As federal courts reporter for eight years, Korecki won numerous awards and attracted a national following covering the trials of two former governors (Blago and George Ryan), Tony Rezko, Conrad Black, and white supremacist Matthew Hale, among other high-profile defendants. In a change of venue last week, Korecki's bosses reassigned her to cover politics, succeeding Abdon Pallasch, who resigned to become the state’s assistant budget director under Governor Pat Quinn.
Asked if she’ll also get Pallasch’s famous Rolodex of sources, Korecki joked: “I could only be so lucky. Maybe he’ll be nice and toss me [the letters] A through C.”
The timing couldn’t be better for the University of Illinois graduate who joined the Sun-Times in 2004 after seven years as a reporter and legal affairs writer at the Daily Herald. Korecki not only steps up to the political beat in the heat of a presidential campaign, but does so just weeks before the release of her new book about key players in the Blago drama and beyond.
Only in Chicago will be released September 1 as a digital ebook and published in print this spring by Agate Publishing. “I'm hoping it's an entertaining read and that it shows how the Blagojevich scandal exposed the greed, corruption and weaknesses of many more people than just the former governor,” Korecki told me.
Korecki said she was first approached about writing it around the time of Blago’s sentencing last December, days before she was due to give birth to her second son, Cormac. (At Blago’s sentencing, wife Patti Blagojevich famously turned to Korecki and asked the reporter if she could make her water break so Patti could get out of there.)
Although she put off the project initially, Agate publisher Doug Seibold convinced Korecki that she was uniquely qualified to tell the story, “having been there from beginning to the bitter end and having reported on the trials of two governors,” she recalled.
“Luckily, all those years of covering the investigation and trials in hyper-detail through the Blago Blog and Twitter paid off. I had those references at my disposal, in addition to my reporting and digging up some new stuff. The advantage of the ebook is it's pretty up to date. It covers the investigation, both trials, sentencing, Blago's bizarre goodbye, and other recent stuff from this year — I interviewed Rezko a couple of months ago, for instance — and some new tidbits.”
Korecki is confident there’s an audience for more: “I learned that during both Blagojevich trials. I got so much feedback from readers all over the country when we were doing all of that daily live blogging. It got to the point that if I got up and ran to the bathroom, I'd return to emails asking if the trial had ended for the day. At one point in the first trial, the blog — in addition to a link from another Blago story — actually broke a record for the most hits on our Web site. By the second trial, Twitter activity really went through the roof.”
The big picture? “What was so remarkable about the Blagojevich story is that for all the open suffering George Ryan had endured through trial and sentencing, we were back in the exact same spot with the very next governor in federal court.”