Journalistic integrity seemingly optional
If the opinion editors of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review were lawyers, they would be disbarred. If they were doctors, they would lose their medical license. Instead, their lack of journalistic ethics will have absolutely no effect on their jobs, because at the Tribune-Review, unethical behavior is covered up instead of addressed.
Over the winter break, the Tribune-Review wrote about one of my decisions last year when I was Executive Officer of The Tartan. I had chosen not to run an advertisement submitted by national commentator David Horowitz and instead chose to run a statement in its place explaining my decision. I was surprised that the Trib would wait over a month to report on what I saw as no longer a topical issue, but I cooperated with their reporter and gave him as much information as possible. Most importantly, I directed him to read the statement I had published in that very issue that explained why I was not running Horowitz?s advertisement.
For reasons that were obvious to me, that statement was one of the most important elements of the story. Instead, the reporter chose not to read it and published instead what was essentially an uninteresting piece peppered with minor factual errors.
It was obvious what was coming next. Soon enough, the Tribune-Review?s editorial board published a piece condemning my action. That they would take this opinion was as predictable as their sport pages covering the Steelers? playoff games.
The Tribune-Review?s editorial page really didn?t care much for accuracy, but so be it. They claimed I ?quietly? silenced the advertisement, which was patently false. I had clearly communicated to the Trib that I had published a statement explaining my actions and made sure that I did everything publicly.
I am willing to be criticized for my decision and I welcome it. I made what I thought to be a tough decision, and I stand by it. If the Trib wants to criticize me, that?s their right.
What was shocking wasn?t their opinion; it was their ethics. Let me make this perfectly clear: I have absolutely no problem with the position the Trib took on my decision. My problem is with their failure to disclose a conflict of interest and the coverup that followed.
Richard Mellon Scaife, the publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is one of David Horowitz?s chief funders and has been for years. Ethical practices would seem to necessitate the disclosure of this fact, but it was not present.
As someone who was criticized by name in one of their editorials, I wrote a letter to the editor defending myself. I received correspondence from a member of the Trib staff and he gave me a word limit, which I followed. A few days passed and then my letter appeared in print.
Or, at least, a letter bearing my name appeared in print. I was shocked by two things. Firstly, the Trib printed words that I simply had not written. And secondly, they cut the last sentences of my letter, where I mentioned the link between Scaife and Horowitz.
Where I had written: ?Instead of running an advertisement by David Horowitz, I chose...? they published ?...running an advertisement by conservative David Horowitz for his book ?Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left.? ? Labeling Horowitz as a conservative is not something I did, and adding it does not clarify my letter; it merely serves to discredit me. Furthermore, the whole story centers around the fact that I wouldn?t accept his advertisement. To mention the fact that he had a book, and then name it, is to force my letter to advertise for him.
Yet most importantly, the Trib cut the following lines from my letter: ?Perhaps it should be noted that the Tribune-Review?s owner, Richard Mellon Scaife, is one of David Horowitz?s chief funding sources. If nothing else, journalistic ethics would seem to dictate the disclosure of this fact.?
For them to fail to note this when they published the article is one thing. To censor it from my letter goes above and beyond the range of acceptable behavior and must be exposed for what it is: a coverup.
I cannot put it more simply than this: editorial page editor Colin McNickle allowed a coverup of a conflict of interest in an editorial.
And for the record, Colin, you chose not to run George Will?s work last week because you disagreed with it. For you to criticize me for making the same decisions you did while covering up a conflict of interest is abhorrent at best. No respectable newspaper would allow such behavior, which forces the question: Is the Trib a respectable newspaper?