A Colorado paper defended its conduct in a state legislative recall campaign by dismissing critics' conflict of interest charges while failing to provide adequate context of an email a newsroom executive sent to a senator involved in the recall.
Earlier this year, the Colorado legislature passed a series of bills aimed at strengthening gun laws, including requiring background checks for private transactions and limiting the rounds of ammunition in magazines. Soon after the bills passed, local gun-rights supporters began a recall drive on four Democratic senators who supported the new laws. Two of the petition drives failed; however, Sen. Angela Giron (D) and State Senate President John Morse (D) will face a recall election slated for September 10.
On March 3, while the gun bills were still being debated in the legislature, Ray Stafford, general manager of the Pueblo Chieftain sent an email from his Chieftain account to Giron declaring his opposition to a package of bills seeking to strengthen the state's gun laws. In the email, in which he claimed the bills represented "a challenge to our Second Amendment," Stafford disclosed his position at the newspaper and said he was "responsible for the entire newspaper, including the newsroom." Critics charged that this email was a threat to the senator due to the Stafford's top position at the paper.
In response to Stafford's actions, the paper's assistant publisher and vice president, Jane Rawlings, wrote that Stafford used his affiliation in the email "as a way of identification, as he still is fairly new to the area." Although Rawlings said that after "a careful review of The Chieftain's coverage" she found the paper provided balanced coverage, Morse said Stafford essentially "threatened" Giron with critical coverage and that Giron "was in the paper and on the front page for a week straight, including within pictures that weren't very flattering, almost deliberately." Morse's account has been corroborated by local television station, KDVR-TV.
A U-T San Diego editorial attacked a recent proposal to expand the city's prevailing wage law to all city projects that are "public works," claiming it would increase the cost of projects and thereby increase the cost to taxpayers. However, the editorial failed to note that a growing body of research has found that prevailing wage laws do not significantly increase government contract costs and provide other social benefits to workers and their families.
The Washington Times attacked a Washington, D.C., proposal that would require large retailers in the District provide a living wage to their employees, claiming there will be dire economic consequences if the measure succeeds. However, the editorial ignored evidence showing that establishing living wage standards boosts productivity and lowers turnover.
CNN distorted the goal of a proposed law to strengthen the ban on illegal racial profiling in New York, erroneously claiming it would not allow police to refer to race, religion, or disability at all when describing a suspect.
CNN ran a segment highlighting a New York Post article on an advertisement from the New York Police Department (NYPD) Captains Endowment Association depicting a blindfolded police officer and asking, "How effective is a police officer with a blindfold on?" The NYPD Captains Endowment Association is fighting the measure claiming that the bill would "ban cops from identifying a suspect's age, gender, color or disability." Even though CNN's law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks, a former police officer, acknowledges that the claims made in the ad may not be true, he goes on to parrot its claims and say that if such a proposal is enacted, "cops aren't going to be able to do their job":
Despite Brooks' assertion, the bill would not ban police officers from using those descriptions to identify a suspect. The bill clearly states that police officers cannot use "actual or perceived race ... as the determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action against an individual, rather than an individual's behavior or other information or circumstances" (emphasis added) to the suspected crime. Law enforcement can still use race and other identifying factors in stopping suspects, as long as it is not the main, or determinative, factor in doing so. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), a fitting description or having a full description of the suspect prior to stopping someone "was the reason for a stop-and frisk just 16 percent of the time in 2011,"despite the fact that 90 percent of people stopped under the NYPD's current stop-and-frisk policy were either black or Latino.
The current stop-and-frisk policy of the NYPD has been largely unsuccessful. Research has shown that the stop-and-frisk policy has never been proven effective and, despite the skyrocketing number of stop-and-frisks, shootings in New York have remained relatively steady. That's because a gun is recovered during a stop-and-frisk less than one percent of the time.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has failed to mention efforts by conservatives in Ohio to strip funding from Planned Parenthood in the House budget.
Since Republican House lawmakers introduced a substitute bill on April 9 that included the anti-Planned Parenthood measures, several other Ohio newspapers mentioned the proposal to effectively block federal funding for women's health services provider, which could lead to a loss of about $1.7 million. The Akron Beacon Journal penned an editorial attacking the House bill for its planned cuts and The Columbus Dispatch followed suit with an editorial that called for the proposed cuts to be "stripped from the budget." The Cincinnati Enquirer has not produced original content on the stripping of funds, but has published two Associated Press articles which mentioned the plan to strip funding for the women's health organization.
This is the third time this year Ohio Republicans have attempted to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, the legislature is attempting to "reprioritize" federal family planning funding to make "Planned Parenthood and other stand-alone family planning providers the lowest priority in getting federal funding." The article further explains that out of the 37 clinics operated by Planned Parenthood in the state, only three provide abortions and that it is illegal to use federal funds for abortion procedures:
House Republican foes of abortions rights inserted language into Gov. John Kasich's mid-budget review bill that would strip Planned Parenthood of up to $1.7 million in federal funding controlled by the state Department of Health.
The language added by GOP abortion opponents, which mirrors a separate bill that sits in committee, reprioritizes federal family planning funds in a way that makes Planned Parenthood and other stand-alone family planning providers the lowest priority in getting federal funding.
"Clearly, the intent of this legislation is to make sure the federal funds are exhausted before Planned Parenthood has the opportunity to apply for it," said Gary Dougherty, state legislative director for Planned Parenthood. Dougherty [said] Planned Parenthood would lose about $1.7 million.
Dougherty said only three of the 37 family planning centers run by Planned Parenthood provide abortions, and noted that it's illegal under federal law to use federal funding for abortions.
In lieu of giving the funds to Planned Parenthood, the bill would give crisis pregnancy centers top priority for funding. As CityBeat, a Cincinnati news site, explained, the money would be used primarily to fund abstinence-only services. However, a 2013 report by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio found that crisis pregnancy centers exhibit a "pattern of using medically inaccurate information and scare tactics" with their patients.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal hyped the need for entitlement reform, calling for an increase in eligibility ages for Social Security and Medicare, means-testing or tying benefits to a beneficiary's income, and competition for Medicare. However, the Review-Journal neglected to mention that health care cost growth has been slowing down and that enacting these policy prescriptions would hurt seniors and low-income Americans.
A Cincinnati Enquirer editorial attacked the city's proposed budget for increasing the deficit by $8 million by 2015 but failed to point out that a large portion of the budgetary shortfall is due to a $22 million cut in funding from Republican-controlled Ohio state government.
The editorial claimed that the proposed plan -- which would technically balance this year's budget -- would amount to "kicking the can down the road," and that the primary goal should be a "structurally balanced budget, in which revenues exceed expenses."
The plan under consideration would technically balance this year's ledger. But unfortunately, it would repeat a pattern all too common in recent years of kicking the can down the road. Their plan actually increases the deficit for 2015 by $8 million--but that won't become a crisis until long after the upcoming elections in November. It's become routine, for council members as well as other elected officials, to avoid difficult decisions today because of concerns about the next election.
We need a budget that accomplishes the city's primary goals of attracting new residents and new jobs. At the same time, we need to move toward a structurally balanced budget, in which revenues exceed expenses. With tax increases unlikely, that means cutting expenses. Job cuts will be necessary to get anywhere close to a structurally balanced budget. Despite previous job cuts, the city budget has not been structurally balanced in years.
However, the editorial fails to note that the budgetary shortfall is largely created by a reduction in funds by the Republican-controlled state government. Policy Matters Ohio, an Ohio based think-tank, explained that the massive spending cuts by the state legislature reduced local government funds by a billion dollars during fiscal years 2012 and 2013, with the city of Cincinnati losing more than $40 million compared to 2010 and 2011. Indeed a brief outlining of the budget from the city of Cincinnati pointed out that the deficit was exacerbated by the state-level decision to implement a 50 percent reduction in local government funds, which eliminated "a $22.2 million revenue stream from the City's budget."
Despite the reduction in funds, Cincinnati is still cutting spending as well. The budget proposal laid out by the city manager calls for eliminating almost $11.3 million in spending over the next year, including cuts to police and locally financed programs.
Las Vegas Review Journal contributor Sherman Frederick penned a column claiming that state legislators are pushing a new bill seeking to bolster sex education in Nevada because they believe "Nevada girls are easy."
After discussing one Hispanic legislator's support of comprehensive sex education, which Frederick assumes is just teaching students "how to put a Ziploc bag over a cucumber," Frederick determines that the argument the legislator is making is that Hispanic girls are "really, really easy":
As easy as Nevada girls are, you see, Nevada's Hispanic girls are really, really easy. That comes from the mouth of Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas. According to him, that's because Hispanic parents never talk to their children about sex. So government must do it.
Lest you think I am making this up, take a look at this excerpt from the Reno Gazette-Journal's Ray Hagar, who interviewed Kihuen about AB230, and Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, who testified in favor of the bill and revealed that she got pregnant as a teen and had it aborted.
Instead, we have AB230. Social conservatives on one side. Liberals on the other. And wanna-be leaders unwittingly (I hope) contending that not only are Nevada girls easy, Nevada's Hispanic girls are really, really easy.
Frederick claimed that the "Nevada girls are easy" quote comes from a news report by Reno Gazette-Journal's Ray Hager. However, Hager said in a tweet "That's Sherm's quote. I, or anyone I've quoted, did not say that": (click to enlarge)
The New Hampshire Union-Leader whitewashed the effects of sequestration on the Head Start program, ignoring research to falsely claim the program has no measurable benefits.
In a May 4 editorial, the Union-Leader discussed the closure of two Head Start programs in New Hampshire due to budgetary constraints following sequestration. While downplaying the effects of the schools' closures, the editorial also claimed that research has showed that the program is "a well-intentioned boondoggle with no measurable lasting impact on the children it serves."
The grim ax of sequestration has swung again. The target is New Hampshire's children. Don't believe that story.
Jeanne Agri of Southern New Hampshire Services, using the same talking points as her counterparts in other Head Start programs across America, told the Union Leader that a 5 percent cut in federal funding means closure for Head Start in Hudson and Newmarket. Cuts are planned in Hampton Falls.
Although the value of its services is not clear, Head Start has long been politically untouchable. Before the sequester, spending rose year after year even though research from liberals and conservatives showed that it is a well-intentioned boondoggle with no measurable lasting impact on the children it serves. Even with the 5 percent cut, its federal budget is higher than in Fiscal 2011. Next year, spending in New Hampshire will still be nearly $14 million.
The Head Start program has had wide ranging benefits for many American children and their parents. Studies have found that children from "high risk households" have seen substantial gains through the program, allowing them to be more prepared for kindergarten. In addition, the health benefits associated with the Head Start program have lowered mortality rates in students ages five to nine enrolled in the program, while simultaneously helping them acquire insurance, receive immunizations, and receive continuous medical and dental care.
The Tampa Bay Times failed to note the extremist past of David Yerushalmi -- an anti-Muslim lawyer and activist -- who authored the model legislation for a Florida bill which would attempt to ban Sharia law in the state.
Florida's largest paper focused its coverage of the anti-Sharia bill on the comments made by politicians on both sides of the debate in a "he said, she said" fashion, including those of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Larry Metz (R-Yalaha), who couldn't name an instance when the law would be needed, instead calling it a preventative measure. In addition, while the paper mentioned that Yerushalmi drafted the model legislation in a blog post, it failed to go in depth into Yerushalmi's history with anti-Sharia laws and racist rhetoric. His role was not included at all in any of the paper's print coverage of the anti-Sharia bill.
Yerushalmi, who founded the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE) and is senior counsel to anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, wrote the model legislation for the Florida bill and bills in several other states, entitled "American Laws for American Courts."
However, Yerushalmi has a history of negative rhetoric towards immigrants, Muslims and African-Americans. As the Anti-Defamation League pointed out in a report calling Yerushalmi "a driving force behind anti-Sharia efforts in the U.S.," he has previously called for creating "special criminal camps" to house undocumented immigrants, said that African-Americans are a "relatively murderous race killing itself" and discussed how some races are better "in Western societies and some better in tribal ones." He's also claimed that Muslims are our enemies and that "Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization," while demonizing millions of Muslims worldwide:
Yerushalmi has created a characterization of Shari'a law (i.e., Islamic law) that declares there are "hundreds of millions" of Muslims who are either "fully committed mujahideen" or "still dangerous but lesser committed jihad sympathizers" who, because of Shari'a law, would be willing to murder all non-believers unwilling to convert, in order to "impose a worldwide political hegemony."
Yerushalmi's group, SANE, has previously called on Congress to declare war on the Muslim nation and asked them to define Muslim undocumented immigrants as "alien enemies 'subject to immediate deportation.'"
Yerushalmi also has strong connections with other anti-Muslim activists including Pamela Geller and Gaffney, both of whom have been criticized for their extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions and were quoted in the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a Norwegian mass murder to allegedly prevent "Islamization."
The Tampa Bay Times' oversight in not reporting Yerushalmi's influence on the Florida bill leaves its readers unaware that the bill is not a "preventative" measure as the bill's sponsor claims, but rather a systematic attempt to rid the United States of Islam by an anti-Muslim activist.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal promoted a plan to create a merit pay system for teachers, but failed to note that merit-based pay schemes have not succeeded and could hurt students in low-income areas.
In the May 1 editorial, the paper claims that criteria such as "teacher experience, credentialing, and graduate degrees do not translate to higher student achievement" and should no longer be the basis for pay increases. Instead, it advocates for a merit pay system, as proposed by former Nevada State Superintendent James Guthrie, which would increase teacher pay based on a testing criteria. The top earners would make $200,000 a year, which, in Guthrie's estimation, would attract some of the nation's top teachers and "rescue Nevada public education."
Teachers are currently paid less than comparable workers and their pay has been declining. However, switching to a merit based system is not a proven solution. A study by the RAND corporation which looked at a merit pay system that gave bonuses to better performing teachers, found that, while students performed better over the course of the study, "students of teachers randomly assigned to the treatment group (eligible for bonuses) did not outperform students whose teachers were assigned to the control group (not eligible for bonuses)." A similar RAND study analyzing New York City's experiment with bonuses for teachers found similar results, causing Education Week's blog to claim that it "put the final nail in the coffin" for the NYC program. According to Education Week, the study confirmed that the bonus incentive wasn't achieving its desired outcome:
Apparently the RAND study, commissioned by New York City's education department, was the final straw. The RAND researchers, like those in the previous studies, found the program did not raise student achievement in mathematics or reading in any grade, nor did it improve teacher job satisfaction. The findings led to the city's decision last week to eliminate the program.
Researchers suggested that the program had not adequately motivated staff to understand the program or buy in to the criteria for the bonuses, and noticed that both participating and control schools already faced intense pressure to improve because of the city's accountability measures.
The Orange County Register's newest weekly sections on local colleges, which are being financed in part by the colleges themselves, are raising concerns about conflicts of interest and credibility from both inside and outside of the newspaper.
At issue is the financial arrangement the Santa Ana, CA, daily has with three local campuses: Chapman University; California State University, Fullerton; and the University of California at Irvine.
Under an agreement reached earlier this year, the paper is publishing a separate, weekly six-page special section devoted to positive coverage of each university's news and events. Each of those sections include two columns authored by top university staffers.
In exchange, each university is paying the newspaper $275,000, supposedly for advertising that will appear in that section for one year. The sections began running on April 1.
The financial arrangement and partial control of content by the universities has some at the paper and on campus concerned.
"It does make me a little uncomfortable," said Bill Johnson, a Register columnist. "In this business, appearance is everything. Appearance-wise, it is a bit troubling. If you know people are paying for coverage does that affect the coverage? I would like to think we are way above that, writing good news to satisfy an advertiser."
Jeffrey Brody, a journalism professor at Cal State, Fullerton, and a former Register reporter, called it a "disguised advertorial."
"That's a breach of the wall between editorial and advertising of traditional newspapering," he said. "A newspaper should not be making these kinds of quid pro quo agreements. It seems that that does damage the credibility of the university."
A review of the most recent sections from April 15, 16, and 17, finds stories written by Register staffers, along with two pieces from each university's faculty or administration.
A half-page color ad for the university appears on the back page of each section.
The stories range from a review of the number of bronze busts on the Chapman campus to a report on UC-Irvine's annual "Undie Run." None of the stories could be described as critical of the school.
While newspapers often clearly label such content as "advertisement" or "advertorial," the only note related to the Register's arrangement is a small box on the inside of the page alongside the staff list stating "while the university is the section's primary advertising sponsor, all editorial decisions are independent of the university's control."
The U-T San Diego profiled a new anti-immigrant coalition in the San Diego region working to lobby against immigration reform but failed to note the coalition's ties to the nativist group, the Center for Immigration Studies, and to a former Minutemen organization.
In its profile of the San Diegans for Secure Borders Coalition, the U-T San Diego quoted a member of the coalition, Peter Nunez, who the U-T San Diego identified only as "a member of the coalition and a former U.S. attorney in San Diego." It also discussed the founding of the group by two San Diego residents, Jeff Schwilk and Rob Luton:
A new coalition in San Diego County is lobbying members of Congress to support a plan that calls for enhanced border enforcement, decreased legal immigration and the end of automatic citizenship for those born in the United States.
The coalition was formed by San Diego residents Jeff Schwilk and Rob Luton.
"Amnesty is a bad idea in general, but certainly it's a bad idea if you are not first going to ensure border enforcement and workplace enforcement," said Peter Nunez, a member of the coalition and a former U.S. attorney in San Diego. "If you don't secure the border and have a viable workplace enforcement program, then you will just be dealing with the same issue over and over and over again."
However, the newspaper did not note that many of the people highlighted in its story have a connection to nativist and former Minutemen groups. Nunez is the board chairman for the anti-immigrant nativist group, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). CIS is part of the John Tanton network of anti-immigrant nativist groups, which include the hate group the Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA. CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian is known for making derogatory remarks about Muslims and the American-born children of immigrants.
The coalition's founder Jeff Schwilk was "the hot-tempered leader of the San Diego Minutemen (SDMM), a nativist extremist organization with a reputation for violent confrontations and crude insults," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In 2009, Schwilk was ordered to pay $135,000 to a Korean-American civil rights activist who filed a defamation lawsuit after the SDMM circulated photos of her and referred to her in derogatory and racist terms.
An Orange County Register editorial used the struggles of the electric car company Fisker to claim that all green energy technology is a poor investment for the government.
In the editorial (behind paywall), the paper cites several green energy companies that have not produced desired returns to support its argument that government should stop investing in green energy technology:
Either way, Fisker provides a business-school-worthy case study in how not to invest in start-up companies in nascent industries.
Indeed, in a presentation this past fall at MIT's annual EmTech conference, Bill Banholzer, chief technology officer for Dow Chemical, cautioned investors that it was mistake to throw money at green energy start-ups, which promise to bring disruptive technologies to market.
Mr. Banholzer's PowerPoint included a slide with a dozen green energy companies, including the aforementioned Solyndra, A123 Systems, which was to supply state-of-the-art lithium batteries to Fisker and other electric car manufacturers, and other much-hyped start-ups.
Congress should explicitly forbid the Obama administration from making any further "investments" in green energy companies, the failures of which should not come at the expense of taxpayers.
While the PowerPoint presentation by Banzholzer -- whose Dow Chemical just lost a suit over the $1 billion in tax deductions the company tried to put into tax shelters forcing it to pay a 20 percent penalty -- highlighted the failures of several green energy companies, this anecdotal evidence obscures key facts about the green energy industry as a whole. Due to increases in federal investment, the U.S. clean tech industry has grown rapidly. The cost of solar panels has dropped significantly over the last several years and is on track to be as cheap as our current electricity by 2020. Wind turbine manufacturing and installed wind capacity have also grown significantly. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, "US wind turbine manufacturing has grown 12-fold" since 2005 while "costs have been reduced by 90% since 1980."
The Las Vegas Review-Journal penned an editorial attacking minimum wage in Nevada by claiming that raising the minimum wage hurts youth employment, even though studies have found no conclusive correlation between youth unemployment and minimum wage increases.
An editorial by the Las Vegas Review-Journal discussed the recent announcement by Nevada Labor Commissioner Thoran Towler that Nevada's minimum wage won't change from its current level of $8.25 for workers who don't receive health benefits to push the claim that younger, unskilled workers would be harmed by future increases to minimum wage:
Broadcast newsreaders are in the habit of chirping that any hike in the minimum wage means "Nevada's lowest-paid workers got a raise today!" In reality, younger, unskilled workers can expect to be laid off and replaced with robots and computers, while more than half those searching for their first, entry-level job are plumb out of luck.
By delaying teens' first job experiences, where they prove they can show up on time, take direction and interact with customers, this law limits their future earning potential.
How bad are things? Nationwide, a quarter of youths ages 16 to 19 were employed last year. About 61 percent of Americans between ages 20 and 24 were working. Such lows haven't been seen since World War II. According to the Center for Business and Economic Research at the UNLV, Nevada's youth employment rate was a couple of percentage points higher, at 27 percent and 64 percent. Yes, that means only 27 percent of Nevada kids ages 16 to 19 could find work.
Despite the Review-Journal's assertion, studies have found that there is little evidence to support a link between youth unemployment and a higher minimum wage. In fact, as Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute pointed out, unemployment overall, not just specifically for teens, is not massively affected by a minimum wage increase:
While it is true that there is some disagreement among economists about whether increasing the minimum wage increases or decreases employment, there is a consensus on the essential point: the impact of a minimum wage raise on jobs, whether positive or negative, is small. The warnings of massive teen job loss due to minimum wage increases simply do not comport with the evidence.