Panhandle (W.Va.) Grassroots for Democracy

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Publisher has no journalism ethics

Anytime the president of the United States, even one as unpopular as George W. Bush, arrives in a small town it is big news.

However, the ethically challenged Ogden newspaper chain in West Virginia stepped so over the line from covering the news to being a Bush cheerleader that GOP water carrier and alleged Washington Post media critic Howie Kurtz called it a blunder (albeit in rather tepid criticism).

From the Wheeling Intelligencer:

Bush will be in Wheeling on Wednesday, March 22, to conduct a town hall meeting on the War on Terror. No time for the event has been released, though the visit is tentatively scheduled to take place at the Capitol Music Hall.

A number of local businesses are underwriting the event. Among them are The Ogden Newspapers Inc., Valley National Gases Inc., Paull Associates Insurance/Real Estate, EPS Industries Inc., Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp., Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming Center and Beyond Marketing.

"We are extremely pleased to have the president in Wheeling again, and we are pleased to help underwrite the expenses," said Robert Nutting, president and chief executive officer of Ogden Newspapers. "Terry Sterling (chamber president) has done a great job of pulling together the logistics and details of the visit.

A questioner asked Kurtz about this in the Post 's online chat:

Wheeling, W.Va.: Last week President Bush visited my hometown of Wheeling, West Virgina for a town hall meeting. The local publisher, Ogden Newspapers, proudly listed itself as a "sponsor" of the visit, along with the local Chamber of Commerce and some other businesses. The papers (yes, we still have morning and afternoon papers, both owned by Ogden) had numerous articles over the course of about a week before and after the visit, as well as several editorials. I would characterize the coverage as supportive of the President to the point of giddiness. I have to say that I was surprised by this - not so much by the editorializing, as the editorial pages of the Ogden papers have always been quite conservative - but by the papers' sponsorship of the visit and the cheerleading news articles. What do you think of the publishing company's sponsorship? Why would a presidential visit even need a sponsor? And what does this say about the papers' ability to cover the visit fairly?

Howard Kurtz: I had not heard that the papers co-sponsored the Bush visit. What a journalistic blunder. Why compromise yourself in that fashion when it's a big local story that your reporters will have to cover?

I can vouch for the questioner's characterization of Ogden newspapers. The local rag I subscribe to, the Martinsburg Journal, is owned by the same company.

Of course, Kurtz is handed a perfect example of the corporate media showing their support for Bush once again. Does he follow up this tip with a story about the media's conservative bias? Or will he ignore it like he has many other examples as he writes another story parrotting GOP talking points about the media out to get Bush?

I think we know the answer to that one.


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