Late last week, Kevin Corrado, publisher of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, told readers that 25 Gannett Wisconsin Media journalists, including seven at his own paper, had signed the petition calling for the recall of Gov. Scott Walker:
In the interest of full transparency, we are informing readers today that 25 Gannett Wisconsin Media journalists, including seven at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, signed the recall petition. It was wrong, and those who signed the petition were in breach of Gannett’s principles of ethical conduct.
Corrado said he was disheartened to learn that any of Gannett Wisconsin Media’s employees had signed the petition and is at a loss to explain how it happened. He added that disciplinary action will be taken against the offending employees and that additional ethics training will be given to all news employees.
What concerned Corrado is that this action casts doubt on the notion that the media are neutral in their reporting and it hurts their credibility, which is already under fire.
According to Corrado, several of the journalists in question didn’t consider signing the petition to be a political act, but instead compared it to casting a ballot. Corrado disagreed that the two were the same thing:
But journalists who work within a professional news organization must go to extra lengths to ensure against even the impression of favoring a candidate or a position. Their first responsibility is to protect the credibility of the news they are covering for their readers and their community, and to protect the credibility of the news organization for which they work.
These employees should have known better. The Walker recall campaign has been fanned largely by union supporters who want to see the Governor removed for taking a tough stand on public-sector unions in Wisconsin and the stranglehold they have over the state at a time of mounting fiscal woes.
By signing the petition they have placed themselves squarely on one side of this issue, instead of remaining neutral, as Gannet would apparently prefer.
Corrado deserves credit for bringing this to his readers’ attention. He could have just as easily ignored the breach and swept it under the rug, but he did the right thing even though it was obviously painful to him.
Now if we could get a little more of this type of transparency from the mainstream media.