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Extreme fighting: pols vs. the media

The allegations that embattled Illinois goveror Rod Blagojevich tried to engineer the firing of critical Chicago Tribune editorial writers represents an extreme instance of the kind of clashes that flare betweeen pols and the media.

For a varation on the same theme, consider the concept of how Buddy Cianci formerly had ambitions of buying the Providence Journal, a topic that I explored in 2003 (with the caveat that it was more fantasy than fact).

Cianci seemed serious enough a few years ago when he ran into a member of the Providence Newspaper Guild at Murphy's, a downtown bar, and expressed his interest in buying the Journal in cooperation with the Guild. "It wasn't much more specific than he thought he could line up some major backers," says Guild administrator Tim Schick. "We attempted to follow up, but there was never any [additional] contact made. He never got back to us."

Another hint of Cianci's aspiration to become a media mogul came during a September 2000 roast of Phoenix columnists Phillipe and Jorge at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet. ProJo columnist Bob Kerr, the master of ceremonies for the event, recalls how Cianci told him "that when he bought the Journal, the first thing he would do is have me pick up his shirts every morning. He also said, although I did not hear it, that he was going to change the name of Fountain Street to Cianci Way, so the Journal would have to put his name on the letterhead."

One version of the tale is that Cianci hoped to leverage the pension fund of the Laborers' International Union of North America, but that the plan fell apart after former union president Arthur A. Coia pleaded guilty to a felony count of tax fraud in connection with his hidden ownership of three Ferrari sports cars. Still, even in the months before he reported to Fort Dix in December 2002, Cianci talked privately about how he had plotted to take over the Journal with the assets of a large union pension fund. "He seemed to be very serious," says WPRO-AM talk-show host Steve Kass, who was teamed with Cianci as a co-host for a few months last fall. "You can imagine the challenge it would have been and how titillating it would have been. Whether he could have pulled it off, I have no idea. The thought of it was absolutely mind-boggling."

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