Local citizen confronts small-town newspaper with ethics breach

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Patrice Veit, a local citizen, refers to the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics in her complaint to the River Falls Journal, a small town newspaper. Veit's application of the SPJ Code is a good example of its practical use for citizens, as well as for journalists, in fostering communications between media outlets and readers, and core journalism values.

Patrice Veit, wrote to the River Falls Journal , River Falls, Wisconsin, Population 14,000, about a “stunning breach of journalistic ethics.” She states that “reporter Kyle Weaver wrote a letter to the editor for publication in the River Falls Journal. His letter,’Potshots are bad politics,’ lambasted Assembly candidate Sarah Bruch so harshly and inaccurately that it was comical.”

Veit continues, “Mr. Weaver identified himself only as being from Osceola and a UW-RF alumnus. What he carefully and purposely omitted was the fact that he does not vote in Ms. Bruch district, and in fact was at the recent debate as a reporter for the Osceola Sun newspaper.

“While Mr. Weaver is entitled to express his partisan political viewpoints, the professional journalists I know would never abide this breach of ethics. Kyle’s readers assumption of his objectivity is now forever tainted…

“I invite Mr. Weaver to visit the Society of Professional Journalists Website at www.spj.org and read its code of ethics. Potshots are bad journalism, too.”



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One Response

  1. Kyle Weaver says:

    Cute. I wasn’t aware of this until today, since I indeed don’t live in the River Falls area. If I was acting in my capacity as a reporter on behalf of the River Falls Journal, me writing an opinion piece would, perhaps warrant me disclosing that fact.

    As a reporter for the Osceola newspaper — which, indeed, as anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the area should know, is not in Bruch’s district — I did not offer ANY coverage of Bruch or her opponent. Zero coverage of either candidate is about as balanced and objective as it can get. The facts that I don’t live in the district and am a reporter don’t disentitle me from having an opinion, which is all a letter to the editor is.

    Perhaps Ms. Veit, a Bruch campaign contributor, might also have disclosed her $250 donations to the campaign in her letter, since full disclosure seems to be her ardent desire.

    Finally, I would say that those things presented as fact in my letter, about Ms. Bruch’s statements, are indeed true. There exists a videotape of the debate that could, of course, prove me correct. Here’s a copy of my original letter.

    Note the full disclosure of my residence in the signature: After a recent political debate sponsored by the Western Wisconsin Intergovernmental Cooperative, I concluded that State Assembly candidate Sarah Bruch could best serve the public by putting politics, and perhaps her candidacy, behind her. During the debate, Bruch kept continually sniping at incumbent Kitty Rhoades and the other Republican candidates, to the point where I felt embarrassed for her.

    While she was among seven other candidates on the dias, she was the only candidate who mentioned her party affiliation — and that of her opponent — more than once. Bruch continually used grating phrases like “my Republican opponent” and “my fellow Democrats” to introduce many of her thoughts, as if party affiliation alone would make her electable. It’s clear that Bruch knows where the aisle is; one can only wonder if she ever plans to cross it for the benefit of the taxpayers. Her attitude last Thursday seems to indicate she doesn’t.

    Kyle Weaver Osceola UWRF alumnus

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