A few days ago Genia Lovett, the president and publisher of the Appleton Post-Crescent newspaper, which is owned by Gannett, made note in her column in the newspaper that 25 Gannett Wisconsin media journalists, including nine employed by the Post-Crescent, signed the petition to recall Governor Walker. She went on to say those employees broke the paper’s “Code of Ethics” by signing, and further said they would be disciplined.
This is the biggest load of BS that’s come down the road in a long time.
First, before we go any farther, I’m sure people more experienced and smarter than I, have already explained (in colorful language) to Ms. Lovett that Wisconsin has very specific laws in place to prevent organizations like Gannett from taking any sort of “disciplinary” or “retraining” action against employees who are exercising protected rights.
The concept that a reporter can’t write unbiased news coverage because he or she signed a recall petition is as ludicrous as saying a reporter who owns a Ford can’t write about General Motors. Or a reporter who's ever been treated by a doctor can't report on health care.
Ever since I was a boy who grew up in Hortonville reading the Post-Crescent, the paper has endorsed political candidates every election cycle. So, the newspaper itself takes political positions. And yet its reporters can’t? What kind of cockamamie “code of ethics” does Gannett follow?
Shout-radio tea partiers like Charlie Sykes and Vicki McKenna loudly trumpet that they’re going to “expose” local reporters who signed the petition, apparently unaware that one of Appleton’s other notorious products, Senator Joe McCarthy, had a brief and failed career trying to “expose” the communists that he saw everywhere.
It’s being reported that Ms. Lovett (who apparently lives in Hortonville!) is on the board of the Appleton Chamber of Commerce. If that’s true, I expect she will resign that position immediately - or resign from the Post-Crescent - so there can be no “appearance of conflict of interest” if her newspaper decides to report anything about a business located in Appleton.
In her column (and yes, there is a difference between a column and an article) Lovett talks about the “higher standard” she expects her reporters to adhere to, by apparently not having any opinion on any political issue. Some of my long-time friends in the news business have made public posts on social media, clucking about how “wrong” it is for “journalists” to engage in such blatant political activity as signing a recall petition.
Next thing you know, reporters will be outed for voting.
In a world where Rush Limbaugh refers to himself as “America’s Anchorman” and people actually believe he is giving “news” on his program….in a world where Fox News and MSNBC both exist under the banner of “news”….in a world where George Stephanopoulos leaves the Clinton administration and suddenly becomes a “trusted, non-biased journalist”, it may be well past time for organizations like Gannett, and Ms. Lovett, to get off their high horse for a few moments and re-think their “code of ethics” for reporters.
Have the hiring standards for news reporters plummeted since I was last in that business, four years ago, to the point where reporters can’t be trusted to hold a political opinion and still write balanced, unbiased work product?
Or, are we “safe” because Ms. Lovett and her ilk are carefully monitoring the work-product of these reporters, making sure no “opinion” slips into their work?
Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse.