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Rod's Road Trip

After spending two days in New York City chasing Rod Blagojevich from one media outlet to another, where he did "in-depth, no-holds-barred" interviews, one part of the embattled governor's media strategy became apparent. Myself and cameraman Jim Mastri, the only Chicago television journalists to follow Blagojevich to New York, were forced to settle for a few minutes of below-freezing questions "on the fly" as the governor came and went. Inside the temperature-controlled and well-lit studios (where we were not allowed) the hosts of the national talk shows got all the time they wanted.

The problem is that most of these folks, as well-intentioned and practiced as they are, know relatively little about Illinois politics compared to Chicago reporters. And during their sophomoric attempts to grill the governor, they revealed a shocking ignorance of the history and many "back stories" attached to the Blagojevich case. Believe me, there's a lot more to ask the governor about than the alleged sale of a Senate seat. Why didn't they delve into his relationships with felonious friends Tony Rezko, Chris Kelly and Ali Ata? How about the wife's real estate business? Campaign cash? The bottom line is that the governor got a pass on most of the stuff that Chicago journalists have reported going back years before Barack Obama gave up his Senate seat.

The guv's new media guy is former TV reporter-turned-publicist Glenn Selig of Tampa, Florida who ushered Blagojevich around New York City. He also does p.r. for Drew Peterson, the Bolingbrook cop of missing and murdered wife fame who's also become a regular on the Big Apple talk show circuit. Selig's one of the sharpest flaks out there right now and I have to believe he knew Blagojevich had a better chance to "stay on message" if he was interviewed by people who could not have more than a limited understanding of Illinois and Chicago politics.

While the governor has conceded publicly that he'll be ousted from office no matter what he says to the national media, the unspoken hope in his camp is that the time in New York City will help humanize his image. His lawyers pray that just one person who sympathizes with Rod Blagojevich ends up on the jury selected for his eventual federal trial.

As you may have seen in my report from New York Tuesday, I asked Blagojevich why he wouldn't sit down and do an interview with a Chicago reporter, namely me. He said on the air that he would and he added the word "absolutely".

Let's see if he's telling the truth.


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