Grand Junction NBC affiliate KKCO has hired conservative Republican Janet Rowland, a Mesa County commissioner and 2006 lieutenant governor candidate, to host a weekly report on state politics. A journalism professor reportedly has said of Rowland's hiring, “It's clear that it's a conflict of interest.”
* UPDATED: Grand Junction NBC News affiliate KKCO recently announced the hiring of conservative Republican Janet Rowland, a Mesa County commissioner and 2006 lieutenant governor candidate, to host a weekly news segment, “Capitol Watch with Janet Rowland.” According to KKCO, during each segment Rowland will “highlight a bill and explore its potential impact on Mesa County.” Rowland's hiring has raised ethical concerns, leading to the question: Will KKCO NBC 11 provide a progressive point of view as a balance to Rowland, who once linked gay marriage to bestiality?
According to KKCO's website:
Every Sunday on KKCO NBC 11, during the 5:30 and 10:00 newscasts, Janet Rowland highlights a bill and explores its potential impact on Mesa County. Our own Western Slope legislators, Senators Josh Penry and Ray Rose and Representatives Bernie Buescher and Steve King help us analyze the bills. Along with them, we will also hear from County Commissioners, City Council members and other experts in the field.
Rowland's hiring has raised ethical concerns.
A January 5 Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction article by Mike Saccone reported, “Breaking with widely held journalistic ethics, Grand Junction's NBC News affiliate plans to outsource its weekly legislative news segment to an elected official.” The Daily Sentinel further reported, “The Society of Professional Journalists' code of ethics, a commonly accepted ethical charter, charges news organizations to ensure their correspondents are 'free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.' ” The article also reported KKCO's news director's defense of Rowland's hiring:
Jean Reynolds, KKCO's evening anchor and news director, defended the decision to use Rowland, saying the segment will be “informative sessions.”
“She's going to do a wrap-up of the various bills important to Mesa County,” Reynolds said, “to keep people informed on what's going on at the state Capitol. It's not a partisan thing, just an informative segment.”
However, the Daily Sentinel quoted University of Colorado journalism professor Michael McDevitt as saying, “From a traditional or conventional perspective on journalism ethics, it's clear that it's a conflict of interest.” As the Daily Sentinel noted, “Rowland, who could run for re-election in 2008 or could challenge Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, that year, is not free of outside interests.” The Daily Sentinel article continued, “Rowland, who has served as a campaign chairwoman for Sen. Josh Penry, R-Fruita, will be covering Penry's legislation alongside Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, and Buescher's actions.”
As Colorado Media Matters noted, during the March 17, 2006, broadcast of Rocky Mountain PBS' Colorado State of Mind, during a discussion of a referendum to allow domestic partnerships, Rowland linked gay marriage to bestiality, polygamy, incest, and marriages between adults and “11-year-olds.” According to an August 15, 2006, Denver Post article, "[W]ithin hours" of her selection as former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's running mate, “Rowland was embroiled in controversy” because of her comments. The Post further reported, “Earlier this year during a taped discussion on gay marriage, she [Rowland] asked: 'Do we allow a man to marry a sheep? I mean at some point, you have to draw the line.' ” The Beauprez campaign later said Rowland “regretted the remark” and had apologized.