(Author’s note: I tried several times and failed to get the Columbus Dispatch to publish the item below and an earlier version as a letter to the editor or a guest column.  As long as the Dispatch continues to protect Gov. Kasich in battleground central Ohio, it will be very difficult to defeat him for re-election in 2014. It is not surprising that a recent Gallup survey showed that only 23 percent of Americans trust newspapers. While the Dispatch declined to comment the JobsOhio blackout legislation, it ran an editorial June 19 titled “No justification for secrecy,” regarding gun-record legislation. It should have been about JobsOhio. Meanwhile, the Dispatch started carrying ads costing thousands of dollars paid for by JobsOhio. It appears to be payment for protecting the governor. –John K. Hartman) 

 

Dispatch Too Biased In Kasich’s Favor To Be Trusted

When it comes to covering and criticizing Gov. Kasich, the Columbus Dispatch is too biased in his favor to be trusted.

While 95 percent of the content of the Dispatch is solid journalism, the 5 percent that protects and nurtures its favorite, the governor, is an embarrassment.

It is the 95 percent solid journalism that helps the Dispatch win many deserved awards for its reporting and opinion-making. If the judges carefully analyzed how the Dispatch covers up for, rather than covers the governor, the Dispatch would receive no prizes.

The Dispatch justifiably brags about its commitment to open records and transparent government, stating in a Sunday (June 2) editorial regarding the Columbus school data investigation that “School district taxpayers have a right to know more about what they are paying for” regarding payment for legal counsel.

And the Dispatch trumpets Sunshine Week every year as evidence of its support

But so far the Dispatch editorial page has ignored the legislation passed last week under a veil of secrecy by the Ohio Legislature that exempts billions in taxpayer money for JobsOhio from state audit, taxpayer scrutiny and press review.

While 11 million Ohioans are denied important information about their government that might embarrass the Kasich administration, the Dispatch remains mute.

Gov. Kasich had the power to veto this measure and strike a blow for open records, but he chose to sign it Tuesday — in secret.

Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive and Democratic candidate for governor, called on Friday (May 31) for Gov. Kasich, a Republican, to veto the measure. The Dayton Daily News reported FitzGerald’s statement the same day on its website as did many other Ohio news organizations, including subsequently the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the state’s largest newspaper. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Dispatch has chosen not to report this challenge by Kasich’s likely re-election opponent.

Rather than cover FitzGerald’s challenge, the Dispatch sent a reporter to northeast Ohio to cover a high school graduation speech by Gov. Kasich and placed it on the front page of Sunday’s paper.

While the speech to a community ravaged by a school shooting was worth covering, it hardly was front-page news in central Ohio. FitzGerald’s veto challenge was worth covering on the front page, and to the Dispatch’s discredit, it was not covered at all as of Wednesday afternoon

If the Dispatch editorial page — supposedly separate from the news department, yet both work for the same ownership — was true to its commitment to open records, it would have quickly carried a bold editorial calling on Kasich to veto the measure that would keep the JobsOhio records secret.

Also, the Dispatch would have put Kasich on notice that his chances of winning the Dispatch endorsement for governor in 2014, as he did in 2010, would be severely reduced if he failed to veto the record-closing measure.

And the Dispatch would have commended FitzGerald for his principled stand.

Meanwhile, in its news columns Wednesday, the Dispatch buried Kasich’s secret signing Tuesday of the secrecy measure, placing it on page B3 (with a tiny headline mention on B1) as part of an article on other bills Kasich signed.

Even more telling is the fact that the Dispatch editorial page still remained silent on the matter of putting up a wall of secrecy around the JobsOhio records. Now it is too late.

I sent an earlier version of this letter to the Dispatch last Sunday. It was ignored. Now I am sending an updated version.

In a few months, the Dispatch will be the largest circulation 7-day home-delivered newspaper in Ohio as the Cleveland Plain Dealer is cutting to 3 days a week.

With this new-found prominence and influence comes additional responsibility for the Dispatch to exhibit the highest standards of journalism and opinion-making.

Right now, the Dispatch is too biased in Kasich’s favor to be trusted.

 

John K. Hartman

Powell, Ohio

 

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