Saturday, March 24, 2012

Appleton | Papers' staff snared after investigation; memo: 'serious matter' calls for 'serious measures'

From a Page One column in today's Post-Crescent of Appleton, Wis., by Genia Lovett, publisher of the paper and a regional vice president over Gannett's other nine Wisconsin newspapers:

Last week, the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team broke a story that appeared in the Post-Crescent, exposing 29 circuit court judges who signed petitions to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker. It was a story we were proud to bring to you. It was watchdog journalism in its finest sense, a role we take seriously.

Today, in the interest of full transparency, we are informing you that 25 Gannett Wisconsin Media journalists, including nine at the P-C, also signed the Walker recall petitions. It was wrong, and those who signed were in breach of Gannett's Principles of Ethical Conduct for Newsrooms.

The breakdown
In addition to the P-C's nine, the other staffers were at the Green Bay Press-Gazette (seven), the Oshkosh Northwestern (five) the Wausau Daily Herald (two), and The Sheboygan Press (one), according to one of my readers.

The memo
In an e-mail yesterday afternoon, Appleton's managing editor, Jamie Mara, alerted staffers to the impending news:

From: Mara, Jamie
Sent: Friday, March 23, 2012 4:49 PM
To: APC-News All
Cc: Lovett, Genia
Subject: Recall petition-PLEASE READ NOW


I want to alert you to a column from our president and publisher, Genia Lovett, that will appear on Saturday's Page A-1.

Genia will alert our readers to an ethical lapse by a number of newsroom employees in Appleton and at several other Gannett Wisconsin Media sites who signed public petitions in the Gov. Scott Walker recall efforts. The employees — none of whom are news reporters or assigning news editors — will not be named in the column.

As you know, in the new business, credibility is our most precious possession. Journalists must make every effort to avoid even the perception of bias. Gannett's Principles of Ethical Conduct for Newsrooms guide us in this vital mission.

Management became aware of the signatures this week after an outside source contacted one of the employees who had signed. We then checked a searchable database of petitions to determine the extent of the matter. The revelation came on the heels of this past Sunday's watchdog report by the newly created Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team that exposed the fact that at least 29 circuit court judges in Wisconsin signed the recall petitions.

So, what now?

This is a serious matter that calls for serious measures.

Aside from opening up to our readers via Genia's column, we are in the process of planning supplemental ethics training for all news employees. We need to ensure that everyone understands the Principles of Ethical Conduct and their practical applications. We also are in the process of addressing discipline.

In the meantime, I ask these things of each of you:
  • Do not respond to any media requests or other communication you might receive from outside our office in relation to this matter. Instead forward such items to me.
  • Review the principles below and recommit to them.
  • Do not let this throw us off course. Remain focused on the important work you do.
I am confident we will learn from the experience and emerge stronger.

Thank you



  1. So Fire them, that's policy

  2. And name them. If they seek future employment in a newsroom, employers and readers deserve to know. And somebody will do it anyway.

  3. 25 of 223 — more than one in ten!

    And to think of all the clueless "journalists" who show up here and blame everybody under the sun but themselves for the demise of the news business.

  4. Comments on the columns at all the sites are split, just as the actual recall has split the state.

    Common themes are: why does Gannett get in employees' business, we knew those liberals were slanting coverage, thanks for being forthcoming, how can you justify editorial endorsements while employees can't. There were even a few that who argued that NOT signing the recall was evidence of journalists' bias.

    While more than a few commenters have the usual confusion of what Freedom of Speech really is - (hope that's not too pedantic for some here) - several have pointed out the real difference that the privacy of the voting booth is entirely different than public signing of a recall, petition or nomination papers.

  5. Voting in a scheduled election is a civic act, whereas agitating to overturn the results of a fair election is an overtly political act.

    You could perhaps even make a case for supporting a recall that was based on undeniable malfeasance. But the anti-Walker campaign is purely ideological.

  6. Before they go on a witch hunt, I hope editors first review how carefully they instructed employees on the papers' ethics policies.

    And I'm talking about more than just sticking a form in front of someone and asking them to sign it to verify they read and understood the ethics policy.

    How often is the policy the subject of ongoing discussion in the newsroom? Is it part of the annual performance review process? Is it incorporated into any continuing training programs?

    1. You sound like a union steward. If there is a journalist that doesn't know this is wrong then they are in the wrong business. Come in Jim call a spade a spade. Are you afraid to offend and lose revenue

  7. It's cute that the form column by Lovett and used in the other Wisconsin papers only mention how many "journalists" signed but fails to mention how many total Gannett Wisconsin employees signed.
    The wall between editorial and advertising doesn't exist for the average person.
    So what if that guy works in circulation, he's an employee of the paper, he signed the recall, that shows the paper's liberal bias.
    At my site, we had ad reps who plastered their cars with McCain/Palin stickers. You can't tell that car belongs to a journalist or an ad rep when you see it sitting in the parking lot outside the newspaper's offices. You don't think a hardcore Democrat business is going to have reservations buying ads from a rep wearing her Republican colors on her sleeve? Or vice-versa?
    This is just a bunch of posturing on the part of Lovett and the GMs.

  8. Jim, the idea that working journalists shouldn't be able to understand what they are signing is laughable.

    If there was anyone on the staff who didn't know what their signature was going on, they should be fired immediately for gross incompetence.

    This isn't a lawyered-up jargonese 12 page epistle - if you can't understand "We will avoid potential conflicts of interest and eliminate inappropriate influence on content" then you couldn't possibly fathom any topic you might be covering.

    Ethics and potential conflicts should have been top of mind anyway at the P-C, where a local hot head recently complained about aldermen bringing election workers donuts, and the EE has won a statewide award for his ethics.

    The blame for this lapse lies squarely with the journalists who signed the petition, contradicting what they agreed to in return for a paycheck. Maybe they thought they could get away with it because nobody could find their name among the million-plus signatures submitted. They thought wrong.

  9. "How often is the policy the subject of ongoing discussion in the newsroom? Is it part of the annual performance review process? Is it incorporated into any continuing training programs?"

    Let's put it this way, we get emails every year directing us to be mindful of what we wear to work as the weather gets warmer but the recall was never brought up until these columns ran.

  10. I find it odd the executive editor has not been heard from on the issue. Hmmmm.

  11. EE on furlough

  12. Jim, they know how the policies work. But you just go ahead and claim ignorance as a defense. That's worked well for you in the past.

  13. Genia Lovett is a member of the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Sooner or later, the P-C will cover that group.

    Why is her involvement not a conflict of interest for her and the paper?

  14. 2:16 Please re-read my post. I'm asking who serious the paper is about these ethics policies: Do the editors merely pay lip service once a year, or do they take additional steps to show their commitment?

  15. You get reminders about what to wear in hot weather because the rest of the building freezes while you guys on the second floor wear obnoxious shorts and cry how hot it is.

  16. So, when do we see the admission from the publishers about how much Gannett has donated to candidates?

    Also, it's funny how Kevin Corrado and Genia used the exact same words to express what happened in Green Bay and Appleton. I knew Gannettoids were clones, but...

  17. The idea that adults have to be reminded yearly of the basic tenet of their career - impartial reporting - is ridiculous.

  18. The Wisconsin papers function as a group, the investigation team was a group project and the initial story was from the group team. If the columns at all the sites weren't identical, that would be a problem - especially as you know this column was vetted by corporate legal.

    By putting their name to the column, all the publishers/g.m.'s are taking responsibility for the statement as company officers.

  19. It seems no reporters signed the petition, but there are many non-news employees at news organizations who routinely display political bumper stickers and do things like this.

    While an argument, and a good argument, can be made that they should be allowed self-expression, that is overtaken by the appearance of bias it gives the entire organization.

    Look at this thread, where even though the memo makes clear reporters were not involved, people are attacking the "journalists" who would do this.

    It is clearly against the ethics policy for ANY news media employee to do something like this, and should be a condition of employment.

    Not that the folks here should be fired; enforcement of these things is often uneven. But this should be a clear wake-up call.

  20. Chain journalism, chain error, chain apology.

    Maybe if the papers had kept some of their veterans instead of dumping them off and hiring cheap young labor, there might be somebody there who was respected who could tell the kids what to do and what not to do.

  21. The actual graf from the published story reveals they are journalists - not clerks or sales reps:

    "It is of little consolation to us that none of the news employees who signed petitions is involved with directing or reporting political news coverage. (None of the employees serves on the investigative team, nor are any of the Appleton employees reporters or assigning news editors.) The fact that any of our 223 Wisconsin news employees signed the petition is disheartening."

  22. Does anyone know exactly who signed and how long they have been journalists? Seems like Ray is just spouting off without knowing details. Ray, what's your journalism background, by the way?

  23. Roy Barrington - did just a quick check on people in Appleton - more respected veterans signed than noobies.

  24. 2:27 If there is confusion in this thread about who did what, perhaps it is because Lovett wrote: "We are informing you that 25 Gannett Wisconsin Media journalists, including nine at the P-C, also signed the Walker recall petitions."

    My emphasis added.

  25. 25 out of 223 - journalists/ writers/ editors/ etc.

    I think there's over 1200 of us in the state with Gannett on our W2, if that helps clear things up. The rest of us can sign whatever we want, it's just the 223 that have the higher bar.

  26. Hed's wrong Jim, the papers' expose didn't snare their own staff, it was an inquiry from an outside source to a signatory that initially raised the issue.

  27. Stupid decision to sign the petition or have any kind of bias bumper sticker. Jurno 101 boys and girls. ethics policy signed annually to make sure people are clear. im one of the first to side vs. this company and its stupidity. but not when it comes to this. these people should have known better.

  28. 2:55 I believe I've now fixed it.

  29. Anonymous 2:41, what's YOUR background?

  30. Come on folks, you learn ethics in Journalism 101. You do not sign petitions, period. You do not take freebees. If you believe strongly in a cause you make sure you stay away from the story so there is no conflict of interest. A radio reporter in Detroit was fired for wearing an Obama T-shirt on the job during the last campaign. The biggest concern is NOT checking your feelings and beliefs at the door. And we wonder why no one believes us anymore. I have been in journalism for 30 years, most with Gannett, and it was clear you do not cross over the line. Some did and when they get caught they paid for it -- and knew full well they were wrong.

    1. Doesn't checking your beliefs at the door pretty much say you can do what you want when you are NOT at work though?

  31. "The employees — none of whom are news reporters or assigning news editors . . . ." So who were they? Features/sports reporters? Copy editors?

    Query: Have any of you current/former Gannettoids ever known of a policy prohibiting political bumper stickers on all employees' cars?

    In my 30+ years in journalism with three corporate owners, I don't remember such a stated or written policy.

  32. One would have thought that as soon as the petitions began circulating (and they were being circulated on almost every street-corner in Wisconsin), company-wide memo would have reminded all staff to stay out of the fray. Now one wonders what punishment will be dispensed? Another week of furlough?

  33. 4:46 pm: Your query is insightful. That's because there is no Gannett policy regarding that exact behavior. I'm surprised at how many on this blog don't realize that, and I wonder how well they understand the Gannett principles of ethics.

    Download (if they're still on the site) the principle from the home site. I hope it hasn't been changed. There is a short one given out annually and a longer list of ethical rules for half-day training for new employees and occasional training.

    Frankly, how involved journalists or other news employee may be in politics has always varied to some degree at each site. Managers had to follow different rules than reporters; reporters followed different rules than clerks throughout an operation.

    Aside from the obvious conflicts, etc., many levels of involvement are nuanced and handled depending upon the circumstances.

    I see no reason why a sports reporter should check his/her rights to express his/her opinion through the democratic process in a professional manner.

    As opposed to a political editor/reporter being involved in let's say the signing of a petition or displaying their political beliefs while covering an opposing party. AND FOLKS, this has and does happen often at Gannett sites --- and I'm sure more news sites than people want to admit.

  34. Wow journalists clearly violate a basic building block of journalism and many of you can't find the ability to say they were wrong? Wrong is wrong. Why cant you say so? It's an editir's fault for not clearly explaining a piece of paper? This is what's wrong today, no personal responsibility.

  35. 6:22. Tuerenismno grey area here. Even the appearance of crossing the ethics line, you just don't do it. Gannett ain't yo mama. It's basic journalism standards. The fact that Gannett requires is to sign an ethics form every year nmay not spell out the fact that you don't sign a petition, but this is akin to a company telling you to wipe yourself when you get off the toilet. It's a no brainer.

    I don't understand the issue here. Why is this so difficult for people to understand? You don't open yourself up to appearance of bias. Is Gannett supposed to remind you to wipe after visiting the toilet, too?

  36. At least half of the folks that signed that I've looked up do absolutely no writing for the paper/web. Should they be held to the same ethics standards as a journalist?

  37. I'd also like to know who they are if not reporters and assigning editors....No one in the newsroom should be signing petitions for anything, but what positions do these people hold?

  38. Could we agree on this?

    The problem wasn't signing a recall petition per se. It was signing a petition where the identities of the signers were going to be made public.

    Indeed, as Lovett said in her column today, some of the journalists said after the fact that "they equated it to casting a ballot in an election."

    They well have thought that, like voting in an election, their opinion would have been kept confidential -- in which case, there wouldn't be the appearance of a conflict of interest.

    Did those gathering signatures make clear that the names, addresses and other identifying information about the signers could wind up in the general public record?

    1. No, it was not made clear it would be public when signing.

  39. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  40. Wrong, 8:25. It was made clear early and often that it was public. The law was explicit and widely reported. Even if you didn't know that, perhaps it should have been clear when you signed and could see on the petition form THE SIGNATURES,PRINTED NAMES AND ADDRESSES of others who had signed before you.

  41. Here's a site to see who signed and here's a link to the paper's staff list

    I see four editors on this, an assistant sports editor, a print operations editor (whatever the hell that is) and the photo editor and assistant photo editor.

    The first two don't seem like a big deal.

    The last two seem like a really big deal unless the photo editors somehow don't assign or edit photos, which seems weird.

  42. Is it just me or is it really hard to tell who does what there based on titles?

  43. Sheboygan has a "First Amendment Editor" who is basically an overpaid reporter. So yeah, titles don't mean squat around here.

  44. 8:50 Turning a reporter into an editor is an easy way to avoid paying overtime.

  45. Okay, so when newspapers endorse a candidate, how is that different?

  46. Jim @ 9:32:

    You have changed your tune 180 degrees on that issue. It came up about a year ago, and at that time, you were defending all the people who either wanted to trash management or were too afraid to file an unfair labor practices lawsuit based on number of hours. (Deducing the motivations of the complainers here can be tough.)

    Whatever the reason, you and others were claiming there weren't specific rules for salaried workers. Then proof was posted, and you and others were suddenly quiet.

  47. Westchester had a written policy against bumper stickers on employees' personal vehicles.

    I wonder how many of those who signed the petition were taking the buyout and what the fallout will be regarding this.

    Knowing Gannett, they will be fired to avoid paying them the buyout package.

  48. I once brought up the topic of newspaper employees plastering cars with stickers supporting political candidates during an ethics training session. I was not prepared to the response I received from the EE and other long-term journos in that meeting. They all seemed to share the opinion that it was an acceptable practice. I questioned how it might appear to the average citizen who doesn't differentiate between advertising and news employees. It seemed as though it was a topic that no one could even fathom why it would be a potential ethical bees nest.

  49. I think the rule should be wide ranging, that NO ONE who works in any capacity at a newspaper should be allowed to have a political bumper sticker or anything like that.

    Readers don't know womeone is a clerk or pressman, they just know they work at the local paper. The appearance of bias is just too strong.

  50. To complete the breakdown: there also was 1 at the Door County Advocate(bi-weekly in Sturgeon Bay). The person affected was on furlough and likely found out from the public flogging that ran today.

  51. EE Stew Rieckman of Oshkosh's Northwestern is answering reader's questions online. Like what he says or not, at least he's out there. Here's an interesting comment he made:

    The question of a news professional signing a recall petition is uncharted territory for us. We decided that it more closely resembled publicly supporting a candidate than casting a vote in the privacy of the voting booth.

    Meanwhile, the Post Crescent editors are quiet. But the site does have its usual T&A at the top, so all is well.

  52. 10:14 I've never said there weren't any rules governing exempt vs. non-exempt. What I've said is the rules aren't followed consistently.

  53. 11:12, what paper did this happen at?

  54. Kevin's column suggests there were only 25 total that signed. In my area I found 2 more who signed the recall (so I don't consider this column accurate) and I am sure there were many more employees--had HR looked up names of people in other departments. When THAT gets out people are going to be really ticked. Instead of shedding more light it confuses the issue by not naming what position/dept the people are in.

  55. 2:16, who is Kevin?

    9:53, no. Just no. Don't start dragging in the irrelevant comparisons. They have nothing to do with this issue.

  56. "Kevin" Corrado is the pres/publisher of the Door County Advocate,Green Bay Press Gazette and Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter--these are the other papers besides Appleton and Oshkosh where this column also ran:|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

    For those in large metro areas, I don't think you grasp how this affects community journalism. I agree journalists should have known better. If you want to fire or reprimand then do so.
    It's the one size-fits all mentality by management that Gannett just doesn't seem to grasp.
    In community papers...everybody knows who these people's the picture: you have a small town sports editor, lived here forever, whose significant other is a teacher. Have some appreciation for their moral dilemma.
    But now, with this are the REST of us supposed to hold our heads up on Monday? For a small town paper, this is like hanging bedwetting sheets on a clothesline. Embarassing, humiliating...there is no healing or clearing the air.
    For those not in Wisconsin, this issue has so completely chopped up ideologies that many lifelong Republicans signed that petition. And many Dems think Gov Walker is doing a good thing by bringing down costs. We live in crazytown right now.

  57. How is Gannett Wisconsin's Super Sunday promotion not a blur between advertising and editorial? Touting tons of expanded home listings, with a convenient story saying how great the market is.

  58. I am not a journalist, but I've always limited my public politicizing, out of respect for the newspaper where I worked, and the journalists who tried to maintain impartiality.

    Now my job has been taken away from the local paper, and I work directly for Gannett, in group that does not have any journalistic capacity at all. Since I stopped working for a newspaper, and started working for Gannett, I have not seen any updated ethics information. Are the rules different for GCS, CSS, and other non-newspaper units?

  59. Hey commenters: Please note that Mara very clearly said the people signing the petitions were NOT "news reporters or assigning news editors"! The ethics rules are repeated frequently to newsroom people, but maybe not so much to other employees. In fact, the document is titled "Principles of Ethical Conduct for Newsrooms". Honestly, I think this is an issue created by Walker's very vocal machine. My state has a similar "truth squad" that defends the governer and issues news releases after any critical coverage of the governor. However, it would have been smart for the Wisconsin journos to check the entire signaure database and disclose this situation up front.

  60. Just because somebody asked (I didn't see that response until this morning) I'm an unemployed ex-print journalist now looking for something more stable, like making buggy whips or installing rotary-dial phones. I also worked for two Gannett-owned newspapers and two that are now owned by Gannett over more than 30 years. OK, so I was wrong over it being the new-kids, but I hope I can be excused because I've just been out of Gannett since 2006, and I see almost no familiar bylines any more.

    In looking at this with some perspective, I wouldn't be surprised if journalists have signed similar petitions in the past (disclosure - I never did, mostly because I disagree with recalls except in the case of criminal action, such as the area mayor who had more than one drunk driving arrest.). But things have gotten so crazy in Wisconsin that everybody is grabbing at every little thing attached to the issues, and while nobody would even have bothered looking at the petitions in the past, they're very visible this time, and these things have come up. I really think that if many of the signers, journalists or not, had known the pages were going to be on the interwebs, they would not have signed.

    In retrospect, having had some time to consider this, I don't think it's a firing offense. Under past circumstances, nobody would have known. Now that we know how petty the whole process has become, everybody has been pre-warned. Make a new rule at the papers, and let it go.

  61. Speaking as a former Gannett employee in Wisconsin who signed the recall petition, the journalists who signed the ethics code AND the petition should be terminated. They are educated, professional adults who knew the rules -- and broke them! This story tells me one thing: do not trust Gannett newspapers in Wisconsin. There are two other newspapers in Wisconsin where you may find fair, impartial news. End of discussion.

  62. Has anyone outed this editorial staffers yet? It would be a lot easier to separate fact from rumor if you knew names and positions within newsrooms. Are we talking about copyeditors, news clerks, web designers, sports staff? How about a bit of sunshine.

  63. Clear and simple: if you sign a document in 2012, you have to know that the document will find its way online in some way, shape or form. If you signed the ethics code aAND signed the recall petition, you are in violation of Gannett's policy and should be terminated. It's time for these journalists to take a stand. Why are we not hearing from them? Is it okay to break company policy when signing the recall petition, but it's not okay to break company policy by speaking about this issue? The whole matter sounds hypocritical to me.

  64. Ray Barrington said...
    Just because somebody asked...

    Tony Walter at the Press Gazette is no spring chicken! He apparently adhered to the code of ethics.

  65. The wheels are falling off. The merry-go-round at this circus is no longer circling. I have a solution: Let's get some big wigs to come in and "fix" the problem. Ha ha.

  66. Being lectured by any Gannett executive on ethics is like being lectured by Hitler on courtesy.

  67. Excuse me, a signature on a petition is NOT an expression of political views. It is a constitutionally protected right and no employer has the right to "discipline" any employee for exercising that right. Do you demand your employees not vote as well?

  68. I smell me a rat with floppy ears and a trunk for a nose.

  69. That's nothing, the Publisher of the Arizona Republic was on the Fiesta Bowl committee while the paper reported on then breaking news about all sorts of illegal things and the Manager of a local newspaper under the same Publisher was on the Board of Directors of the Scottsdale Chamber while they were being sued for what was also determined to be illegal. Nobody cares, nobody's held accountable, this is Gannett.

  70. We still have journalists working for this company? I thought we replaced them all with content producers.

  71. Bravo to anonymous who posted "a signature on a petition is NOT an expression of political views. It is a constitutionally protected right and no employer has the right to "discipline" any employee for exercising that right. Do you demand your employees not vote as well?"

    Are Gannett employees allowed to vote? Does Gannett tell them who to vote for?

  72. NLRB records show that the CWA union recently disclaimed interest as the bargaining agent for Appleton P-C employees. I'm curious whether that event has any bearing on this story -- whether and how the union in the past might have negotiated the scope of the ethics policy, how that might have influenced people's decision to sign or not sign, and whether the loss of the union may have given A P-C management greater latitude to enforce the policy more strictly.

    If you wish to respond, you can do so here or by using the email address at my website.

  73. Is it ethical for two of these papers to shill for a tech school referendum, in the guise of legit news stories? Is it ethical for one of these papers to shill for a public school referendum, in the guise of legit news stories? They've both editorialized positively on both counts.

  74. 7:59 a.m., perhaps you are unaware. Gannett is more powerful than any constitutionally granted power. Gannett is the all-powerful Oz and we are but a bunch of munchkins.

  75. Two recent comments here are pretty ridiculous. Of course, signing a political petition is a constitutionally protecrted right. That is not the issue. The issue is that if you work for a newspaper, you do not get involved in politics -- pure and simple. I've written about politics for 25 years and have never even thought about signing a petition. It is simply an ethical violation.

  76. Walter Eagle3/26/2012 9:45 PM

    I've been reviewing Gannett Newspaper Division guidelines on ethical news-gathering conduct for newsrooms. A few things that stand out to me.
    We will uphold First Amendment principles to serve the democratic process.

    Acting with integrity

    We will act honorably and ethically in dealing with news sources, the public and our colleagues.

    We will obey the law.

    We will observe common standards of decency.

    We will take responsibility for our decisions and consider the possible consequences of our actions.

    We will be conscientious in observing these Principles.

    We will always try to do the right thing.

    Now I don't expect the document to be all inclusive, but you do need to be clear of which particular ethics have been violated.

  77. Maybe it's time to consider a new model. For years, publishers have prevented working journalists from exercising their constitutional rights, while delighting in endorsing candidates for office or advocating for positions in referendum elections in the newspaper. Is it really unreasonable for people to believe that professionals can separate their workplace ethics and personal opinions? Reporters have swallowed the industry baloney -- in the guise of ethics -- for too long. It's an antique.

  78. 3/24/2012 2:32 PM: I take it you're one of those "veterans" who was "dumped" so "young kids" could be hired.

    Thanks for reminding me that a few select employees in Appleton revert to ageist attacks instead of having intelligent discourse.

    Until recently, Appleton had a union in place that protected those "veterans" at the cost of the rest of the newsroom (401K match included).

    Those “veterans” asked for, and received in their contract, a blanket and irrelevant measure of “seniority” for layoffs. Pssh. Who needs a free 401K match? Who wants to be measured based on their work or their annual review?

    Not them. They'd rather ditch the 401K match and even take endless pay cuts. I think they liked being that martyr who can complain about "veterans" vs. "young kids."

    Bravo to those who finally shed themselves of that union and returned the focus to quality of work and working conditions, instead of seniority.

    P.S. Think you're such a valuable "veteran"? Try a little investigation yourself. You'll find those who signed this are NOT the "young kids."

    Now, back to the real point of this thread: AMEN to 3/24/2012 2:27 PM!

    “It seems no reporters signed the petition, but there are many non-news employees at news organizations who routinely display political bumper stickers and do things like this.

    “While an argument, and a good argument, can be made that they should be allowed self-expression, that is overtaken by the appearance of bias it gives the entire organization.”

  79. Gannets ethics rules are shite. The goal is simply to hush the voices of its workers. It is our job as human beings to do what is right and those that signed the petition were following their ethics, which are much stronger than those of the company they work for.

  80. 3/27/2012 12:53 AM:

    You don't believe in making sure our company has the credibility to succeed and maintains fairness in reporting news?

    Do yourself and the rest of us a fair, and quit now. We don't need your kind.

  81. 1:18, that is a laudable goal that only works if the people making the rules also obey them.

    It was pointed out on the Facebook comments that Lovett is a member of the Chamber of Commerce. How is that not a conflict of interest?

    If Gannett wants its employees to obey rules of ethics, then they have to be the ones to set the example for them. Not make up a list of rules that only certain people have to follow.

  82. One EE said this was uncharted territory for them AFTER it happened. Perhaps they should have looked into it BEFORE the recall vote started, knowing how opinionated journalists are.

  83. First of all, Gannett saying anything about bad ethics is laughable. Gannett has no standing to talk about anyone else's ethics.

    Second, it is unfair, unreasonable and, yes, unethical to demand your employees give up a political voice of any kind. Signing a petition is not the same thing as campaigning or voting. Signing a petition merely states you support the right of people to bring matters to a vote. You can sign a petition to put something on a ballot and then vote against it once it is actually on the ballot. I have signed many petitions for politicians I would never vote for, simply because I believe democracy works best when a greater number of people are actively engaged in it.

    Third, can we please stop believing this nonsense that if we only don't sign petitions or have a bumper sticker or a lawn sign that we are unbiased? We're not. Everyone in the world is biased, and everyone else in the world knows it. What does it matter if you have a bumper sticker or not? What's in your heart and head is still in there. We should not be aiming for pretending to have no bias. We should be aiming to be fair despite our biases.

    I'm happily one of the 700 let go in June and happier yet to be working now in politics. I always said that the minute I was no longer a journalist, I would fill my yard with political signs for just about anyone. I hated being among the political castrati class. It's a farce that fools no one, except maybe the people taking part in the charade.

  84. Bravo, 4:58! Right on the mark.

  85. The biggest irony is Gannett's underlying pro-Walker, anti-union bias that started with the "investigative" piece about judges who signed the petition.

    Gannett created a straw man, a flawed premise that it's naughty for anyone to act in good civic conscience if it's unfavorable to the corporate elite. No one who signs any petition is naughty.

    In a democratic society, it's every citizen's responsibility to weigh in on civic matters. In some countries, anyone who doesn't vote, including journalists, are fined. Several of these crazy comments portray those who signed the petition as subversives, and yet it's they who are being goaded by Gannett's bias.

    The judge story wasn't watchdog journalism. It's a McCarthyesque witch hunt. It's a warning to everyone who might sign such petitions that Walker devotees will find them and humiliate them.

    Remember, this is the country where the Supreme Court stopped a recount so its nine members alone chose a president in 2000. Let's not kid ourselves about what's really in danger.

    I'm far more worried about the chilling effect of silencing journalists and repressing political expression than I am about any risk of perception of bias.

  86. 11:02 PM - Hilarious comment. Easy on the Kool-Aid, Comrade.

    Those who try to excuse this episode merely hasten the final demise of the news business, and justify the public's suspicion and low regard.

    As stated above, "journalists" blame everybody under the sun but themselves.

  87. Signing a petition. Whoah. At one site, the editor in charge of the state university beat gets paid to teach at the state university.

  88. Kevin Boneske4/07/2012 3:06 PM

    About the only thing "transparent" in Green Bay Press-Gazette Publisher Kevin Corrado's recent column concerning the Gannett "journalists" who signed petitions to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is that people should be able to see through Corrado's self-serving spin and notice Gannett has a double standard for publishing what is contained in public records.

    While Gannett published the names of judges found on the petitions, the megacorporation wouldn't come clean about its own "journalists" whose names can also be found on those same public records. A searchable database with those names can be found on-line at:, which also contains copies of the recall petitions themselves.

    The not-so-hidden political agenda of these "journalists" is something Gannett is less than forthcoming about. Corrado assumed the editorial position in an effort to try to cover Gannett's hide, rather than identify these "journalists" by name in the interest of full disclosure. Spouting boilerplate baloney about "Gannett's principles of ethical conduct" is clearly phony.

    The actions of what Gannett reports or doesn't report concerning the effort to recall Walker speak louder than Corrado's self-serving words. Over the next two months, will Gannett obtain the public records to publish the salaries and benefits of public employees behind the recall effort and also report how much more property taxpayers could pay in the event what the state Legislature enacted last year is overturned? Salaries and benefits typically account for the overwhelming majority of a public school district's expenses, for example.

    As for the "ethics training" Corrado alluded to in his column, required reading for all Gannett employees should be William McGowan's "Coloring the News." Subtitled "How Political Correctness has Corrupted American Journalism," McGowan's book includes examples of how Gannett's misguided management has tainted its news coverage.

    Hopefully Gannett will follow state labor standards related to any "disciplinary measures" those signing the recall petitions might face. I know of at least one instance in the past five years when the megacorporation was investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and found in violation of state labor standards after Gannett improperly released personnel records containing false accusations to smear a former employee.

  89. Kevin Boneske, it's disingenuous to say 'I know of at least one instance... etc' when you're referring to yourself, as a quick Google search will reveal.

    Your words: "In 2007 I filed a labor standards complaint against Gannett with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development after the megacorporation resorted to smear tactics against me. The DWD found Gannett violated state employment regulations after improperly releasing false accusations about me contained in personnel records I disputed."

    Any particular reason the DWD's website has nothing listed under your name, though a search for Gannett shows references to an unrelated court case going back to 1994?

    Maybe it's time to put Kewaunee County behind you, it's a healthier life not to dwell.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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