Enquirer Rules Are Reliably Inconsistent

In a turn of events that’s created a firestorm of debate in political circles and among Internet bloggers, The Cincinnati Enquirer refused Wednesday to publish the results of a Democratic candidate’s campaign poll despite doing the same for other politicians at least three times in the past two years, including once just last week.

The situation has prompted some critics to accuse The Enquirer at worst of having a double standard based on personal or political bias and at best of having sloppy internal policies that change on an article-by-article basis.

Kimball Perry, the Enquirer reporter who covers Hamilton County government, posted an entry Tuesday afternoon on the newspaper’s Politics Extra blog that stated the paper declined a request from David Pepper’s campaign to publish an article on its poll results. Pepper is the Democratic challenger seeking to unseat Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich, the Republican incumbent.

The blog entry stated, “The Enquirer declined, noting that its custom on polls is to write about them only if they are independent polls — not paid for by the candidates. Those go in this blog.”

As many bloggers and others quickly pointed out, however, The Enquirer ran an article Aug. 1 about a poll conducted by Democrat Ken Lucas that showed him widening his lead over Republican U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis in Northern Kentucky’s 4th District race.

Also, The Enquirer ran an article Jan. 24, 2004, on a poll conducted by Republican Pat DeWine in his primary challenge to County Commissioner John Dowlin and ran another article April 5, 2005 about a DeWine poll on his race to replace U.S. Rep. Rob Portman.

Perry’s blog entry stated Pepper spokeswoman Bridget Doherty called the paper and said the campaign would give the poll results to The Enquirer early so it could be included in Wednesday’s print edition, as long as they weren’t posted on the paper’s blog Tuesday, to ensure maximum coverage by other media the next day. Perry’s entry — which several bloggers said was written in a sarcastic manner — also included Doherty’s photograph.

(Three quick notes in the interest of full disclosure: Following my seven-year stint as City Hall reporter at The Cincinnati Post, I worked at The Enquirer for about four months late last year before quitting over policy and protocol differences with two editors. Also, Perry was my colleague at both newspapers, and I consider him a friend. Further, I’ve known Doherty, a former WLW-AM reporter, for years. When it comes to media, Cincinnati is a small town.)

The Enquirer’s blog previously raised the ire of Pepper’s campaign by posting a verbatim press release in June that was issued by Sycamore Township Trustee Tom Weidman, alleging Pepper supported building a new jail in Colerain Township — a position that Pepper never took. Media critics pounced on The Enquirer for not noting that Weidman is Heimlich’s campaign chair.

Knowing Perry to be a thoughtful and professional reporter, I don’t subscribe to the blogosphere’s rampant conspiracy theories that allege he didn’t use the poll results in the newspaper because he supports Heimlich’s campaign.

From what I know of my many years in newspapering, any disparate treatment more likely resulted from a bloated and overly complicated corporate bureaucracy and miscommunication. This is the same paper, after all, that recently prohibited one of its reporters, who was seeking to save on gas money, from riding a Vespa-style motor scooter on assignments, deeming it too dangerous and a liability. It’s a truism that people in the communication business often are the worst communicators among themselves.

But The Enquirer’s blog entry includes implicit criticism about the Pepper campaign seeking to control the timing of the poll’s release. The campaign’s strategy is nothing new; there is a natural friction between the media and politicians, with reporters seeking to get an exclusive and politicians not wanting to irritate competing media outlets.

Like virtually every beat reporter, Perry has cut deals with Heimlich and DeWine about when articles would be published in exchange for getting a scoop. Again, this is common journalistic practice. Every reporter who engages in the practice, though, needs to avoid getting snippy when similar deals are made with competitors.

— Kevin Osborne

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Porkopolis

14 Comments on “Enquirer Rules Are Reliably Inconsistent”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Kevin – Helpful article, but we still don’t know what the Enquirer’s policy is on publishing polls or if Kimball Perry accurately conveyed that policy in his blog entry. Would you please contact the Enquirer and let us know exactly what the Enquirer’s policy is?

    By the way, it’s all well and good to attribute the Enquirer’s inconsistencies to general disorganization at the paper. Nevertheless, I don’t think you have to be a conspiracy theorist to note that the paper’s “oversights” always seem to benefit Republicans.

  2. Anon Says:

    Kevin – Helpful article, but we still don’t know what the Enquirer’s policy is on publishing polls or if Kimball Perry accurately conveyed that policy in his blog entry. Would you please contact the Enquirer and let us know exactly what the Enquirer’s policy is?

    By the way, it’s all well and good to attribute the Enquirer’s inconsistencies to general disorganization at the paper. Nevertheless, I don’t think you have to be a conspiracy theorist to note that the paper’s “oversights” always seem to benefit Republicans.

  3. Brockelmann Says:

    Sorry Kevin, you are dead wrong on this one. Have you seen Slimeball Perry’s latest?

    http://frontier.cincinnati.com/blogs/gov/2006/08/peppers-poll-pepper-is-tops_09.asp#comments

    Perry’s articles speak for themselves. His tenor and tone in any article about Heimlich speak volumes. He also conveniently leaves facts out of every article we scribes about Heimlich, Pepper et al. He is clearly biased, almost as clearly biased as the hack known as Bronson. I just wonder what kind of quid pro quo Slimeball is getting for carrying Phil’s water for him.

  4. The Dean Says:

    Osborne writes:

    ==
    Knowing Perry to be a thoughtful and professional reporter, I don’t subscribe to the blogosphere’s rampant conspiracy theories that allege he didn’t use the poll results in the newspaper because he supports Heimlich’s campaign.
    ==

    But did you know Perry, for example, when Heimlich had a real competitor on the Commission race, like Pepper?

  5. BooBooMonk Says:

    Kevin, here’s another “oversight.” The Enquirer published this August 4th op-ed by Crystal Faulkner pushing the Heimlich-Leis jail plan: http://tinyurl.com/q4n44

    Kevin, as you pointed out in your cover story last week, Ms. Faulkner and her son Nick are members of Phil Heimlich’s re-election campaign.

    Enquirer editorial page editor Dave Wells was contacted and asked to publish a correction identifying Faulkner’s affiliation with Heimlich. Mr. Wells has not responded.

    Kevin, how about contacting Mr. Wells and getting him on record about this?

  6. Emma Dill Says:

    The Enquirer’s coverage of county government – Kimball Perry’s beat – has consistently excluded one third of the commissioners: Todd Portune. Perry has virtually ignored Portune on all the major county issues of the past few years: the Banks deal, the Drake sale, the jail, etc.

    The problem became so bad that, out of frustration, about six months ago Portune began posting his position statements on all these issue on the Cincinnati Beacon blog. In other words, one-third of Hamilton County’s government was routinely denied any coverage in the main daily and turned to a blog to try to be heard. Around that time, Portune asked for and eventually received an ediorial meeting to discuss the Enquirer’s coverage. Did it help? Well, look at what’s going on now as we head into an election.

    Unfortunately for the Enquirer, Google news searches and blogs like this are now making it easier for readers to call bullshit on bad or biased reporting.


  7. Let’s attribute inconsistency to having ingested too much lead.

  8. Anon Says:

    Today’s Enquirer carried this article by Kimball Perry about an e-mail sent by Commissioner Todd Portune demanding transparancy in the jail campaign. Portune’s original e-mail is copied below.

    Compare Portune’s e-mail to Perry’s article. Note that in his article, Perry excludes that Commission president Phil Heimlich publicly refused to answer Portune’s questions. When pressed, Heimlich walked away from Portune. (Highlighted below.)

    What reporter would not consider this a salient, newsworthy detail?

    Portune has repeatedly made similar complaints about Heimlich in the past to Perry and his editors. None of Mr. Perry’s articles has ever mentioned Heimlich’s history of refusing to provide information or answer questions from colleagues.

    Either Mr. Perry is omitting this information out of his articles or it is being cut by an editor.

    If it is the latter, Mr. Perry might quit in protest or, at the least, be leaking information so that what is obviously a case of instiutionalized editorial bias at the Enquirer might be exposed by the blogs or in the trades.

    If it is the former, Mr. Perry is a disgrace to his profession.

    ###

    From: Portune, Todd
    Sent: Wednesday, August 09, 2006 11:31 AM
    To: Heimlich, Phil; Dewine, Pat; Thompson, Patrick; sbarnett@sheriff.hamilton-co.org; ‘joe.deters@hcpros.org’
    Subject: FW: Campaign for a Safer Hamilton County

    Dear Commissioners Heimlich and DeWine, Sheriff Leis, Prosecutor Deters and Administrator Thompson:

    Over a week ago I wrote to Commissioner Heimlich per the e-mail below to inquire about the specifics of the “Campaign for a Safer Hamilton County” insofar as electoral aspects of the campaign are concerned. To date I have received no written response.

    At our public hearing in Sycamore Twp. Monday evening I again asked Phil about these issues. He told me that Joe Deters was running the campaign and when I asked who, or how that decision was made he refused to answer. He refused to answer any other questions about the campaign, turning his back on me and walking out of the room.

    I am writing each of you to inquire about the specifics of the campaign to support the ballot initiative that I am being asked to support. Admittedly I have a number of reservations about Commissioner Heimlich’s proposal that is all of a sudden being referred to as the “Leis–Heimlich Initiative.” If this measure is placed on the ballot it will be Hamilton County’s initiative, for starters. But, regardless of what it is called it will be the county’s initiative and its success or failure will have great impact on a variety of county interests. How the campaign will be run; what it will be called; its potential for success; related issues that it will affect, all have an impact on whether this particular proposal is the right one or the best one for Hamilton County and impact the decision I am being asked to make.

    Accordingly, this is a public campaign, just like all of the campaigns for other county issues or levies have been county campaigns. We as commissioners have full right to any information about how other campaigns are being run.

    Commissioner Heimlich, for example, despite his opposition to the Drake Levy had full access to anything the Drake campaign was doing. The same would hold true here.

    I am writing to each of you today to obtain as much information as I can voluntarily about this issue. I thank you in advance for your anticipated assistance and cooperation and your confirmation that I will have full and complete access to all matters pertaining to this “campaign”.

    Sincerely,

    Todd Portune


  9. I may be naive (i guess there is no maybe about it) but I have heard rumors about the bias of the Cincinnati Enquirer, but this is the first time that I have actually seen it first hand. Where is the best place for unbiased dailey news here in Cincinnati?

  10. Gregory Flannery Says:

    Cincinnati NAMJA, I think you’ve found it.

  11. Howard Roark Says:

    Gregory – That’s only because Osborne is here.

    Kevin – Come on, you got snippy more than once when Anglen got the scoop. BTW – Never heard if Heimlich was contacted for the big jail piece.

  12. Mile High Club Says:

    Never mind about Anglen. He lost the big Heimlich gold fish.

    But who knows? Kevin may still catch it.

    Paging Dr. Wulsin!

  13. real reporter Says:

    You write: “Like virtually every beat reporter, Perry has cut deals with Heimlich and DeWine about when articles would be published in exchange for getting a scoop. Again, this is common journalistic practice.”

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Sources can negotiate when a story runs? You’ve got to be kidding me. No real reporter does that.


  14. I respectfully disagree. Although a variety of concerns must be weighed and taken into consideration before agreeing to enter such a situation, it does happen on occasion — and if you’re actually a reporter, you are aware of this.

    Stories are “embargoed” all the time. For example, the Associated Press routinely sends stories out to member newspapers that will include the tag, “Embargoed; hold until (insert date).”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: