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Gannett stomps on employees' rights to free speech

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Baron Scicluna, Mar 25, 2012.

  1. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Ironic, ain't it? For an organization that loves to spew about how they "will uphold First Amendment principles to serve the democratic process.", they sure don't want that to apply to their employees.

    Gannett's Wisconsin newspapers, in one of their, "Look at us, we're doing journalism!" moods, ran a story about 20-something judges who signed the Scott Walker recall petition, and named them.

    Only thing is, another 20-something Gannett employees also signed the petition. Some were journalists, some were not.

    According to Gannett, though, they violated the Principles of Ethical Conduct for Newsrooms, and may be subject to discipline.


    This is such a load of BS for any number of reasons:

    1. Yeah, I understand the need for journalistic objectivity. But there were multiple times in the Gannett place I worked at where it was blatantly obvious that the paper couldn't objectively cover something, but yet wrote a story. One example: The United Way. We'd run stories every year about their big drive. Fine and dandy. Except, the company would also push their employees to donate, even going so far as brining a UW representative in to guilt-trip everyone.

    2. Also on journalistic objectivity, I've brought this up before. But if people aren't allowed to sign a petition, then why is the brass allowed to hold season tickets for the local pro sports team? After all, in the area where I worked, there was more than one pro team, and believe me, we got calls complaining we were biased for one team over the other.

    3. If objectivity is such a concern, then why are papers allowed to run political endorsements on its editorial pages?

    4. When you think about it, do those Principles still actually apply? After all, they're meant for a newsroom. Not an information center. ;D
  2. Rhody31

    Rhody31 Well-Known Member

    Not a violation of free speech. Gannett is a private company, not the government.
  3. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Here's the thing, Baron. I see your frustration, but everything you write after that is somewhat, "Two wrongs make a right."

    The United Way is a bit apples and oranges. I've gone through that too, at non-Gannett papers. It's the paper acting as a company in the community, not as an editorial entity.

    Same with season tickets; that's a business-side deal.

    And actually, same with endorsements. The editorial board doing something is separate from the newsroom.

    It's not exactly new. And I don't know that I want editorial employees signing a petition that concerns such a polarizing issue.

    This is my thinking, although it doesn't mitigate the fact Gannett is indeed fucked up.
  4. BurnsWhenIPee

    BurnsWhenIPee Well-Known Member

    Plus, when I worked at a Gannett site, when I got my employee handbook, I had to sign a form that I received it and sign off that I received and would abide by those rules for ethical conduct. I would assume these employees did the same.

    This isn't Gannett stomping on anything. It's employees agreeing to something, then violating that agreement.
  5. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    To me, it boils down to this principle: The company is concerned that its readers/customers will see the paper as not being objective in its coverage if employees participate in a political process.

    Which is a legitimate reason. But the problem is, anything the company or it's employees do can be seen as not being objective, even if it's business side.

    A reader sees the publisher at a game. According to Gannett, that technically is unethical, because that reader can question the coverage and the objectivity the paper provides.

    A reader sees a front-page story on the United Way, and an editorial exhorting people to donate. Readers then find out that the company is pushing employees to donate (at some places, I heard, they were threatened with firings, wasn't at my place though).

    Readers can then question the paper's objectivity, not to mention in the Principles of Ethics, there's a statement that says they are not allowed to have any business relationships that can compromise the reporting.

    It's hypocrisy at it's finest.
  6. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    The point that I'm making is, those agreements are very vague. What's good for one employee in one example is not considered good for another.

    On Hopkins' Gannett blog and some of the comments on the paper's web site, people have pointed out that some of the signers thought what they were doing was akin to voting, which Gannett, bless their little hearts, have said is legal. Not to mention, as I pointed out in the first post, the Principles flat-out say they will protect the First Amendment principles. How can they do that while telling their employees they can't practice the same principles?
  7. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    The petition is a formal political process of the state, not a mere declaration of opinion. Employees should be allowed to sign, although I wouldn't want them distributing petitions.

    As for the other examples, that's a little silly. Should the publisher avoid the movies because it might make the film critic look biased?
  8. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    Baron, your vitriol becomes you on matters of Gannett. I know wouldn't want any newsroom employees signing a public petition to oust the governor.

    Of course, I should add that I would not want any newsroom employees from any department going to the big game donning face paint and drunkenness.
  9. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    The right of petition. I read that somewhere. The petition for recall is a legal part of Wisconsin's political process in which any registered voter can participate. I believe the employees have a case for civil rights violations by Gannett. The company is interfering with their voting rights. The "ethics" code runs a very poor second to those rights.
  10. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Journalists can't sign or join anything, yet publishers and (or, sometimes) editors sit on the Chamber, boards for arts or other civic groups, etc., with influential members of their city who bend their ears and get cozy. That's not right.
  11. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    Note to self: Don't work for Versatile. At least I don't paint my face!
  12. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    Well, I wouldn't have a problem with drunkenness by itself. I just don't think journalists should be making spectacles of themselves in the communities they cover.
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