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Get ready to hear more complaints about the “liberal media” from conservatives. On Friday, publishers at papers in the Gannett Wisconsin Media group revealed that 25 of their employees had signed the petition to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The same group’s investigative media team broke a story five days earlier that outed 29 circuit court judges who had signed the petition.
Now, here’s the catch: None of the Gannett Wisconsin Media group employees works in or has any involvement with the papers’ news or political teams. Also, none of the employees were involved with the investigative team.
So the question: With that catch, is it an ethics violation? In his column to readers on Friday, Green Bay Press-Gazette president and publisher Kevin Corrado said the employees who signed the petition violated the papers’ ethical code of conduct.
“The principle at stake is our belief that journalists must exercise caution and not cause doubts about their neutrality, especially at a time when the media is under a microscope and our credibility is routinely challenged,” Corrado wrote.
Corrado specified six principles he said were most relevant to the recall petition. These include your standard, not-subjective-at-all, “We will be conscientious in observing these principles,” and “We will always try to do the right thing.”
But what is “the right thing” has sparked debate. Here’s a comment from a reader on Corrado’s column:
“Will you ban your employees from voting in the upcoming local, state, and federal elections, as well? Left or right, in agreement with my views or not, I see nothing wrong with allowing people to exercise their rights. I do see something wrong with a company not allowing it.”
The publishers at Gannett, though, have a problem with an outward display of anything political by any employees. Some of those employees felt that signing the petition was like voting in an election. Corrado said Gannett Wisconsin Media does “not make that distinction.”Of course, no one can see your ballot. Rick Santorum could be fooling us all, and he could have voted for Mitt Romney in the Massachusetts primary. We’ll never know.
Signing a petition, however, is a little more partisan and a little more public.
According to Gannett Blog, an independent blog about the media company, the biggest droves of petition-signees came from the Post-Crescent of Appleton, Wis. (nine). Seven are from the Green Bay Press-Gazette, and five came from the Oshkosh Northwestern. There’s no further breakdown of the departments of the editorial members.
The papers’ websites say the Green Bay Press-Gazette has a weekday circulation of 55,987 and 80,870 Sunday circulation. The Post-Crescent has a weekday circulation of 39,293 and Sunday circulation of 56,336.
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