Poll's negative view of press finds example close to home

According to a recent report in the Washington Times, most Americans think press coverage is biased and negative.

From the story:

    A national survey conducted by the Missouri School of Journalism's Center for Advanced Social Research found that 62 percent consider journalism credible, and more than half rated newspapers and television news as trustworthy.

    But 85 percent say they detect a bias in reporting. Of those, 48 percent identified the bias as liberal, 30 percent as conservative, 12 percent as both and 3 percent as "other."

    About two-thirds say journalists invade people's privacy too often, and about three-quarters say the news is too negative.

The story also stated that, among the poll's findings:

    • 58 percent say journalists have too much influence over what happens in the world.
    • 74 percent say reporters tend to favor one side over the other when covering political and social issues.
    • About half say the press tends to exaggerate problems or is too sensational in its coverage.
    • 77 percent say they think a news story is sometimes killed or buried if it is embarrassing or damaging to the financial interests of a press organization.

George Kennedy, a Missouri journalism professor and co-author of a study that incorporates the survey results, was quoted as saying "the consumers of American journalism respect, value and need it, but they're also skeptical about whether journalists really live up to the standards of accuracy, fairness and respect for others that we profess."

Ohio Concealed Handgun License-holders are certainly familiar with biased and privacy-invading journalism. And in the wake of new developments in OFCC's investigation of how the state issues press credentials, questions of at least one newspaper living up to standards of fairness and respect for others are likely also to continue.

Anyone who has ever been called by a reporter for a major Ohio newspaper knows they expect to get answers, and quickly, when they ask them. We thought it would be interesting to see if the same standards would be applied in the reverse...

OFCC first broke the news that even the minimal standards the Ohio Department of Public Safety claim are followed when media credentials are issued in Ohio on Sunday, April 24. Since that time, the depth of the arbitrary and capricious way in which the state determines who obtains these press passes has become even more of a concern, upon discovery that secretaries, payroll administrators, librarians, etc. who work for Ohio media companies are being issued these cards, which can be used, according to a former card-holder, to access secure places such as after-hours at the Ohio Statehouse.

Since Cleveland Plain Dealer Julie Carr-Smyth made issue of OhioCCW.org News Manager's application for an OPIO card in a recent article, we thought it would be interesting to obtain comment from Carr-Smyth on the results of our investigation:

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Chad D. Baus
    Sent: 04/29/05 08:51AM
    Subject: Request for comment

    Julie -

    I am working on our continuing investigation of who the state issues media credentials (Ohio Public Information Officer (OPIO) cards) to, the policies for handling applications, revoking cards, etc., so am writing to request comment from you on the following. If you prefer to speak on the telephone, that is fine, but I thought this format would ensure I can get your quotes down just as you meant them:

    1) In response to your article published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer a few weeks ago, OFCC submitted public records requests to the Ohio Department of Public Safety/ Ohio State Highway Patrol (ODPS/OSHP) to obtain any and all information on who has applied for, been issued or been denied OPIO cards. The initial concern was that the office that handles the applications for these cards had obviously tipped off the newspaper that a member of OFCC had applied for media credentials. This is clearly inappropriate behavior on the part of the ODPS/OSHP. In response to our request for anything related to my personal application, the ODPS send a call log for April 11 indicate that you called in with a request related to "journalist exemption for concealed carry". What prompted your phone call?

    2) An employee of Akron Public Schools and an employee of the Clermont Co. Commissioners Office were both issued OPIO cards. If, as we suspect, these entities are not listed in the Ohio Media Directory, what are your thoughts on claims made by the ODPS to you for your story that only entities in the book qualify for the credentials?

    3) Despite what they told you for your story, we have found that an OPIO card has been issued to at least one freelance writer. What are your thoughts on this contradiction?

    4) What are your thoughts on the overall policy related to freelance journalists and Internet-only news mediums? Do freelance writers ever have a need for these credentials? Would you support a change in policy to allow them to obtain the credentials?

    5) While it appears you assumed that the purpose of my application was to obtain access to the CHL lists (as I explained to you on the telephone, a card would not be needed for this, and OFCC counts among its members those who already have OPIO cards), the true benefit in this exercise has been to uncover the duplicity involved. Our initial review of the card applications reveals that, as employees of a business listed in the Ohio News Media Directory, webmasters or internet content managers, payroll administrators, maintanence engineers, librarians, secretaries, sales directors and even a college intern have been issued OPIO cards. Is it your opinion that persons in these and similar non-reporter, in-house positions are in need of a card to so that law enforcement agencies
    and personnel can, at critical incidents, more quickly identify journalists working for large media organizations?

    6) The ODPS has informed us that there are no background checks on OPIO applicants, no fingerprints required, and no social security number is requested. There are no training requirements, and there is no booklet from the state Attorney General on journalistic ethics. Applicants don't have to be felony-free or drug-free for their lifetime. There seems to be no concern that applicants may have ever been institutionalized for mental health issues. There is no policy regarding revocation. Stephen A. Hill, former
    WCPO (Cincinnati) reporter, is currently serving a five year sentence for crimes related to having sex with teenage boys. Our investigation shows his card still shows as valid, as do 99.997% of all the OPIO cards ever issued. Do you have any concerns on this in terms of security, given than these cards are accepted to allow access at sensitive/secure locations? For instance, were you aware these cards are accepted as ID for after-hours access at the Ohio Statehouse?

    7) Do you believe that media credentials which will allow a person off-hour access to the Statehouse and other sensitive or secure areas are necessary for payroll managers, sales persons, secretaries and interns? Does it concern you that people who have left these jobs likely still possess these cards and may in fact be using them to gain access to such places?

    8) According to the records released by the ODPS, the Plain Dealer has only obtained OPIO cards for one reporter. The rest of the PD's OPIO cards are all for photographers. Does this speak in any way to the Plain Dealer's confidence in this program? Was there perhaps a reluctance on the part of the reporters to give out their private, personal information, such as home address, hair and eye color, height and weight? (feel free to pass #8 on to a decision-maker if it is more appropriate)

    9) What do Plain Dealer reporters like yourself present as ID to law enforcement at critical incident scenes without having an OPIO card?

    10) Do you or does anyone at the Plain Dealer have any knowledge about who the "participating organizations", or policy-makers, in the OPIO program are?

    My deadline is Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Email is fine for your responses, but you may also call me at (419) XXX-XXXX. Thank you for your continued assistance.

    Chad Baus
    News Manager

Carr-Smyth's response purported to offer help by providing the phone numbers of two contacts at the Ohio Statehouse who handle credentials. She then offered as a source "better than [her]"..."PD Editor Doug Clifton, for comment on what sort of background checks, drug tests, etc., are required of journalists who work at the PD, our credentialing system, and the paper's reasons for participating, or not, in the OPIO program."

Her reply was an obvious dodge, since many of the questions posed did not require official comment on behalf of the Plain Dealer, but were intended for her as a professional journalist.

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Chad D. Baus
    Sent: Fri, 29 Apr 2005
    Subject: Re: Request for comment

    Julie -

    Thanks for referrals, but the majority of the questions I asked were specific to you as an individual journalist, not as a representative of the Plain Dealer. Are you willing to offer your own thoughts on at least the first six questions?

Her one word response:

    ----- Original Message -----
    To: Chad D. Baus
    Sent: Fri, 29 Apr 2005
    Subject: Re: Request for comment


Which brings us back to Professor George Kennedy's words when observing the results of the recent poll on journalism:

"The consumers of American journalism...[are] skeptical about whether journalists really live up to the standards of accuracy, fairness and respect for others that we profess."


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