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?
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.