In the wake of the defeat of Issue 2, The Columbus Dispatch surged ahead in Ohio’s competition for the state’s worst newspaper. Those of you in Cleveland and Cincinnati must surely concede that the Central Ohio newspaper has established itself firmly in first place courtesy of their editorial board’s phenomenally absurd, defensive, and bitter writing this week.
To recap, voters in Ohio soundly turned back Issue 2 by a wide margin on Tuesday, with the current count reported by the Secretary of State as:
Back in February, the Dispatch reported that Senate Bill 5 would impact a total of 359,500 employees. Even if we assume they all voted against, and if we then nullified all of those votes and removed them from the totals, Issue 2 would have still been defeated by more than 433,000 votes and a still-whopping 57-43 margin. Issue 2 unquestionably went far beyond Ohio’s public employees or unions, this was a mandate by Ohio’s citizens.
The Columbus Dispatch would have none of that. They have been supporting Senate Bill 5 and Issue 2 for months by criticizing unions and public employees and they will not let a simple election derail them. They fired the first post-election salvo of negativity by way of their Wednesday headline:
Revenge is a word with negative connotations and is defined as: to exact punishment for a wrong on behalf of, especially in a resentful or vindictive spirit
Unions didn’t “get revenge” through this vote; a majority of Ohioans voted to leave the previous laws intact, retaining collective bargaining rights for Ohio’s workers. And as we noted above, a majority of the voters opposed to Issue 2 were not members of public employee unions. And if we want to throw the word vindictive around, pull up the video of your choice of Kasich discussion unions, public employees, Senate Bill 5, or Issue 2 (Full page ad, anyone?)
But the Columbus Dispatch is against unions and public employees and refuses to recognize the will of Ohio voters. So, while over 2 million Ohioans thought the outcome was clear, the central Ohio newspaper is moving full speed ahead with their anti-union message, continuing to malign unions at every turn, honesty be damned.
Today’s Dispatch included a letter from editor Ben Marrison that was disguised as an apology for Wednesday’s inflammatory headline. In Headline on Issue 2 vote went astray, Marrison tries to explain how they arrived at the headline by ignoring the opinion of Joe Hallett (“our politics guru”; “he was covering the story”), they settled on the use of the word revenge when these pro-Issue 2 editors “reasoned that unions clearly had felt attacked.” If these editors had the first inkling to try to understand how “unions” were feeling, then they would clearly understand that unions don’t have feelings, people do, and they would have spent more time speaking to those people before composing their closed-door endorsements and disparaging editorials.
Your comments and further analysis internally led me to believe we could have done better. The headline too narrowly focused on one aspect of the story and ignored the larger story: Ohioans rejected this, not just unionized Ohioans. And it was not necessarily revenge.
[News editor Danny] Goodwin’s response to one reader summed up his thoughts on the headline: “If I had to do it over again, I might have come up with a different headline, although there’s little doubt in my mind that some of the hard-core union supporters and officials did see this referendum as a way to ‘stick it’ to the governor.
“But we weren’t trying to take sides or anything; we were trying to suggest that they had their day in the sun, so to speak, and were able to undo something Kasich (and the legislature) did that they strenuously opposed. Given the protests, the petition drive and the public statements, the opposition certainly left no doubt they thought the bill was wrong.
“So while I don’t think it’s the worst headline I was ever a part of, I do think your comment has validity and, as always, I will try to be a bit more careful in the future. All of the things we do, good and bad, give us more experience that we can call upon in the future as we try to strike the right balance in our journalistic efforts.”
But we respect that reasonable people can disagree with some of our decisions.
“Sure, you might disagree with us, but we stand by our inflammatory headline designed to evoke negative emotions about unions.” If this was their only highlight, we might be able to let it go. But alongside Marrison’s letter in today’s paper was another editorial that reads nearly identical to every other pro-Issue 2 opinion piece they have been running for the last 8 months except for the most obvious fact – Issue 2 was defeated on Tuesday.
In the editorial Start over, the Dispatch editors bemoan the notion that local governments are still facing budget constraints. Yet not once, NOT EVEN ONE TIME, do they dare to address Kasich’s budget cuts to local governments while miraculously increasing the overall state budget. Isn’t that the tax money of Ohio residents too? Instead, the Dispatch editors blatantly disparage public employees, mocking concessions that have been made and continuing to blame unions for budget woes. And to top it off, Marrison, et al, propagate the ongoing myth that unions single-handedly draw up their own contracts; that there is no second party in the negotiations.
Many union leaders also appear to be aware of the need for change. New contracts approved in the months leading up to Tuesday’s vote included increases in the amount that public employees pay for health care and pensions.
For example, under the pact just approved by Columbus firefighters, they will pay 10 percent of their health-insurance premiums, up from the current 9 percent. The city also will reduce and then eliminate by 2014 the amount it pays of the employee share of pension contributions. These payments cost the city $41.5 million last year.
Are you looking for the part where they mention the city council? You won’t find it here – that would actually reveal that the elected officials who “represent the taxpayers,” and know their local government’s economic situation ALSO negotiate these contracts and ALSO agree to the terms.
For some actual facts, the editors should have consulted their own Doug Caruso article on Tuesday that clearly states that “Columbus firefighters and the City Council approved a three-year labor agreement yesterday…..City officials estimate that scaling back and then ending city pension payments for firefighters will save the city almost $49 million.” TWO PARTIES agreed to this contract – the union AND the City Council.
The slanted opinions put forth by the Dispatch make it undeniably clear that the Editors have an agenda alongside the Governor’s and the Ohio GOP to eliminate the right of Ohioans to assemble as unions. The lie put forth since February that Senate Bill 5 was intended to provide tools to local governments was a cute talking point, not a desired outcome, as GOP legislators only wanted to exert absolute control over local governments by restricting their negotiating options when bargaining with employees. The Columbus City Council co-negotiated this contract with the only tool they needed – collective bargaining with the employees’ union.
The Columbus Dispatch needs to fund-raise to purchase some journalistic integrity.
Mr. Marrison, drop the lies and write something objective or else encourage your bought-and-paid-for-owner to change the paper’s name to The Columbus Dispatch Super PAC.