The Brouha-ha Over Whether Folks in the News Business Should Contribute to Political Candidates

Wow, It’s amazing how quickly one can stir up a hornets nest by following up on a couple of tips sent to me by a couple of former co-workers. I discovered (according to one person) that I was racist and that this blog had racist overtones. Go figure.  Of course I also found that one person who took me to task also had openly supported on a blog (as is her or his right) the same congressional candidate (who lost) as one of the news people mentioned on the list by MSNBC.  But that’s okay too. The vehement reaction does make more sense now.

But that’s not why I’m posting this. I had a few extra minutes and was cruising through MSNBC’s website and it turns out that the political contribution list story has sent a few ripples out there across the country. It seems one TV reporter from Omaha was given the boot after the MSNBC story became public. That reporter said she was glad that it had happened at age 23 and not 33 and that she has learned a lesson. A free-lance editorial cartoonist in Lincoln, Nebraska who said he really didn’t care about the newspaper’s policy on political contributions was given the boot. And a newspaper in Washington state cancelled the planned debut in their paper of a syndicated ethicist columnist for the NYTimes after that columnist’s name appeared on the list.

Which leads me back to my original point of posting. Is it that big of a deal? Is it okay if you make it known that you’ve done this? Does it have anything to do with the price of tea in China?

According to an on-line poll at MSNBC, the opinions are pretty well mixed.  Here’s the survey:

Should news organizations allow journalists to make political contributions?   * 20552 responses

Not a scientific survey. Click to learn more. Results may not total 100% due to rounding.



But this story is not that big of a deal.  How do I know this?  Because there’s some really big news out there today that everybody is covering instead.  That story? Paris is out of jail.  We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief.

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12 Comments on “The Brouha-ha Over Whether Folks in the News Business Should Contribute to Political Candidates”

  1. The GM Says:

    Yes, it is a big deal. Journalistic integrity dictates staying on the sidelines with political positions. It is part of the price of admission in this buisness. If a reporter, producer or any person who participates in the news gathering and editorial process wants to outwardly support a political candidate, I suggest they get into the P.R. industry.

    The GM

    P.S. Paris may be free but Rome is burning.

  2. joelarkins Says:

    Rimshot! Goodnight folks, make sure you tip your waitress! And you can see the GM all this week as the headliner!
    Seriously, thanks for checking in.

  3. autoegocrat Says:

    I have a serious question, please.

    How does one move from a blogger with known and published political opinions to a credible journalist? I am such a blogger, my opinions are more controversial than not, and my eventual goal is to write or otherwise report about politics in some sort of professional capacity, and I do not want to limit my journalistic career options to the realm of opinion.

    I’ve never met a political reporter who doesn’t have strong opinions about politics. The art of the craft of reporting, as far as I can tell, comes in the ability to accurately and fairly portray your subject without imposing yourself onto it. The cardinal sin of reporting, as I understand it, is to make yourself a part of the story.

    Have I got this right? I assume that most of the readers of this blog are professional journalists, so where do you think bloggers fit into the landscape?

  4. joelarkins Says:

    First, what is your definition of a credible journalist? Someone who writes for a newspaper or news magazine? Are you leaning toward radio or TV? It’s rare to have someone in TV or radio who focuses strictly on politics anymore and the local newspapers have only a couple of folks I would consider political reporters. Jackson Baker comes to mind as someone who is well versed in the local politics.
    You raise a perplexing question. I’d be curious as to what the readers of this blog have to say.

  5. Doug J. Says:

    I think it is possible to blog one’s opinions on political situations while fairly reporting various sides of a situation. It’s just that many times, expressing an opinion by some seems to mean they people feel the need to belittle or even misrepresent an opposing view. This is why many political blogs, on the left and the right, cannot be considered fair.

    The direction that Autoegocrat wants to move in is possible, in that you can get to the point of offering original reportage on politics, researching new information and providing it to readers, even though those readers will know the political bias of the blogger. It may be that it would be hard to develop sources among those holding an opposing view, but news is news — if you find new information, confirm it through multiple sources, and report it — it’s news. It might lose a tad of impact once you offer an opinion though. You risk singing to the choir.

    It’s hard to cover every side of an issue when you’ve put your opinions out there. As an example, CNN’s top political reporter (in my opinion), is very conservative in her personal politics. She doesn’t share that in her reporting, so it doesn’t affect her ability to cover stories — even though sources know her leanings. It’s tougher when people know where you stand.

    But the reason I was writing today is to express my shock! and outrage! to find out that you’re a racist Joe! You’d think after being friends for 17 years, you’d have had the courtesy to let me know that… I’ve been in your home, drank your beer, petted your dogs, hugged your lovely wife, laughed at your bad jokes… and now I find this out! The next time I see you, you’d better have the courtesy to at least use a racial slur.

    I say that to make the point that if anyone out there thinks JL is a racist, they need to get an MRI of their head immediately — because their brain is obviously missing. And I’ll be happy to meet anyone who fits that description to let them know in person.

  6. Joe this will surely stir up the nest, but here goes.

    Respectfully GM, journalistic integrity in the news business these days, who are we kidding? First, I don’t have a problem with someone OPENLY supporting or donating to a candidate. And who of us really believes that newsrooms, news directors, and managers don’t have bias. I am so sick of ND’s trying to say we are so objective. No you aren’t. You show bias in the very stories selected that air. How you fashion them in morning meetings, who you want picked for the SOT’s, which SOT airs, etc. I have no problem with this, just don’t try to pass it off otherwise.

    As long as the field is level and the information is out there, I have no problem with someone saying they are supporting candidate XYZ vs ABC. And again it’s a myth that it’s not happening anyway. But let’s put it all out there like just what happened for everyone to see. Though I must say canning a freelance cartoonist for this, that one really is a stretch.

    And like Doug – Joe I just can’t believe you are a racist. Just what vintage crack is that person accusing you of that smoking?


  7. Richard Says:

    As a reader of this blog and fondly remembering JL on television, I don’t believe he is a racist.
    This comes from a person who is in no way connected to the television business in any way.

  8. The GM Says:

    Mr. Stafford,
    Point well made. Bias exists in every aspect of our lives. My larger point is the reporter, producer, ND or GM has to be smarter than signing up to support a political campaign. Regardless of their objectivity, the perception will be a bias. It’s easier to not contribute than to straddle that thin line.

    The GM

    P.S. While I do not know Joe personally, I know he’s not a racist because I never see him at the meetings.
    Give me another rimshot Joe!

  9. autoegocrat Says:

    From my own personal experience, the cultivation of sources does not depend as much on your political leanings as it does on your willingness to simply listen and show respect toward your sources.

  10. Doug J. Says:

    Racists have MEETINGS!?? I’m gonna have to tell the rest of the brothers at OUR next meeting…

  11. Future Congressman Says:

    First a reporter hangs out a yacht with a Senator while he takes bribes from the FBI and now
    one of the anchors gives money to support a candidate. Both at channel 3 in Memphis. They report on new strict ethics policies for elected officials but they still have jobs where they want people to trust them with the public’s interests. What kind of rules does the station have? Why do they still have jobs? I can’t believe it is based on race. It should be based on common sense. Which these two must not have any.

  12. Jeff Says:

    I don’t see a problem with it as long as its done openly.Wreg does seem to have some under the table action like Omari on the yacht with the likes of Ford and “friends” identified 143 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 16 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.
    Journalists give campaign cash – Politics –

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