Brinkman Has Sneezed; Will Bronson Miss His Cue?
Here’s one litmus test to determine if The Cincinnati Enquirer has conflicts of interest that affect its coverage of certain organizations and topics.
A local anti-tax group, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), recently highlighted the salaries paid to three top executives at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The group called the $800,000 in annual salaries excessive, especially in light of the museum’s request for more state aid and a push by business interests to put a tax levy on the ballot next year to provide public funding for the Freedom Center and other arts organizations.
Wherever one falls on the political spectrum, the issue raised is a legitimate one that deserves exploration.
State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. (R-Mount Lookout), a COAST leader, is opposing the effort to give the Freedom Center more money in Ohio’s capital budget bill. Although many people are turned off by Brinkman’s occasionally abrasive style of politics, this is a case where it’s important to focus on the message, not the messenger. He has raised several interesting points, including the Freedom Center’s shifting account of how much it originally promised to raise for an endowment fund and how the museum once pledged never to seek additional public money.
“This was sold to everyone that it would be self-supporting,” Brinkman has said.
This is where we see if the journalistic proof is in the pudding. Usually, if COAST so much as sneezes, Peter Bronson — The Enquirer’s arch-conservative columnist — will write about it. Bronson has never seen a stance taken by COAST that he hasn’t liked. With a pending budget bill in Columbus and the beginnings of a tax levy campaign locally, this is an issue that Bronson should be frothing at the mouth to cover.
(Given Bronson’s recent penchant for using the concepts of game shows and reality TV shows as a method for framing issues, perhaps he could tie the debate about the Freedom Center with NBC’s Deal or No Deal.)
The Enquirer’s top executives, however, are adamant Freedom Center supporters. The newspaper let the museum’s staff use an office in The Enquirer’s building for about two years while the project was built and hosts the museum’s Web site on its Cincinnati.com site. Newspaper sources said Publisher Margaret E. Buchanan was upset by a Feb. 27 article that questioned how much the Freedom Center spent on a nationwide search for a new CEO and ordered that no future “negative” articles appear in the newspaper.
This is interesting dilemma for Bronson and The Enquirer. Let’s see if it’s ever actually mentioned in the newspaper.
— Kevin Osborne