Genia Lovett of the Post-Crescent newspaper in Appleton, WI reported over the weekend that the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team had discovered that 25 Gannett journalists had signed petitions to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker, in violation of ethics codes.
Previously, the team had exposed 29 circuit court judges who had signed recall petitions, joining an effort led by Democrats and unions desperate to reverse collective bargaining reforms passed last year by the state legislature and signed into law by Walker.
Signing the recall petitions, Lovett explained, is different than merely exercising the right to vote:
A number of the journalists told us they did not consider signing the petition a political act. They equated it to casting a ballot in an election, something they have every right to do. But we see a distinction.
Yes, all citizens, including journalists, have a right to hold their own opinions about political issues and to share those opinions with their colleagues, friends or family. Personal opinions are part of human nature. However, journalists who work in a professional news organization must hold themselves to a higher public standard. That is, journalists have a first responsibility to be trusted. They have a first responsibility to protect the credibility of the news they are covering for their readers and their community. They have a first responsibility to protect your trust in the news organization for which they work.
Lovett reports that the journalists involved may face disciplinary action, and may be asked to undergo additional ethics training.