Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Not Good Enough Indeed

Gretchen Shuldt Doege, author of Milwaukee Rising, wrote another post regarding l'Affaire PaddyMac, in which our local right wing columnist and Republican talking point point man has been giving previews of his columns long before they appear on JSOnline or in the paper. With her expressed permission, I reproduce her post here in its entirety:

The JS letters editor and first vice president of the local Newspaper Guild, Sonya Jongsma Knauss, tells readers of Blogging Blue that the JS’ ethic policy does not apply to columnists.

“First, the ethics agreement refers to articles, not columns,” she writes.

So it’s OK for Patrick McIlheran to disclose the contents of his column well in advance of publication to his conservative buddies, plus Jay Bullock?

So then columnist Dan Bice can ship his stuff around town ahead of publication? Columnist Jim Stingl can do that? Columnist Tim Cuprisin? Really? That’s news to me. If I, a subscriber, request that McIlheran and the rest of JS columnists provide to me their columns in advance of publication, can I do that in the name of equal treatment? Or are they allowed to pick and choose who gets an advance look? Is Paddy Mac giving non-subscribers preferential treatment (or punishment, depending on how you view his writings) over people who plunk down cash for their papers?

And is a column really not an article? Generally, but not always, a column is not a story — but to argue that a column is not an article doesn’t match the definitions of “article” that popped when I Googled. And are average readers are supposed to be able to slice that finely the semantic pie Sonya has laid before them?

Sonya suggests that Paddy Mac may have sent his column out after the 7 p.m. day-before posting at JS online, but he actually sent it out several hours before that.

Sonya also writes that the Newspaper Guild doesn’t officially recognize the ethics policy, something else the average reader would have no clue about. By the way, is the right wing Paddy Mac a Guild member?

The explanations are not good enough. If the JS exempts certain staffers from its ethics policy, it needs to clearly say so so readers can understand — with no hidden caveats — what they are getting.

“It is a permitted practice for Journal Sentinel editorial board members and columnists to disclose the contents of their work in advance of publication to a select few most likely to support their points of view.”

Something like that. But is that really something the JS wants to live with?

Indeed. Where do we go to get our advance copies? I also am a paying subscriber to MSJ. I expect to have the same rights and privileges as other subscribers. If not allowed that, where is my discount?

It is a sad commentary when the only local newspaper is no longer satisfied by reporting the news, but is apparently trying to unfairly influence the course of events.


  1. Of course, the real suckers here are the bloogers who, eager to scoop, will be writing their promotion of Paddy's stories before the ink hits newsprint. The following Sunday, the J-S can use bits from the same bloggers to fill a column on the opinion page - for free! it's like getting two columnists for the price of one.

  2. First, Gretchen mischaracterizes what I said (I left a comment on her moderated blog and am not sure whether she posted yet).

    Second, the blogs roundup no longer runs in Crossroads, so Foust's speculation is also wrong.

  3. the blogs roundup no longer runs in Crossroads

    Much to my great chagrin and disappointment. Those selections were always a fine source of entertainment.

  4. Now that you mention it, I guess I haven't missed it. Once upon a time, it's what drew me to pay attention to the online blogging world. Such idiocy, distilled into a few sentences, reprinted for all the world to see!

    So you're saying that Paddy just sends his column out to hear the adulations of the faithful, or does he use the improved hit counts on his web pages to validate his existence to the big boss?

    Do you think he included Folkbum on purpose or by accident?

  5. Would also be nice if Paddy's columns were fact checked.

    Opinion is one thing. Being misinformed or being mendacious is another.