In “not-so-surprising fashion”, the locally owned Gannett newspaper has chosen their candidates for City Council At-Large. While they’re justifying picking winners, and then rationalizing their chosen candidates, there are several candidate ads displayed on their pages. Does this present a conflict of interest? Double standards?
We think so, and so do readers across the country. According to the 2011 Pew Research study, those asked about local newspapers, owned by large media conglomerates, believe their views are influenced by powerful people, or large organizations.
We’re not taking anything away from the candidates they picked, but when candidates pay the newspaper upwards of $750 for advertising space, there is an inherent “conflict of interest”. Are we bias since we offer an alternative view? I don’t think so, and here’s why – choosing candidates violates their own ethical standards. According to the canon of ethics written by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), Article 3 states:
Independence. Journalists must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety as well as any conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict. They should neither accept anything nor pursue any activity that might compromise or seem to compromise their integrity.
So, according to their own ethical principles, if they want to accept advertising dollars from political candidates, they should avoid choosing candidates. Their objectivity has been questioned for decades, and the newspaper’s 20% approval rating is worse than most political candidates (which is quite ironic). If they want to regain the trust back from the public, they should follow their own ethics, and refuse to accept advertising dollars from political candidates, or stop picking “winners”.
However, after last weeks release of exorbitant salaries and benefits paid to Gannett’s CEO rewarding him for poor leadership, does anybody truly believe they will change this policy?
History points to their double standard, and once they became more interested in serving shareholders, the boardroom, and Wall Street, they lost their objectivity, and then lost their credibility soon afterward.