Twenty-five Gannett Wisconsin Media employees signed a political petition asking for Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker to be recalled from office, according to reports from several Gannett-owned Wisconsin newspapers. According to the Wausau Daily Herald, Gannett Wisconsin Media has “223 journalists.”
The reports from the Gannett newspapers, including the Oshkosh Northwestern, the Sheboygan Press, the Wausau Daily Herald, The Appleton Post-Crescent, The Green Bay Press Gazette and others, all contained similar copy disclosing if any of its journalists were part of the group that signed the petition and noting that the journalists “exercised poor judgment.”
For example, Gannett-owned Oshkosh Northwestern disclosed that five of its “news employees” signed the Scott Walker recall petition. The Northwestern noted that “none of the Northwestern news employees who signed petitions are involved with reporting or editing or assigning political coverage.”
Calling the action “wrong” and a violation of the company’s ethics code, the Northwestern reminded that its journalists are to avoid participating in “political activity.”
The Northwestern added that Gannett is trying to be transparent about this incident by reporting on it, but the company is not naming the people who signed it because they don’t have any “direct responsibility for political reporting – writing or editing.” Moving forward, the Northwestern said that it is “in the process of addressing discipline and reviewing supplemental ethics training for all news employees.” The Northwestern noted that “some of” the employees who signed the petition didn’t see the action as “political activity.”
In a similar report, the Sheboygan Press disclosed that one of its journalists signed the petition, and noted that the journalist isn’t a “decision-making” in political coverage.
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The Appleton Post-Crescent added in its report on the issue that nine of its journalists signed the petition. According to the Post-Crescent, “none of the employees serve on the investigative team, nor are any of the Appleton employees reporters or assigning news editors.”
The Wausau Daily Herald wrote that two of its journalists — a copy editor/page designer and news clerk — signed the petition.
The Herald Times reported that none of its employees signed the petition.
See here Gannett’s “Principles of Ethical Conduct.” The ethics guidelines include:
- “We will remain free of outside interests, investments or business relationships that may compromise the credibility of our news report.
- “We will avoid potential conflicts of interest and eliminate inappropriate influence on content.”