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Re: E-M:/ Dissent at LSJ regarding endorsements



The courts have ruled that First Amendment rights at newspapers rest with publishers so the LSJ's publisher, Leslie Hurst, was within her legal rights in refusing to ratify the editorial board's endorsement of Jim Marcinkowski.  But with rights come obligations, and when you have constitutional protections there is an obligation to exercise them in the public interest.  How was the public interest served by this decision? At the very least, publisher Hurst and the Lansing State Journal owes its readers a full explanation.  The best thing that can happen is for the City Pulse and the rest of us to exercise our First Amendment rights.  I will write a letter to the LSJ and copy the Pulse so if the LSF doesn't publish my letter the Pulse will be able to do so and in the process "out" the LSJ's lack of ethics.  I encourage other LSJ readers to do the same.

And a note to political reporters:  isn't this an election story?  --David

Gayle Miller wrote:

 

Please circulate widely.

 

This is a local environmental issue as it relates to the candidates’ record/platform on environmental protection…

 

From Michigan Liberal blog:

 

Despite the fact that 5 of 6 members of the LSJ edit board decided to endorse Jim Marcinkowski for the U.S. House, new Gannett Corporation-appointed publisher Leslie Hurst unilaterally opted to quash the editorial, and instead endorse nobody.

The following is a letter from LSJ edit board member Karen Twyman. It was to appear in today's Lansing City Pulse (but isn't online yet):

I have had the remarkable privilege of serving on the Lansing State Journal Editorial Board this year. My admiration for the newspaper has only grown as I have gotten to know the men and women who guide the editorial viewpoint of the paper. It was therefore a dismaying blow to discover that the decision of that board could be vetoed by the paper’s president and publisher. On October 8, after interviewing both candidates for the 8th Congressional seat the board voted five to one to endorse Jim Marcinkowski. Leslie Hurst, the publisher, sat in on the interviews but was not present when the discussion took place or when the decision was made. On Monday afternoon, October 23, board members were sent an e-mail with Tuesday’s editorial. It proclaimed that both candidates were “too flawed” for the paper to endorse. Marcinkowski was attacked for having “too little experience” and for appearing “glib” and dismissive. While the e-mail added the following explanation: the publisher felt strongly that Marcinkowski “did not rise to the level of a congressman”, a later e-mail explained that Leslie Hurst had wanted the LSJ to endorse Rep. Mike Rogers but had been persuaded to accept the non-endorsement of both candidates, as a compromise.

It has since been explained to me that the publisher always maintains the right to veto an editorial board’s decision, even when it is unanimous or nearly so, as in this case. However, there was no discussion with the editorial board about Leslie Hurst’s misgivings. An editorial was presented to us that did not reflect the board’s views. We were not given an opportunity to modify it. The editorial claimed that “the board in good conscience cannot recommend the candidacy of either man”. This is patently not true. We did, with a clear conscience, decide to endorse Marcinkowski, and our decision was then vetoed by one member of the board, the publisher.

In refusing to pick between Jim Marcinkowski and Mike Rogers, the Lansing State Journal did not provide the leadership that the community expects of it. It left the misleading impression that the candidates were found equally lacking. In fact, the editorial board was very disturbed by Roger’s lock-step support for the Bush administration’s positions on the war, torture and the treatment of detainees. Marcinkowski’s lack of legislative experience was noted, along with the fact that he gave some general answers to specific questions. These concerns were insufficient to deter us from easily picking Marcinkowski.

As a community board member, I have volunteered many hours to the job of interviewing candidates for possible endorsement. I did so under the impression that every staff and community member on the board had a chance to ask questions and to vote. I also believed that our collective decision would be offered to the readers. I expected disagreements from time to time, compromises when we could not all agree, and the publisher perhaps getting the final word. But I did not expect that, without any discussion, the publisher would turn the board’s decision on its head.

I requested that the publisher permit me to write a short letter expressing my dissent. I wanted this to appear on the editorial page of the LSJ before the election. I wanted readers to know that the board had chosen to endorse Marcinkowski. The publisher declined, and I have therefore asked the City Pulse to set the record straight. I have regretfully resigned from the editorial board of the Lansing State Journal.

So who is Leslie Hurst - this new wingnut publisher of the LSJ? Here's what the LSJ said when Gannett Corporation appointed her last year:

Leslie Hurst, president and publisher of The Idaho Statesman, was named president and publisher of the Lansing State Journal Wednesday.

Hurst succeeds Michael G. Kane, who had been publisher since January 2000. Kane was named president and publisher of the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle.

Senior Group President of the Gannett Midwest Newspaper Group Mary Stier praised both publishers and said Hurst will be an asset to the newspaper and the community.

"We fully expect Leslie to bring the same level of quality customer relations to Lansing that she has in all her previous roles," Stier said. "Leslie is very visible within her newspaper and within the community, and I would fully expect both the newspaper and the community will be seeing a lot of her when she arrives in Lansing."

Sue Kelly
Political Chair
Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club
sue.kelly@michigan.sierraclub.org
(810) 227-9563

 

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