So I'm not particularly surprised to learn the following:
Last week, the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team broke a story that appeared in The Post-Crescent, exposing 29 circuit court judges who signed petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker. It was a story we were proud to bring to you. It was watchdog journalism in its finest sense, a role we take seriously.
Today, in the interest of full transparency, we are informing you that 25 Gannett Wisconsin Media journalists, including nine at The P-C, also signed the Walker recall petitions. It was wrong, and those who signed were in breach of Gannett's Principles of Ethical Conduct for Newsrooms.
A few thoughts:
- I think the P-C understands the threat that such information presents to their corporate standing. There is really no point in even debating the premise that the news media, especially certain chains like Gannett, have an institutional bias to the Left, so it's hardly surprising that "journalists" would hold leftish views. It's important to Gannett to pretend that they aren't biased, even though it's really the sort of thing that's hidden in plain sight. What I wonder is this -- does it really affect how people view the Post-Crescent? The paper, long a conservative publication on the model of McCormick's old Chicago Tribune, had been trending left for years, even before the Gannett acquisition. And from what I can tell, it's much less of a factor in local news coverage than it was back in the 1970s.
- I've long held the view that bias is fine as long as you don't try to hide it. There's something to be said for the British newspapering model, where everyone knows that the Guardian is a lefty paper and the Telegraph is a righty paper. You know what you're getting. And in my experience, because the Guardian is unaplogetically leftist, it can be tougher on the Left, because it can afford to be honest about the Left's faults.
- Increasingly the notions of "ethics" and "ethical conduct" are losing any real meaning. In the political world ethics investigations are usually a way to deliver payback, not to uncover wrongdoing, as the most recent fishing expedition against Geoff Michel has proven here in Minnesota.
Bottom line: I'm happy that the Post-Crescent decided to fess up. Confession is good for the soul, of course. But there's no reason to believe their political coverage, or editorial cheerleading for Democrats, is going to change. I'm guessing that people back in Appleton will take this revelation for what it is: newsworthy but not necessarily news.