If you’ve followed the Dispatch (or this site) this week, you’ve no doubt seen the recent drumbeat at just how regrettable it is that labor won’t sit down and try to work out a compromise on Senate Bill 5.  I’ve called it a totally manufactured story by the Columbus Dispatch.  A story designed to present Kasich as willing to compromise but labor as unbending.  It turns out, I wasn’t too far off.

Here’s the timeline of how this all became public, as told by the Dispatch yesterday:

On Sunday, a Dispatch editorial called for proponents and opponents of Senate Bill 5 to reach a compromise that would require public employees to pay more for their health care and pensions but would strip away the bill’s provisions that aren’t related to controlling government costs.

Yesterday, sources told Dispatch reporters that informal discussions between two people affiliated with the defense of Senate Bill 5 and representatives from the Ohio Education Association and the AFL-CIO took place about six weeks ago, but labor backed away.

What amazing luck that the Dispatch found confirmation that SB 5’s supporters have tried the very course of action the Dispatch advocated on Sunday.  But wait a second, that’s not what the Dispatch editorial actual said.   Here’s what the Dispatch editorial claimed on Sunday:

Gov. John Kasich previously has made overtures to union leaders for compromise, but so far, union leaders have not reciprocated.

Who were the people seeking to make a deal with labor on SB 5?  On Sunday, the Dispatch’s editorial page said the offer came from Governor Kasich, but the news division two days later subtly backed away and said it was two people affiliated with the defense of Senate Bill 5.  Why the walk back, and what does that say about the pro-SB 5 advocates pushing labor to cut a deal with them?  It says they weren’t from Governor Kasich’s office after all.

And that explains part of the reason labor would walk away.  Because if such talks didn’t include someone with authority to speak for the Republicans in the House and Senate and the Governor, then there was nobody at the table who had any real authority to make a compromise.

But who were the two people affiliated with the defense of Senate Bill 5?  And how did the Columbus Dispatch editorial board seem to know about this deal before its own newsroom?   Simple…because the Dispatch essentially was one of the people representing pro-SB 5 interests at the meeting.

Mike Curtin is the former Vice-Chairman and COO of the Dispatch Printing Company.  He’s still quoted by Ohio media outlets as speaking for the Dispatch even though he’s technically retired, like on the casino issue in Columbus for example:

Dispatch associate publisher emeritus Mike Curtin told NBC4 that his company partnered with Penn National on last year’s successful Issue 2 campaign to move the casino to the west side. Curtin said the Dispatch Printing Company contributed $400,000 to the campaign, as well as editorial support for the move. During the campaign, Curtin said Penn National executives promised to annex the casino into Columbus so the city would capture $8 million in annual casino host city tax revenue.

Curtin said the Dispatch Printing Company is taking legal action to hold Penn National to its promises.

Wait, the Dispatch got so involved in an election issue, negotiated a deal, and then endorsed their own deal?  Does this sound familiar?

“This is inserting the newspaper and the owners directly into the process. It’s unprecedented and entirely inappropriate for a newspaper to be doing,” Penn spokesperson Bob Tenenbaum said. “This is making the news rather than reporting the news.”

Yes, the same Mike Curtin that in 2009 blasted Penn National’s constitutional amendment in the Dispatch for mandating a casino in the Arena District, then negotiated a deal to amend the casino amendment to move it out of there, had the Dispatch endorse his plan, and donate $400,000 to the cause.

We already talked about how at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce presentation “We Are Ohio” made advocating that the Chamber take a neutral position, Curtin and Curt Steiner (former OSU lobbyist, former Voinovich chief-of-staff, former chief-of-staff to Speaker Jo Ann Davidson) pushed the “We Are Ohio” campaign on the possibility of working out a deal with Kasich to avoid having to have a referendum issue.

And guess what editorial he was pushing on Twitter this weekend?

We have now been informed that it was they who called the meeting with a representative from the OEA and Ohio AFL-CIO to discuss a deal.

So, let’s recap.  A major Dispatch honcho who has a history of using his status within the Dispatch to make news that favors his politics and then have his paper report it and editorial pages applaud it, sets up a meeting with some labor leaders to work out a deal on SB 5.  The meeting doesn’t go well, likely because neither Steiner or Curtin can really promise the labor unions anything because they have no clear authority to negotiate a deal that requires the involvement of the GOP legislature and Kasich, and frankly, they have little leverage given the current polling on the issue.

Then the Dispatch follows up the editorial advocating for someone to try to attempt a deal with a news story that such an attempt as advocated by the Dispatch was tried, but the labor leaders walked away – never mentioning that one of the most influential figures at the Dispatch  just happens to be behind the attempt to broker a deal and then the editorial lecturing labor to make such a deal.

Not since William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer urged Americans to “Remember the Maine!” hearstjournal[1]has a media outlet been more interested in making the news than reporting it.

This is more than just a story about a media outlet have a political bias in its coverage of a story.  This is about a media outlet becoming the story.

This is about a media outlet that hides its role in creating the news and, in so doing, failing to disclose highly relevant evidence that puts that story in its proper context.

There was no offer from Governor Kasich.  There was an attempt by Mike Curtin and  Curt Steiner to try and avoid an issue that could cause lasting damage to the Republican Party in Ohio.  And when they, who had nothing to really offer in the deal, didn’t get two labor leaders to immediate leap at the chance to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, they unleashed the Dispatch on them.

The Dispatch isn’t just in the tank for John Kasich.  On Sunday, they said that they actually represent him in official government matters.

  • Anonymous

    OMG!  These people associated with the Dispatch are incredibly dirty.  Nice work, Modern!  Once again you’ve been able to get the real story.

  • Anonymous

    Great work, Modern!  

    By the way, I stopped subscribing to the Kasich Press Team Dispatch long ago.  

  • Anonymous

    Excellent breaking story. When I read Curtain’s involvement I immediately thought of the casino move that the Dispatch forced so as not to cut into their Arena District cash.

    And you also know Curtain acted on orders from the Wolfe family

  • Who do they think they are? News Corps?

    Great reporting, PB. Keep up the good work.

  • Progessive Willy

    Fantastic investigative reporting, ModernEsquire!  I’m so glad you’re on ‘our side’.  

    Curtin’s and Steiner’s actions are despicable.

  • Annekarina

    Oh yeah.  You mean that rag company that got on Governor Strictland for using a call center that was supposedly located in TX or somewhere and turned out to be located somewhere not in the USA?   Guess where that rag’s call center is located.

  • Orion89

    Me too. I miss the days when there were more newspapers in Columbus instead of only one. News might be a little more accurate.

  • Orion89

    Me too. I miss the days when there were more newspapers in Columbus instead of only one. News might be a little more accurate.

  • I really am passed due to have that “Unsubscribe from The Dispatch and subscribe to Plunderbund” fundraising program together.  This would be a good time to pitch that.  😉

    How many of you would be in on that?  Hit like.

  • Carrie

    Visit the boycott the dispatch facebook page here:


  • Anonymous

     The Dispatch’s call center is located in the Philippines. 

  • Anonymous

     The Dispatch’s call center is located in the Philippines. 

  • As if we needed another reason to fear Mike Curtin. He is an amazing attack dog for the Wolfe family. The problem with making him a villain, however, is that he is usually right. And respected. And very, very smart. If I had to pick someone to write Ohio Constitution, I would pick Mike Curtin. He has already authored half of it anyway.

  • Anonymous


  • Thosmeyer

    The purpose of this sinister drama was, and is, the centerpiece of the coming pro-SB5 (vote yes) onslaught — that big labor is bad.  Labor refuses to compromise.  Their visuals will supply willing coverage of unruly crowds,  R-rated signs, and red tinted threats and chants.  That’s probably one good reason why the Statehouse interiors were denied to the protesters last spring.  Much better visuals for GOP spies, exteriors cramped and rowdy.  Protesters were unwittingly herded into an angry state, and rightfully so.
    Up until now, the pro-SB5 forces have held their fire (money) until the conservative polling was done — voters in Ohio, as well as those in Wisconsin, have a generally negative view of Big Labor.  Sorry, but they do.  Do your own polling if you don’t believe it.  Just wait until we see how Big Labor is portrayed in the GOP attack ads this fall.
    The newspaper in Columbus has “leaned” Rebublican since the very early 1900’s — that they wield their power and money for conservative interests is nothing new.  Get over it.  They hate unions and will never change.  Period.  Their current circulation slogan (at this time of downturn for their industry) is “Whats In It For Me?”.  No kidding.
    Persons pointing their fingers at bias in newspapers are, sadly, confusing strategy and tactics.  The real purpose of this most recent charade is to generate and justify key moments for the crushing meta-narrative that is coming.  Big labor is bad.  Big labor is bad.  Big labor is bad.  We tooooold you so, they jis won’t compromise!  Big Labor is Bad, let’s take a look at the tape. 
     For a recent example, think Pawlenty’s gaffe in the first GOP debate being seized upon by press, opponents, and spin-doctors as the key moment in the meta-narrative that sunk him — that he is too nice and too timid to mount and win a national presidental run.  Pawlenty fell right into the trap. The pitiful candidate’s story never recovered from the media’s “gotcha” question during that debate, and he knew it.  And by the way, the press does not distinguish between reporting news and making news, not after the fact they don’t.  Efforts aiming to win that battle are a major, and unfortunate, distraction.

  • Loosely related, but did anyone read the horrifyingly biased Cincinnati Magazine article about Shannon Jones and SB 5? Sickening.

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