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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

Newspapers Apologize: 25 Staffers Signed Walker Recall Petitions

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Several points here: Kudos to Gannett for committing a flagrant act of journalism by (1) investigating and reporting the story of the 29 Wisconsin judges who signed the recall petitions despite the requirement of the judicial Code that they avoid the appearance of bias and, (2) for being willing to hold their own journalists to the same standard. But now two additional question arise: (1) Having reported that 25 journalists violated the company's code of ethics, will Gannett report the names i the name of transparency, and (2) will other media outlets in the state conduct the same kind of review and report the results?

 

Today, in the interest of full transparency, we are informing you that 25 Gannett Wisconsin Media journalists, including nine at The P-C, also signed the Walker recall petitions. It was wrong, and those who signed were in breach of Gannett's Principles of Ethical Conduct for Newsrooms.

The principle at stake is our core belief that journalists must make every effort to avoid behavior that could raise doubts about their journalistic neutrality. Political activity is foremost.

It is of little consolation to us that none of the news employees who signed petitions is involved with directing or reporting political news coverage. (None of the employees serves on the investigative team, nor are any of the Appleton employees reporters or assigning news editors.) The fact that any of our 223 Wisconsin news employees signed the petition is disheartening. It has caused us to examine deeply how this happened, how we will address it and how we will prevent future breaches.

First and foremost, we decided to inform our readers and be as open as possible. We have decided not to name the employees. Had they had direct connection to political reporting we would have made a different decision.

We are now in the process of addressing discipline and presenting supplemental ethics training for all news employees.

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