It was announced today that Columnist Connie Schultz has resigned from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper.
Recall that we posted a story a couple of weeks ago, with video of her filming Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel at a tea party event, apparently conducting opposition research. Mandel is the likely opponent for US Senator Sherrod Brown, who is also Schultz’s husband. Brown is up for re-election next year. Mandel, a former US Marine who has served two tours in Iraq, will be a formidable opponent. Schultz was at the event to write a story about the tea party for the Plain Dealer, when she put her employer into an awkward situation by creating a clear conflict of interest when she filmed Mandel.
More often than not, we disagree strongly with her, but let’s give credit to Connie Schultz for doing the right thing here. She clearly recognized the situation she was creating for the Plain Dealer. In her letter to readers, she explains why she is leaving the paper.
In recent weeks, it has become painfully clear that my independence, professionally and personally, is possible only if I’m no longer writing for the newspaper that covers my husband’s senate race on a daily basis. It’s time for me to move on.
We also have obtained a copy of a letter from the Ohio Republican Party to the Plain Dealer. Last week, they wrote and asked the PD not to let Connie Schultz write any more stories of a political nature, due to the obvious conflict of interest. They agreed to meet about the matter this week, but with today’s resignation, it appears that the matter is settled. Here is the letter:
The Plain Dealer
1801 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114-2198
September 14, 2011
Dear Ms. Simmons:
I respectfully request that Connie Schultz not be allowed to write about political matters for the Plain Dealer as her conflict of interest does not pass the most basic test of journalistic fairness and integrity.
I’m sure you would agree the first priority of any journalist is to avoid instances which the public may regard as a real or perceived conflict of interest with the subject matter they’re covering.
On September 3, 2011 Connie Schultz, a columnist with the Plain Dealer, and the wife of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, attended a political rally sponsored by the Tea Party Express at All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon.
On September 7, 2011 Ms. Schultz wrote a column about the Tea Party event. She decried many things about the event, and interestingly called into question the integrity of the editor of the Lorain Morning Journal by linking a column he wrote last spring to how the newspaper reported attendance at the event.
Later on September 7, it was reported by Third Base Politics that Ms. Schultz not only attended the event, but when her husband’s potential political opponent for the U.S. Senate in 2012 began speaking, she took out her camera and began filming his speech.
On September 8, Ms. Schultz posted another column offering a highly suspect explanation for her actions. She said “When I held up my camera, I thought the journalist in me was making an in-your-face point about public forums.” With all due respect why didn’t she mention this episode in her September 7 column before she was caught red-handed performing a blatantly political act? I think we all know the answer to that.
In fact, Ms. Schultz’s actions run completely counter to thoughts she offered in her 2007 memoir, entitled “…and His Lovely Wife”:
On page 49, Ms. Schultz writes, “I have to avoid even the appearance of conflict, and that list of topics is growing too long.” On page 51, Ms. Schultz writes, “I had stopped attending newsroom meetings about political coverage, to avoid even the appearance of scouting for the campaign.”
Oftentimes it is print media which serves as the lens through which the general public views information, and in turn ultimately renders its judgments. The faith the public places in the media stems directly from the ability of reporters to remain free from bias. Your readers not only value this relationship, they depend upon it.
Thank you for your consideration of my request.
Chairman, Ohio Republican Party
The blogosphere continues to embarrass the mainstream media. Next up, the people of Ohio get to choose whether Sherrod Brown keeps his job. Sherrod Brown is the most liberal Senator in the country, representing a moderate swing state. Let’s hope Ohioans send him packing, too.