Friday, May 16, 2008

The Ledger endorses, or does it?

Update, May 25: Maybe it wasn't fair of me to imply that Jack Mitchell and the Ledger were being less than up-front about backing supervisor candidate David Pincus. That seems to have been a matter of timing.

However, it still troubles me that the paper is subsidizing Pincus's campaign with advertising space, according to Editor Raheem Hosseini. I don't think that's the normal practice for newspapers at all.

Update, May 20: Ledger Publisher Jack Mitchell has sent a clarifying e-mail to Amador Community News regarding the political support described in my post below. See what you think: Jack's note on Amador Community News website.

At most newspapers, an editorial board -- not the publisher alone -- determines the endorsements. That was the practice at the Ledger back when McClatchy owned the paper in the early 1990s. I know that in 1992, the editor, publisher and senior reporters voted on endorsements. Each had an equal voice.

Editorial board review helps ensure that a newspaper's endorsement is not simply the opinion of one individual who may put the profitability of the business above all other considerations. Can't say that's what Jack is doing here, but since his job is to keep the paper profitable, that's surely a risk.

My original post ...

In his excellent column in today's Amador Ledger Dispatch, Editor Raheem Hosseini revealed that the corporate owner of the paper, the Main Street Media Group, is "underwriting [David] Pincus' campaign and has helped pay for ads."

It was a shocking revelation -- or should have been.

Pincus, in case you don't know, is challenging incumbent Louis Boitano for the District 4 supervisor seat. Pincus is running for supervisor without a platform, without publicized positions on issues, and without revealing his campaign committee or supporters or contributors -- all the while beating up on Boitano. Retired District 3 Supervisor Richard Vinson, who served on the board with Boitano for years, recently wrote a letter to the Ledger decrying the negative campaign tactics employed in another letter by Pincus's campaign manager, Robert Mees.

You may recall that Ledger publisher Jack Mitchell briefly declared for the seat, then withdrew. Pincus then threw his hat into the ring. According to Hosseini, Mitchell will be writing an endorsement of Pincus soon.

Two years ago, when Mary Ellen "Mel" Welsh ran for county supervisor, Mitchell called the Foothill Conservancy "sneaky and shady" for doing something the group didn't actually do. Mitchell left the libelous editorial on the Ledger's website even after the Conservancy demonstrated that Mitchell's assertion was baseless. He never apologized to the group, its members, or its leaders -- including me -- and he never issued a correction (he did run the Conservancy response).

So I can't help but ask, "Just who's 'sneaky and shady,' Jack? People rely on your newspaper to be somewhat objective, and now we find out that the paper's Gilroy-based owners are actually funding a candidate for county supervisor?"

Hosseini was right when he called this "a breach of the public trust." It's appalling.

If you'd like to express your own opinion about this outside interference in our local politics, be sure to contact:

Jack Mitchell, Publisher, Amador Ledger Dispatch

or Jack's boss
Anthony A. Allegretti, President & CEO
Main St. Media Group

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