POT MEET KETTLE: Denver Post Demands Gazette Editorial Page Editor Disclose Campaign Ties

Plunkett defended his position on Laugesen piece

Remember when the Denver Post said it had no duty to inform the public that its Obamacare reporter was also about to become a full-time employee of the Obamcare spin implementation team?

Unfortunately, Denver Post political editor, Chuck Plunkett, seems to have forgotten that with the piece he wrote titled “Gazette ought to disclose Laugesen’s connection to Steve House campaign”.  Wayne Laugesen is The Colorado Springs Gazette editorial page editor and his wife, Dede, has been hired as Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve House’s communications director.

We’re not disagreeing that perhaps Laugesen should have disclosed his connection, but we find it puzzling that, when we pointed out Obamacare reporter Michael Booth’s conflict of interest, Plunkett vociferously defended Booth’s weak piece on Sen. Udall’s bullying of state officials.  From our article last month:

“…we had no idea that its author, exiting Denver Post reporter Michael Booth (who bylined the article), had an interest in seeing the Obamacare effort succeed.  But, it turns out he does.  His new gig (we’re not sure when it starts) is with the Colorado Health Foundation per his tweet earlier this week….  But, what does the Colorado Health Foundation have to do with Obamacare?  According to Colorado Consumer Health Initiative’s project website, it’s one of the backers to help implement the Colorado Exchange.”

Our previous frustration doesn’t sound terribly dissimilar from Plunkett’s request here:

“As thorough as the take-down was, it did lack one component that media watchdogs likely would’ve called for; or, at least, this occasional media watchdog would’ve called for.

The editorial should have disclosed that Editorial Page Editor Wayne Laugesen’s wife, Dede Laugesen, recently joined a rival GOP primary gubernatorial campaign as its paid communications director.”

Plunkett responded to our request to comment on why he was right to comment on the Laugesen issue when he had previously defended Booth:

The Post‘s management decided The Post didn’t need to address Mr. Booth’s new role. I edited that story and applied my normal care toward ensuring fairness and accuracy. I believe that Mike Booth, as a journalist, worked hard to be fair and objective. His coverage of ACA generated the kind of varied responses from politicos that support my observation here. Sometimes, ACA proponents liked his stories, sometimes they didn’t. Same with the new law’s opponents.

Mr. Laugesen, who I have a lot of respect for, writes and edits as the institutional voice of The Gazette in expressing its editorial views. Mr. Booth wasn’t writing for the editorial pages. He wasn’t responsible for advocating an opinion.  Here in the newsroom, our layers of reporting and editing are structured differently than are the editorial pages.”

Our view: While reporting and editorializing may follow different tracks in the Denver Post newsroom, it’s actually more dangerous when personal opinions creep into news writing than when they creep into editorial writing.  When a reader reads an opinion piece, they know it’s just someone’s opinion.  But, Americans have been trained to view news as fact.  So, when a reporter’s personal biases (and we all have them) creep into a story that’s meant to be read as fact, it’s a problem.

 
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