APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DANIEL
P. COMAN, Judge, presiding.
MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE SIMON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
The Chicago Sun-Times published a series of articles growing out of an investigation of executive counseling agencies. The subject of one of the articles, Dean C. Dauw, sued the newspaper and its reporter for libel. The amended complaint was dismissed for failure to state a cause of action. Because the article may be interpreted in a way that does not defame Dauw, the "innocent-construction rule" requires that the dismissal be affirmed.
Dauw claims that the article, which appeared under the headline "Executive Recruiter Pledges Much And Keeps The Fee," read as a whole depicts him in a defamatory manner. We, therefore, feel it is necessary to set forth the entire publication. It read:
I looked up a steep stairway in a renovated brownstone at 112 W. Oak. At the top of the stairs stood a serious looking, slightly stocky man with a graying goatee, Dean C. Dauw, PhD, a psychologist.
Dauw learned the executive-consulting business by working for firms similar to Executive Careers Inc., which promised, for fees of several thousand dollars, to help executives and would-be executives into high-paying jobs.
Executives Careers closed after a Sun-Times investigation of its practices and legal action brought by the consumer fraud division of the Illinois attorney general's office.
Dauw said he didn't work for Executive Careers but refused to name the companies he worked for because he said they had bad reputations.
I was visiting Dauw posing as a prospective customer during a five-month investigation of executive consulting firms.
He held a folder in one hand. `I've been expecting you,' he said. As I made my way up the stairs I explained that he must be expecting someone else as I had dropped in without an appointment.
I inquired about job counseling as advertised under the name Human Resource Developers Inc. Dauw looked distressed. `You really should have an appointment,' he said. `We're awfully busy. Just a minute, I think you're in luck. I'll have a consultant available in a minute. I'll give you some material to read and put you in an office.'
He bustled about from file cabinet to closet gathering brochures.
`Go on upstairs and knock on the first door and tell her I told you to sit in an office,' he said.
I made my way up more stairs and knocked at a door. A young woman answered (I later learned her name was Kathy McHugh) and showed me to another room.
Kathy pointed to a gray sofa and I sat down. The door closed and I looked around. The room was opulently appointed with a red rug, red-flocked velvet wallpaper, red drapes. The furniture was antique and under a folding desk was a box ...