In a story about “dozens” of “educators” planning to run for the Oklahoma Legislature, News 9 highlighted a new political action committee (PAC) supporting the candidates and linked to the PAC’s fundraising apparatus in the story’s online version.
“Learn more about how you can contribute,” the link noted.
The ethics of making such a link and statement as a news organization are questionable at best, and it’s the sort of shortsighted editorial decision that leads the public — and the Republican party’s conservative base, in particular — to scream “bias” and chastise a purported “liberal media.”
If you’re not a journalist yourself, you might be wondering what’s wrong with highlighting a PAC and linking to a mechanism by which the public can donate to it. Without having to compress semesters of journalism ethics into one post, we can simply focus on the concepts of consistency and fairness.
If News 9 is going to link to the Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education PAC, the organization must also mention and link to any other PAC related to other campaign stories it runs. But no journalistic organization in its right mind would commit to that sort of standard because it would disrupt stories, take up valuable time and imply repeatedly that the organization is promoting an ideology.
As a result, news organizations should typically avoid promoting PACs, even if (amusingly) the fundraising site they use is offline, as this one was all Sunday.
To do otherwise invites enormous criticism. Consider some other potential scenarios that don’t have the supposedly positive connotations of teachers running for office.
How would readers react, for instance, to promotion of a PAC that supports candidates in favor of expanded highway and turnpike funding?
What about a PAC supporting candidates who favor the oil and gas industry?
What about a PAC backing Tea Party candidates?
In each of those scenarios, a variety of readers would surely criticize News 9 for promoting a specific special-interest advocacy effort.
Linking the public to a way they can donate to a PAC supporting education advocates is no different.
It’s a poor editorial decision for a news organization.
Things we saw (and heard)
Plan for Antonin Scalia School of Law is tweaked over unfortunate acronym — NPR.org
The disturbing reason some African American patients may be undertreated for pain — Washington Post
The ‘radical’ legacy of television’s Mister Rogers — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
After seven long years, there’s a new answering machine tape on Homestar Runner — Slate.com
Anxiety, mistrust greet KIPP expansion bid — The Oklahoman
Quotes to note
I’m saying it now. I’ll vote for this kid one day.
— tweet from OU wide-receivers coach Dennis Simmons about walk-on Najee Bissoon, a member of the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Legislature, as reported by NewsOK.com, 4/4/16
I haven’t been much places in this world. I honestly didn’t know what a white supremacist was at the time.
— Ryan Schock, who presided as mayor of a rural North Dakota town that a white supremacist attempted to take over, as quoted in the documentary Welcome to Leith, aired by PBS, 4/4/16
This government has done more than any other to take action against corruption in all its forms, but we will go further.
— UK Prime Minister David Cameron, in an advance excerpt of an address he will deliver Monday in the wake of the release of the Panama Papers, 4/10/16
When 20 percent of your student population is somehow qualified for special education, that requires a lot of attention beyond just teachers to make sure those needs are addressed.
— speech language pathologist and special education coordinator Marce Hotz, regarding an increase in aides and support staff for public schools, 4/10/16
Highlights from NonDoc
High-stakes standardized testing was ‘a mistake’ by John Thompson
‘Anything can happen’ at Oklahoma Songwriters Festival by William W. Savage III
WTF v. FTW: Modernization meets reality by Josh McBee