Wednesday, January 8, 2014

In The Interest Of Full Disclosure

It's funny how some things work.

Like how every time there is a negative story about Scott Walker, Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel just happens to come up with a story to take the heat off of Walker.

For example, when I broke the story about how Walker sent out a fundraising email telling people to forgo buying Christmas presents for their children and sending him the money instead, Bice came out a few days later - just as my story was getting international attention - to say that Walker threw an aide under the campaign bus for some tweets she sent three years ago, before she was even working for Walker.

Bice's willingness to go along unquestioningly with this damage control story served it's purpose - it effectively distracted people from Walker's misstep.

More recently, a story appeared in Milwaukee Magazine which reported on the many blunders and corporate kowtowing of Walker's DNR Secretary Kathy Stepp.  This, of course, served as an embarrassment to Walker.

So here comes Bice to the rescue, by practicing some McCarthyism and pointing out that the freelance write who penned the article had signed a recall petition. The horror of it all!
Yet among all the topics covered in the the 5,600-word story, Ginsberg-Schutz makes no mention of the fact that she herself had signed the Walker recall petition in late 2011. Walker fended off an effort to remove him from office in a June 2012 election.

Asked why she omitted this detail, the writer -- who dubs herself an "independent journalist" -- referred questions to Kurt Chandler, editor of Milwaukee Magazine.
Bice went on to badger Milwaukee Magazine editor Kurt Chandler, who, to his credit, stuck to his guns and squashed Bice's attempts at getting a gotcha moment:
Chandler raised a number of questions when asked about disclosing the recall signature.

For instance, he asked, should a political writer disclose how he has voted when covering a political contest? Must a reporter make public that she has had an abortion when writing about women's health? And what are the disclosure rules for a Mormon reporting on gay rights issues?

"Reporters are citizens as well as journalists," Chandler wrote. "I don’t believe a reporter’s credibility is compromised by his or her political or moral views. My role as a magazine editor is to weed out bias without tamping down tone, voice, style and, yes, even point of view (which is much different than bias) – ingredients of a well-written and well-balanced story."
Bice ended his article by pointing out that no MJS reporters signed the recall petitions, claiming it was a violation of the "paper's ethics policy."

That surprised the hell out of me. I wasn't aware that the paper even had an ethics policy. I mean, come on, this is the paper owned by Journal Communications which teamed up with the Koch-funded Wisconsin Club for Growth to produce White Wisconsin.

But it also surprised me that Bice would add that since he is guilty himself of not practicing full disclosure.

If full disclosure was truly such a big issue, Bice would have included in his article - and every article he wrote defending Walker - that Steve Smith, CEO and Chairman of the Board for Journal Communications, which owns the paper, is also a member of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC).  He would also disclose that not only did MMAC strongly support Walker directly with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations, but was so zealous in their donations that they broke campaign finance laws by donating more than the allowed amount.

But full disclosure at the paper has never been their strong suit, making Bice's article not only ironic, but rather hypocritical.

And for the purpose of full disclosure - and to head off the McCarthyites - I not only proudly signed the recall petition, I collected signatures for it as well.  So there!


  1. It hurt me to even wipe my azz with any thing that Bice writes!

  2. It's pretty obvious now that the John Doe leaks from the first investigation came from the same sources as leaks in the second -- Republicans. These leaks were used by the Right in attempts to discredit and subvert the course of justice. Yet Bice never really come clean on how he was used by the GOP and Walker's cronies in this instance. He could easily have identified those leakers as Republicans or Conservatives without revealing their personal identity. Instead, he gave the impression that the leaks were coming from inside the investigation which gave the MJS hate-talkers material with which to slander the District Attorney and the Judge. It was more convenient for him to play up the image of "fearless investigative reporter", one with great sources, while hiding the ideological source of his stories.

    He was incredible quick to come to Walker's rescue when the allegation was made that the Guv, while at Marquette, had attempted to influence his girlfriend to have an abortion. Bice claimed to have found evidence that it was different Scott Walker, how convenient. He was so quick with that story it made me wonder if he had ESP. Unfortunately he was taken at his word by people who should have known better and researched it for themselves.

    Aside from the Koch advertising dollars flowing into it's coffers, MJS has a barely concealed ideological motive directing its political reporting, hidden behind a respectable Potemkin exterior.

  3. Stifling the rights of journalists is not a new trend. It was one of the first things absentee corporate media ownership insisted on as part of their successful long-term strategy of neutering reporters (report on what we tell you to report on, and not what you saw with your own two eyes!).

    In the Twin Cities there was a huge flap a few years back over reporters attending political rallies unless assigned to do so.

    But there is an argument for reporters not voting and staying out of the process. Sadly, it's an argument that lost its validity when the 1/10th of 1% bought out the last of the remaining independent media (every wonder why alt weeklies suck so much now?).

  4. It is just so incredibly obvious to me that declining to sign a recall petition is every bit as much a political statement as signing one. Charlie Sykes and Dan Bice (both JC employees) declined to sign because of their ethical consideration? Laughable!

    Also, these clowns were directed to refrain from signing by their employer, a member of the Fourth Estate whose very foundation is rooted in the First Amendment? THAT should be the much larger story here.

    1. Well said, Anon. It's a version of the Rush line "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."

      The more you step back and look at it, the sketchier things seem to be at the boardroom at 4th and State.

  5. Gee, and here's Bice reporting on a "secret decision" that allegedly sets back part of the John Doe probe, with tons of "unnamed sources." Wanna bet all of those sources are connected to Walker, Koch groups, or the Bradley's in some way?

    At this point, we know Bice isn't this gullible. He's being a willful partner in the misdirection play, under the veneer of being "objective". I'll wait for a real source on John Doe Deux