In an ironic twist, Gannett Wisconsin Media acknowledged this past weekend that nine employees at its Post-Crescent newspaper had signed petitions to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. This was after Genia Lovett, the president and publisher of the Post-Crescent, had trumpeted the “watchdog journalism” of its employees after they printed a story outlining how 29 Wisconsin circuit judges had signed petitions to recall Walker. Lovett admitted the employees were wrong:
It was wrong, and those who signed were in breach of Gannett’s Principles of Ethical Conduct for Newsrooms … the principle at stake is our core belief that journalists must make every effort to avoid behavior that could raise doubts about their journalistic neutrality.
Yet Lovett also defended the signers of the petition, averring, “None of the employees serves on the investigative team, nor are any of the Appleton employees reporters or assigning news editors.” And the journalists who signed the petition defended themselves by insisting that they did not consider signing the petition a political act. They equated it to casting a ballot in an election.
But this petition is specifically designed to make the votes previously cast for Scott Walker invalid. To claim the right to sign a petition because it is the same as a ballot, then turn around and use the petition to invalidate real ballots isn’t just irrational, it’s dishonest.
The real lie here, though, is that objective journalism is common practice. It isn’t. Ideological journalism is. And that’s why citizen journalism is so vital – our opinions certainly matter as much as those of the self-proclaimed elite who may have attended journalism school but make no qualms about utilizing their positions to push their views.