What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.
The Washington Post’s media critic Eric Wemple caught syndicated columnist George Will red-handed in a flagrant conflict of interest.
This case highlights Will’s intersecting lines of influence. He’s a director of the Bradley Foundation, an entity with more than $800 million in assets and 2013 grants totaling nearly $34 million to organizations in Wisconsin and across the country, including big-time Beltway entities like the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society. His column is syndicated to about 450 newspapers. Keeping those two worlds separate is quite a job, as the Nov. 19 column demonstrates: Here, Will touted an outlet funded generously by a group he helps to lead. And thanks to the columnist’s kind words, WILL may have an easier time finding funders outside of the Bradley Foundation. All very cozy, synergistic and, as media critics might say, an out-and-out conflict of interest – an offense of which Will has been accused before.
Click through to read the whole column, including Will’s response. The columnist is unrepentant: “I do not see how disclosure of my connection to Bradley, and Bradley’s connection to WILL, and WILL’s connection to the school choice program, would be important to readers.” That suggests he will not hesitate to pull the same stunt again. Newspapers including the Des Moines Register should drop Will’s column if they don’t share his views on what constitutes full disclosure.
Speaking of the Register, Lynn Hicks (up to now the newspaper’s executive business editor) is taking over this month as editorial page editor as Randy Evans retires from that position. Evans will be missed. Seven people will serve on the Register’s editorial board going forward: President and Publisher Rick Green, Executive Editor Amalie Nash, Lynn Hicks, Rox Laird, Andie Dominick, Clark Kauffman, and Brian Smith. Laird has been writing editorials at the Register for about 30 years, Dominick since 2001. Kauffman is a longtime investigative reporter who just joined the editorial board in September of this year. Smith “is taking on a new engagement editor role that emphasizes reaching new audiences and connecting with the community”; up to now he has been an associate digital editor for the Register.
It’s probably too much to hope for the Register to make the politics and opinion sections of the website easier to navigate. Every newspaper owned by Gannett seems to operate with the same horrible template now. So I’ll settle for hoping that in the future, the Register will disclose any family connections between subjects of guest columns and members of the editorial board.
Rolling Stone magazine is backing off from a widely publicized story about an alleged rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. There were red flags in the original story, and some other journalists have questioned why no one from Rolling Stone interviewed the alleged perpetrators of the gang rape. I agree 100 percent with Olga Khazan: “this whole episode is terrible news for survivors of rape on college campuses and elsewhere.” Whatever did or did not happen to “Jackie” (the subject of Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s article), the collapse of this story undermines advocates working to get colleges and universities to address the real problem of sexual assault on campus.