Emanuel spars with Chicago Tribune reporter

Credit: Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune

“We’d been trying to get this thing for a long, long time,” Chicago Tribune reporter David Kidwell says of his interview with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, published in Sunday’s paper. “Every time we asked they’d say no. I don’t know why they chose at this point to sit down with me, but I’m glad they did.” (Mayoral aide Sarah Hamilton also sat in on the 90-minute interview.)

“I hate you,” Emanuel told Kidwell very early in their first-ever meeting.

“I think he was half-joking,” says the reporter. But “he set the tone early on for a confrontation. …It seemed like a signal to me that this is going to be an interesting interview.”

It was, as the transcript shows.

DK: With all due respect, I’m far more interested …

RE: (interrupting) I don’t mean … I don’t think you have any respect for me so don’t worry about it.

“To his credit he let me sit there” and keep asking questions about transparency issues, says Kidwell. “He could have cut it off at any time.”

“I left there thinking, You know what? That was a very interesting experience, and there’s really no way for me in a newspaper story to convey it all.”

He first considered running excerpts, but then decided with editors to run the full transcript with the interview story.

Did the paper ever consider videotaping the interview and offering a multimedia package? Kidwell says:

Frankly, my experience tells me that cameras and fancy audio equipment change the chemistry of these interviews. I took a tiny borrowed digital recorder. I don’t like to use them, but since I was given an hour I wanted to focus on the interview and not my notebook. Only after I started transcribing quotes later – for printed excerpts – did we consider the fact that the entire interview might be valuable. The audio was not of the quality necessary to broadcast.

He told me the recording “was scratchy, and there was a lot of pen-clicking.”

Here’s what Kidwell accomplished:

Near the end of the interview, Emanuel said he would reconsider releasing more records: “Between what you want and what I’ve got to do to be able to govern, we will find where we can find a happy middle ground.”

* Transcript of a “sometimes contentious, sometimes humorous” interview
* Emanuel withholds most records detailing push for speed cameras