Tonight, we have another followup to our post on the obvious conflict of interest that the Plain Dealer had on its hands when columnist Connie Schultz was caught engaging in political activity while also researching for her column at an event attended by Josh Mandel, the likely challenger to her husband, Senator Sherrod Brown. No, I’m not going to beat up on Connie some more. Once exposed, she came out and admitted her mistakes.
This next issue involves Connie Schultz, but I expect this decision was made by the PD editorial staff. Below are scans of the print version from two of Schultz’s recent columns. The first is from her August 31st column titled “Voter fraud is just a dark GOP fantasy”. The second is her now infamous column in which she addressed her actions at the Tea Party rally, “Lesson learned”.
Notice the difference?
There was a rumor that the Plain Dealer was going to stop putting the disclosure stating that Connie Schultz is married to Senator Sherrod Brown at the end of her columns. You would think that after this week’s kerfluffle, they would have changed their minds about that, and kept the disclosure in place. Even Connie agrees with me.
You, the reader, should always be trusted to make up your own mind about whether my writing presents a conflict. That’s why transparency matters. I am in the unique position of being a newspaper columnist married to a U.S. senator. My opinions are my own, but I must be ever vigilant to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. I’m sorry I didn’t let you know Mandel showed up.
As the U.S. Senate race progresses, the public scrutiny of me will only heighten. I have to be ever-vigilant to avoid even the appearance of a conflict. That means I’m going to have to mention my husband more often than I want.
I thought that removing the disclosure would be a bad idea, but removing it after what just happened is a really bad idea. You’ve just been stung in a conflict of interest where your top columnist had to devote an entire column to an apology, and your reaction is…less transparency about the situation?
If you’re reading this blog, you are probably a politico like me, and already knew that Schultz was married to Brown. However, living in Northeast Ohio, I have had several people comment to me regarding one of Schultz’s columns, who didn’t know that. In every case, after I told them, their reaction was, “they should tell people that!”
And while I don’t have the cached pages to prove it, I believe I recall seeing the disclosure on the online versions of her column in the past. But it certainly isn’t there now. It should be.
The Plain Dealer, like many newspapers around the country, are suffering large losses in readership. Surveys have shown that a majority of the American public believe that the mainstream media is biased towards the left. Episodes like they had this week, and their latest decision to stop being transparent about Schultz’s relationship to the most liberal Senator in the country, isn’t helping their case.
UPDATE 9/19: Schultz resigns