Veteran ESPN ombudsmen are weighing in on ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling's "hurtful" comments comparing Muslims to Nazis, including one who labeled him a "right-wing dummy." They're also urging the sprawling sports media empire to bring back the ombudsman position that has not been filled since late 2014.
"I think an internal critic is really, really healthy," said George Solomon, who was named the first ESPN ombudsman in 2005 and served for 21 months. "Having someone in that role is a good thing and I would hope they would reinstitute it. I think they should have kept the position, it's good to have an internal critic."
Schilling kicked off a controversy this week after a Twitter post in which he compared Muslims to Nazis, a move that caused ESPN to pull him from its Little League World Series coverage and this week's edition of Sunday Night Baseball. After ESPN announced disciplinary measures, Schilling tweeted, "I understand and accept my suspension. 100% my fault. Bad choices have bad consequences and this was a bad decision in every way on my part."
But the offending tweet wasn't a momentary lapse in judgment. Schilling has a history of posting and sharing incendiary material on social media, including suggesting Hillary Clinton is a drunk murderer, defending the confederate flag, and criticizing civil rights leaders.
Josh Krulewitz, ESPN vice president of communications, declined to say if more discipline would occur.
The incident took place at a time when ESPN has been without an ombudsman for more than eight months, having failed to replace Robert Lipsyte when his term ended in December 2014.
Lipsyte was one of three former ESPN ombudsmen who spoke to Media Matters Wednesday about Schilling, calling him a "right-wing dummy" and saying his views hurt his image on the network.
"My feeling is that if Curt Schilling can make the kind of comments that he does outside the white lines then I don't trust anything he has to say about anything," Lipsyte said. "He's obviously a right-wing dummy."
He later added, "Everybody in journalism these days is under pressure to be on social media, which also reflects on your employer. There are no personal tweets. You are reflecting whoever you represent and Curt Schilling is representing ESPN."
George Solomon, the first ESPN ombudsman hired in 2005 for 21 months, said the Muslim/Nazi comparison "can be quite hurtful to a number of people."
He added, "ESPN gives its employees, particularly its commentators, a lot of leeway and it seems sometimes that causes a problem and in Schilling's case it seems to be a problem that ESPN will have to deal with, looking at his whole body of work ... ESPN will have to decide, 'Do we want Mr. Schilling to represent us with these comments?' Coming from an era where Twitter was not a factor and social media was not part of my life that can be difficult because people who represent ESPN or other networks will put things on Twitter and other social media outlets that they would not say that can be a problem."
Asked what he would do if he was still the ombudsman, Solomon said, "I would probably comment on the remarks. To compare the Muslims with the Nazis is a stretch."
The network had employed an ombudsman regularly since 2005, with five people holding the job through the years. But the position has been empty since Lipsyte left.
Krulewitz said the network has not ruled out bringing the position back, but stopped short of offering any firm plans: "We're in the process of determining our plans for our next ombudsman. We're exploring what our options are ... we're in the midst of the process now."
Asked if the latest Schilling situation would change the plans to expedite the ombudsman, he said, "no."
"The ombudsman is an independent, someone we hire independently to review and discuss her or his viewpoint of ESPN," Krulewitz said. "We're going to go through the process and we obviously want to do the process the right way."
But the former ombudsmen who spoke to Media Matters said the position is needed, perhaps now more than ever given the recent Schilling situation.
"I can't understand what's taking them so long, with all the things," said Lipsyte. "When I left ESPN, my exit interview, the takeaway was 'why should we pay for criticism when we get so much for free.' That doesn't sound to me like an organization that really wants independent oversight. Everybody needs an ombudsman."
Solomon agreed: "I've said that from the start. Taking myself out of the mix, the ombudsmen they've had have been really valuable and informative and really good."
He also added, "I think ESPN was sensitive to what the ombudsmen, including myself, had to say. They listened, they paid attention, they were very responsive when I did the reporting for my column."
Le Anne Schreiber, another ESPN ombudsman who served from 2007-2009, urged the position's return, saying they helped many of the network's journalists who conduct in-depth reporting.
"Some of the employees are very, very serious journalists," she said. "The ombudsmen have always had their backs. Many of them said to me how much moral support they felt in their place in the institution by the presence of the ombudsman, if only for that reason. Just being a watchdog and just being a voice raised the traditional journalist values. It gave a lot of aid comfort and support to the serious journalists who are there and who deserved it."
She also said the network needs specific policies about what is allowed and what the punishment will be for these type of actions.
"ESPN needs to have a very clarified policy about what is acceptable and what is not on their airwaves and ESPN.com," Schreiber said. "ESPN should stop dealing with these ad hoc, making them up in response to public heat of the moment; make a very clear policy. It really is about a consistency of policy."
Influential Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson -- whose show is a frequent destination for Republican presidential candidates -- is standing by his plan to make undocumented immigrants "property of the state" if they refuse to leave the country after an allotted period of time. In comments to Media Matters, Mickelson described his plan as "constitutionally defensible, legally defensible, morally defensible, biblically defensible and historically defensible."
On his August 17 radio show, Mickelson laid out his proposal for forcing undocumented immigrants out of Iowa. According to Mickelson, he would "put up some signs" alerting undocumented immigrants that they would be forced into "compelled labor" if they did not leave before a stated deadline. He continued, "the people who are here illegally would therefore be owned by the state and become an asset of the state rather than a liability and we start inventing jobs for them to do." After a caller raised a concern that "everybody would believe it sounds like slavery," Mickelson replied, "well, what's wrong with slavery?"
Mickelson strongly defended his proposal during a Wednesday interview with Media Matters.
"All you have to do is put up a sign on the border," Mickelson said. "Just put up a sign that says 'After 60 days from this date certain if you're in the state of Iowa and you are here without legal status and you are criminally in the state of Iowa, you will become the property of the state and we will compel labor from you because you are a criminal and the 13th Amendment allows us.'"
Mickelson tweeted today that he's hosted "everyone" from the Republican presidential field on his radio program except Jeb Bush.
Asked if he believed any of the GOP candidates would agree with his plan, Mickelson claimed, "most of them would understand my point isn't serious, the point is philosophical." (Mickelson told a caller during his radio show, "you think I'm just pulling your leg. I am not.")
He claimed that the intention of the plan was to scare people out of the state, but conceded that you may have to force "one or two people" into servitude to make a point.
"If you actually did it you would never have to do that, all you have to do is put up a sign," he claimed. "It is the cheapest." But he later stressed that "maybe one or two people" would have to be forced to work in a "highly visible fashion, the problem solves itself. You'll have a vast sucking sound of illegals departing the state."
Mickelson also said Republican presidential candidates "would understand it from a historical and intellectual point of view. Because most of these people have a good understanding of western law, they would understand the 13th Amendment as it's written. Most of the states following the Civil War have criminal restitution as part of our civil code."
Mickelson explained he does not currently have any interviews with Republican candidates scheduled, but added, "They'll come, they'll pursue it and say 'can we come on,' and 'sure,' I don't chase them around looking for them to come on, they usually call and ask me."
The host later expanded on his defense, saying, "The Constitution, 13th Amendment said indentured servitude, it is one of the most ancient ways that western culture has collected restitution for crime."
"You can't just enslave people, go around to become bigger and stronger and more powerful than you are ... the Torah says that's man stealing, that's a capital offense," he said.
"Indentured servitude, however, was the choice for debt collection. If you couldn't pay a loan you took out from someone you ended up working for that person until the loan was paid off." He added, "If you were criminal and caused property damage to someone either by mistake or on purpose you're indentured to that person and had to pay that person back four-fold."
According to Mickelson, "I'm not looking to start another tobacco farm or plantation or cotton farm here in Iowa, I'm just looking to hold people accountable for their behavior."
Veteran presidential campaign correspondents and media experts are criticizing Fox News' unprecedented role as a gatekeeper in the Republican primary.
This week, Fox News will host the first primary debate of the cycle. The event is something of a coup for the network, which has been exerting increasing control over the Republican electoral process over the past decade. The debate will be limited to 10 candidates, based on their standing in a series of national polls that Fox itself is selecting. Fox News' debate rules have been criticized by several candidates and Republican activists for a variety of reasons, including that the network is overriding the importance of early voting primary states by essentially narrowing the field several months early.
People inside the network have also expressed frustration with the debate process with an anonymous Fox personality reportedly telling New York magazine that it's "crazy stuff" to have Fox News head Roger Ailes essentially "deciding who is in - and out - of a debate."
In comments to Media Matters, veteran campaign reporters, media reporters, and ethicists criticized Fox's influence.
"Should Fox be playing this role?" asked Eric Engberg, a former CBS News correspondent who covered presidential campaigns from 1976 to 2000. "I think given Fox's ideological bent and that Roger Ailes has spent most of his career working on political campaigns, this whole thing is a sham."
As Media Matters has documented, candidates have been flocking to the network to get face time with its influential hosts and reach its conservative audience, which in turn boosts interest in Fox. In some cases, candidates and groups supporting them have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Fox ads to help bolster their image and hopefully increase their national polling ahead of the debate.
In a segment laying out how super PACs supporting former Texas Gov. Rick Perry had made a large ad buy on Fox News and other cable networks ahead of the debate, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explained, "So, Fox News set that rule for the Republican Party, and now, Fox News gets to cash in on that rule by getting all of the Rick Perry super PAC money in the form of his national ads. It's a nice racket, right?"
"That sounds to me like either extortion or bribery, I don't know which," Engberg said. "You don't know whether Fox has indicated to these people that they would be wise to buy more advertising. It has a smell of corruption about it because it mixes money with open political campaigning."
The New York Times reported on June 4 that Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire "fear candidates are too focused on getting on television to enhance their poll standing, when they should be out meeting voters in town halls and greasy spoons." Former chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa Matt Strawn lamented that "now we have put network executives, quite frankly, in charge of winnowing the field instead of actual voters." Newspapers in early primary states have also "mounted an insurrection against Fox News" by co-sponsoring a candidate forum before the Fox debate.
"It's obvious that the early primary states and the Iowa caucuses have suffered a blow from the way Fox is managing things," Engberg added. "There is less focus on Iowa and New Hampshire because all of the candidates' staffs felt the most important thing is going to be this televised debate on Fox, especially if it is going to be the first ... We can call it the Roger Ailes primary. One television executive has taken control of the process of deciding. It has a smell of one-man rule about it."
David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun TV critic, called the Fox control of the debate "a game changer."
"Instead of going to the states where the primaries and caucuses are held, they are spending money on TV to reach a mass audience," he said. "Worse, and this is the part that's really kind of mind-boggling, is that Fox is going to pick the 10 people based on the polls and there's a line in there that says they judge the polls and they're picking them. And now you have people like Rick Perry and [Marco] Rubio saying that the way to reach the line it takes to be picked by Fox is spend millions of dollars to advertise on Fox ... This is not an appearance of conflict it is a straight conflict."
Adam Clymer, a former New York Times political correspondent between 1972 and 2000, called the approach "inevitably messy," later stating, "Fox is both an advertising and news media for them, with the fact that some of them have been paid commentators before. In theory you would like to have somebody making the decision about who participates who is not involved in covering the news."
Walter Mears, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Associated Press campaign reporter who covered every general election presidential debate from 1976 to 2000, was also a panelist for the 1976 vice presidential debate. He urged an "impartial organization" running the debate.
"Some of them have been Fox commentators, and now they're players," he said of the candidates. "In the worst case you would have conservative sweetheart questions directed to these guys. I would suspect that they will go to some lengths to try to appear impartial and appear even-handed so that it won't look to be contrived and controlled. The shift to the right compelled by Fox News has changed the definition of what's an impartial producer for a debate."
Marvin Kalb, former host of Meet the Press, said Republican candidates have drifted ideologically to Fox, and Fox to them: "Buying time to win acceptance to a debate is only the latest twist in a long-standing drama. Up until now, buying time provided face time; now, in addition, it may win a place in a debate whose ground rules the network sets."
For Walter Shapiro, who covered nine presidential campaigns dating back to 1980 for The Washington Post, Newsweek, Salon and others, the Republican Party is also to blame for "the total abject surrender to the TV networks."
"By going first, Fox has made a mockery of the debates and it is because [Republican National Committee Chair] Reince Priebus punted and the RNC punted and said to Fox, 'you figure it out,' that much is clear," Shapiro said. "This is a Republican forum."
He later added, "Fox played a major role in making Donald Trump the central story on the Republican side. This is the moment where Republicans should begin to realize that Fox is a business entity concerned with ratings, with the elevation of Trump to the detriment of the rest of the Republican party."
It's been more than 12 years since The New York Times suffered perhaps its biggest black eye when the Jayson Blair scandal turned the paper's credibility upside down, sparked a special report, and forced the paper's two top editors to resign in disgrace.
Blair, then a 27-year-old rising reporter, committed a string of journalistic sins -- from plagiarism to outright lying about being at events he had supposedly covered.
The Gray Lady's credibility was in doubt until it set in place a list of changes aimed at correcting the systemic mistakes that had allowed Blair to get away with his lies. Among those changes was hiring its first public editor, an ombudsman positon that would independently review the paper's work and freely write about it for readers.
Soon after, in 2004, the Times issued a Policy on Confidential Sources. It stated, among other things, that the identity of anonymous sources must be known by at least one editor before a story is published, and that the paper must explain as much as possible to readers why the anonymity was granted and why the source is credible.
Oddly, that policy, cited in numerous public editor columns through the years, does not appear to currently be online at the Times website.
The Times' Ethical Journalism handbook says only that the paper has a "distaste for anonymous sourcing," and mentions the Policy on Confidential Sources, saying it is "available from the office of the associate managing editor for news administration or on the Newsroom home page under Policies."
The Times did not respond to a request for the latest version of the policy this week. Past links to the 2004 policy reach a dead page.
Since Daniel Okrent served as the first public editor from December 2003 to May 2005, four others have held that role (including Margaret Sullivan, who currently occupies the position).
Despite the public editor post and the confidential source policy, the paper has not overcome its problems with sources that seek anonymity.
The most recent example is the poor reporting on a supposed "criminal investigation" targeting Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state, which appeared in the paper last week sourced to anonymous "senior government officials." After publication, the Times had to issue corrections walking back two of the story's central claims -- that the requested probe was targeting Clinton herself, and that it was "criminal" in nature.
Stretching back to when the paper initially updated the story without issuing a formal correction, the Times has generally done a poor job managing the debacle.
The latest attempt at damage control was an editor's note issued Tuesday that said the approach to correcting the story had "left readers with a confused picture." But it did not explain how or why the paper got so much wrong.
It is clear, however, that one of the problems was relying on anonymous sources, and poor ones at that.
Sullivan wrote that two Times editors involved with the story -- executive editor Dean Baquet and deputy executive editor Matt Purdy -- agreed "that special care has to come with the use of anonymous sources." But Baquet was also quoted pinning much of the story's failure on those sources -- rather than Times staffers -- telling Sullivan, "You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral ... I'm not sure what they could have done differently on that."
As part of her prescription for how the paper could learn from the fiasco, Sullivan suggested the Times should discuss "the rampant use of anonymous sources."
This is far from the first time a public editor has pointed to anonymous sourcing as a pressing issue at the paper. A review of public editor columns dating back to Okrent's days finds numerous incidents in which the public editor at the time had to take the paper to task for its use, or misuse, of confidential sources.
"This post is the inaugural edition of an effort to point out some of the more regrettable examples of anonymous quotations in The Times," she wrote when it launched on March 18, 2014. "I've written about this from time to time, as have my predecessors, to little or no avail."
"My view isn't black and white: I recognize that there are stories -- especially those on the national security beat -- in which using confidential sources is important," Sullivan wrote in a June 2014 column. "And I acknowledge that some of the most important stories in the past several decades would have been impossible without their use. But, in my view, they are allowed too often and for reasons that don't clear the bar of acceptability, which should be set very high."
As Sullivan explained in an October 12, 2013, column, the Times' stylebook says, "Anonymity is a last resort."
Okrent, during his first year on the job in 2004, penned a lengthy review of anonymous sourcing, noting at the time the problems the paper had with properly explaining who sources were, adding, "The easiest reform to institute would turn the use of unidentified sources into an exceptional event."
He later stated, "it's worth reconsidering the entire nature of reportorial authority and responsibility. In other words, why quote anonymous sources at all? Do their words take on more credibility because they're flanked with quotation marks?"
Byron Calame, who held the public editor post from May 2005 to May 2007, also took anonymous sourcing to task on a few occasions.
In a November 30, 2005, column urging more transparency on such sources, Calame wrote, "Anonymous sourcing can be both a blessing and a curse for journalism -- and for readers," adding that top editors' "commitment to top-level oversight, and to providing sufficient editing attention to ignite those 'daily conversations' about sources, has to be sustained long after the recent clamor over the paper's use of anonymous sourcing has faded away."
He wrote on July 30, 2006, "Some realities of anonymous sourcing negotiations deserve to be noted, even if some people think they're obvious. When reporters accept anonymity demands, it's almost always because of one overriding reason that is seldom explicitly acknowledged: the reporter wanted or needed information that a reluctant source possessed. That's probably one reason some of The Times's past explanations for anonymity have been so absurd."
Clark Hoyt, who served as public editor from May 2007 to June 2010, broached the subject numerous times -- usually with sharp demands for skepticism and rarity in the use of such sourcing.
"The Times continues to hurt itself with readers by misusing anonymous sources," Hoyt wrote on April 17, 2010, in a column laying out a list of problematic examples. "Despite written ground rules to the contrary and promises by top editors to do better, The Times continues to use anonymous sources for information available elsewhere on the record. It allows unnamed people to provide quotes of marginal news value and to remain hidden with little real explanation of their motives, their reliability, or the reasons why they must be anonymous."
On March 21, 2009, Hoyt objected again to the overuse of confidential voices, stating, "The Times has a tough policy on anonymous sources, but continues to fall down in living up to it. That's my conclusion after scanning a sampling of articles published in all sections of the paper since the first of the year. This will not surprise the many readers who complain to me that the paper lets too many of its sources hide from public view."
The public editor prior to Sullivan was Arthur Brisbane, who served in the role from August 2010 to August 2012. He opined on the issue only a handful of times, according to Times archives.
Since Sullivan took over, however, she has made the issue a key part of her regular reviews, with the Clinton email reporting problems a clear example that the paper has not followed its own guidelines and has not adhered to the Times' legendary history of correcting even the most minute details.
When Dean Baquet says that it's hard to know what the reporters and editors on the botched Clinton story "could have done differently," he is failing to take into account the anonymous source lessons of the past, and the rebukes from public editors over the years.
Veteran newspaper editors and other longtime journalists are harshly criticizing how The New York Times has handled its recent botched story related to Hillary Clinton's emails, calling out the paper for failing to take responsibility for its errors and for being slow to offer corrections for its mistakes sparked by anonymous sourcing.
The concerns stem from the July 23 story originally headlined "Criminal Inquiry Sought In Clinton's Use Of Email," which stated that "[t]wo inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state."
The Times has since issued two corrections, noting that the referral in question was not criminal and did not specifically request an investigation into Clinton herself. Critics noted that the Times did not issue corrections in either case until long after it was clear they could not support their reporting.
Media observers have criticized the Times' reporting and its poor attempts to explain its mistakes, with some stating that the events indicate that the paper "has a problem covering Hillary Clinton." Norm Ornstein in The Atlantic called it a "huge embarrassment," while former Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald referred to the story as "bungled" in Newsweek.
Times public editor Margaret Sullivan has written that there were "at least two major journalistic problems" in the crafting of the story, calling the paper's handling of the story "a mess." Meanwhile, in an interview with Sullivan, Times executive editor Dean Baquet expressed regret that the paper had been slow to issue public corrections, but defended his editors and reporters, saying, "I'm not sure what they could have done differently" on the story.
Such actions and reactions are not sitting well with some of the news industry's top journalists and former editors, who point to the problems such anonymous sourcing can create and the Times' lack of professionalism in failing to swiftly own up to them.
"I agree with the public editor that if you are The New York Times you need to be sure-footed and walk cautiously and accurately," said Frank Sesno, former CNN Washington correspondent and current director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University. "I hope this is not a harbinger of a rapid-fire news cycle in campaign 2016 where news organizations are competing so fiercely and so rapidly that this sort of thing happens again. They are correcting it reluctantly and sloppily. You have to have a culture of transparency and a culture of accountability."
Sesno added that he found it "extraordinary" that "they got so many elements wrong and they got the correction wrong, in the way they revealed what had happened and why."
Tom Fiedler, former editor of The Miami Herald and a one-time political reporter for that paper, also cited the Times appearing to favor speed over accuracy.
"Although I have no inside information, I think The Times staff is increasingly inclined to do these 'ready-fire-aim' stories about Hillary because they feel the hot breath of the WSJ [Wall Street Journal] on their necks, especially when it comes to stories that slam Hillary," he said via email. "The WSJ could care less about a Times' story that puts Hillary in a positive light. But the WSJ will go nuts if The Times scoops them with an HRC hatchet job. So all the incentive in the Times' newsroom is to wield that hatchet if only to annoy the WSJ. Just a theory."
Fiedler also speculated that Baquet may be privately criticizing the reporters and editors involved in the story's production while defending them publicly, saying that he engaged in such behavior when his own reporters had "screwed up."
Tim Franklin, past editor of the Indianapolis Star, Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun, said he understands Baquet supporting his reporters. But he said that it is also necessary in such cases for papers to be prompt with corrections.
"I think in this case, we live in a media environment where stories get shared, we are also talking about a story involving alleged criminal activity of a presidential candidate," Franklin said. "So there is a premium on transparency in these cases. You don't want to leave the impression among readers that you are trying to bury a mistake."
He later added, "I think in this situation the editors need to do forensics with reporters; What did you have? What did your source tell you? Who are your sources and what do we need to do now to get accurate information? It is a first step you need to take quickly. It is apparent you need to correct this story and append the story at the top and an explanation as to why."
Kelly McBride, an ethics instructor at The Poynter Institute, said the Times did not take into account the readers who likely saw the incorrect story via a mobile device, but not the corrections.
"While they corrected it in their traditional correction format, they pushed that story out on mobile," she said. "They never sent out a mobile push that said the correction, and 'we got it wrong.' By not sending out a correction in mobile they lost a huge swath of the audience that received the push alert but didn't swipe through to the story."
For Lucy Dalglish, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, the corrective needs are obvious: "If you have an anonymous source, you usually have confidence in what that source says and if you get it wrong, you have to correct yourself."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination this week, may appear moderate. But according to reporters who cover him regularly, the former Fox News host's tenure in the statehouse has included efforts to reduce collective bargaining, limit abortion rights, and fight marriage equality.
Ohio reporters who have covered Kasich closely raise several areas of interest for national media that have less experience covering him.
His efforts to cut state spending and balance the budget did reduce taxes, but put more of a burden on local governments, Ohio journalists point out. They also note his off-the-cuff style can lead to wandering speeches and incidents like the revelation that he called a police officer an "idiot" during a 2008 traffic stop.
"He can be quite a character sometimes, the national press doesn't know how to take him," said Shane Stegmiller of Hannah News Service and president of the Ohio Legislative Correspondents Association. "You never know what he's going to say."
Stegmiller cited the "idiot" incident, which occurred before Kasich's 2010 election, but became public in 2011: "It blew up on him pretty big."
Then there are his often-forgotten fights against abortion and gay rights, according to Chrissie Thompson, a Cincinnati Enquirer state government reporter since 2013.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide stemmed from the Ohio-based Obergefell vs. Hodges case, in which plaintiff Jim Obergefell sued to be listed on his spouse's death certificate as the surviving spouse. Defendant Richard Hodges, the Ohio director of public health, is a Kasich appointee.
"The department of health was the lead defendant in Obergefell vs. Hodges in the gay marriage debate," Thompson said. "Kasich opposed same-sex marriage and he authorized the fight to protect our gay marriage ban."
"He had signed some abortion restrictions and those have resulted in the closure of some of our abortion clinics in Ohio," Thompson said. "He does not like to talk about it a lot."
Another issue that occurred during his first year in office was the proposal known as Senate Bill 5, Kasich's effort to clamp down on collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. Similar to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's more publicized union fight, the Kasich measure was passed and signed into law, but drew harsh criticism. It was eventually voted down overwhelmingly via a ballot referendum later that year.
"Senate Bill 5 was hugely controversial," recalls Laura Bischoff, a 14-year statehouse reporter with the Dayton Daily News. "They wanted to really gut collective bargaining rights for public employees and it sparked huge protests at the statehouse, bigger than I've ever seen."
Marc Kovac, statehouse bureau chief for Dix Newspapers and The Vindicator of Youngstown, agreed.
"Kasich was a staunch supporter of public employee collective bargaining reform, signing the former Senate Bill 5 into law and setting off a massive referendum effort that blocked that law from taking effect," he said.
Bischoff also pointed to Kasich's privatizing of some prisons, a move that drew corrections officer complaints about conditions and resulted in an audit that found 47 violations in one private institution.
"There is a question as to whether it saved money more than projected, the union that represents corrections officers said it was bad," Bischoff said. "There was one audit report that was really bad about conditions the inmates were living in."
Kasich's economic stimulus program, JobsOhio, is another point of contention, according to reporters. The private, non-profit agency was created to help spark job growth, but in a secretive fashion that exempts it from state open public record laws and limits state audit oversight.
"People didn't like the fact that it's now somewhat shrouded in secrecy with public money," said Jim Siegel, a Columbus Dispatch statehouse reporter since 1998. "There are concerns it could be used for cronyism. He believes in the private sector and letting the private sector do as much as possible on things. He's made efforts to privatize as much as he can."
And the job growth has been less than successful, Stegmiller says, noting the state's job growth rate for the past 32 months is at 1.73%, below the national average of 2.09%.
"While Ohio had gained back a lot of jobs, it lags a lot of states in job recovery," he said.
The state budget, meanwhile, is something Kasich touts as a success, journalists say. But the impact may be less positive than he lets on.
Reporters cite the claim that Kasich eliminated an $8 billion deficit and shored up the state's "rainy day" surplus fund. But in reality, he cut funding to local governments and school districts, forcing many to increase their own taxes and fees.
"By reducing their funding, now they are having to go to voters and ask for local levies to help make that up," said Jackie Borchardt of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. "The local government or school district is having to raise more revenue that way. In his first budget, he did slash spending for education. He cut it and local governments have said they continue to chip away at their funding."
And the $8 billion deficit Kasich touts wasn't really a deficit, according to the Enquirer's Thompson: "We never actually had a deficit, he used the word deficit and it was a projected shortfall."
Kasich supporters also brag about his big re-election victory in 2014, in which he beat Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald nearly 2 to 1. But what is often lost is that FitzGerald, then the Cuyahoga County Executive, was hit with a very public scandal after it was revealed the married candidate was found by police in a parking lot at 4:30 a.m. with another woman.
The circumstances of that incident remain unclear. But things got worse when it was found he had been driving without a license for about 10 years.
"He won 86 out of 88 counties in 2014, but he was running against a very weak opponent," Thompson said about Kasich's last election.
As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker formally enters the presidential race, journalists in his home state say the national press should focus their reporting on his polarizing history fighting abortion rights, gay marriage, and public information disclosure, while also highlighting his push as a state assemblyman for mandatory prison time that has overwhelmed the state's prison system.
Many Badger State scribes also point to the state's poor economic record, while describing Walker as an "extreme" politician whose far-right approach may not work in a national race.
"He is not as charismatic as I think a lot of people think," said John Nichols, an associate editor at the progressive Capital Times in Madison. "The drama, the excitement associated with Scott Walker is that he did some extreme things that scared a lot of people."
"He's a pretty polarizing character," said political reporter Kate Pabich of WMTV, the NBC affiliate in Madison. "If he gets the GOP primary nomination he is going to have a hard time appealing to a national stage. The things he's done, the ultra-conservative things he's done, the 20-week abortion, the stance on gay marriage, will be an issue."
Pablich was referring to the state ban on abortion after 20 weeks, which passed in the Wisconsin Assembly just last week -- with no exceptions for rape or incest, reportedly at Walker's insistence -- and which is likely to get Walker's approval.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel capital reporter Jason Stein said the abortion ban is important because "that could be banned at the national level" if Walker is elected president.
Stein also said media should examine a so-called "right-to-work" law Walker signed in March that strips unions of vital resources by allowing private-sector employees to opt out of paying union dues, as well as his support for a severely restrictive public information overhaul that would have disallowed public access to many state records and documents.
"They were sweeping," Stein said of the public information restrictions. "They would have exempted the vast majority of legislative documents" from review, allowing "the administration as well as any other state agency to withhold deliberative materials used to arrive at a policy decision," he concluded.
After the restrictions were approved in the legislature's Joint Finance Committee, they were shelved following public outcry.
Stein, who co-wrote a book about Walker's 2011 collective bargaining battle with state unions, also urged national reporters to look at Walker's time as Milwaukee County Executive, adding, "There was much more gridlock and his not being able to accomplish what he wanted. He was head-butting a lot with a Democratic County board."
Capital Times' Nichols said Walker's claims about a great economic record in Wisconsin are misleading.
"The Wisconsin economic story is not a particularly good story," he said. "Wisconsin trails a lot of neighboring states in economic vitality; its job growth is not particularly good."
He said Walker promised when he first ran in 2010 to create 250,000 new jobs in his first term. But that fell far short, according to Politifact, which estimates only about 146,000 new jobs created during that time.
"For all of his talk of becoming an economic savior, he is weaker on economics than a lot of people think," Nichols said.
Andy Hall, executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and a former longtime reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, agreed.
"He did promise to create 250,000 jobs during his first term, the numbers show he got about half that goal," Hall said. "The economy here continues to concern a lot of people. Yes, jobs are being created, but are they the right kinds of jobs?"
Hall also cited the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC, which Walker created to spark job growth. A state audit in May by the non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau found problems with its compliance and practices.
Jim Fitzhenry, a top editor for Gannett Wisconsin Media, which operates newspapers and websites in 10 cities, said few national outlets seem to know about Walker's support for tighter mandatory sentencing that has ballooned the state's prison population.
Known as "Truth-in-Sentencing," the restriction, passed by the Wisconsin state legislature in 1998, requires that many inmates serve their entire sentences without parole and increased the length of prison time for others.
Walker co-sponsored the legislation as a state assemblyman and helped lead it to passage as chair of the state assembly's Committee on Corrections and the Courts, according to a lengthy report on his past prison reform actions in The Nation earlier this year.
"It took away quite a bit of judicial discretion in sentences," Fitzhenry said. "Unlike a lot of his counterparts, Scott is still very much adamant for Truth-in-Sentencing."
The Nation report detailed how Truth-in-Sentencing overburdens the Wisconsin prison system so much that it had to contract with a private prison operator, Corrections Corporation of America, whose executives have also contributed to Walker's campaigns.
A 2004 Journal Sentinel analysis of the law looked at data from Truth-in-Sentencing's first four years in existence and estimated that it would cost the state an additional $1.8 billion through 2025.
Three months after a Columbia University investigation found major journalistic errors in a Rolling Stone report on campus sexual assault at the University of Virginia, major news outlets say they have not adjusted their approach to covering similar stories. But rape survivor advocates say they have seen less coverage of the issue since the failures of the Rolling Stone report came to light, and, in some cases, an increased hesitancy in trusting survivors' accounts.
The November 2014 Rolling Stone article "A Rape on Campus" prominently featured the story of "Jackie," a pseudonymous University of Virginia student who told the outlet she was gang-raped in 2012 at a fraternity party.
After initially receiving praise, the article came under fire for an apparent failure to seek comment from the alleged suspects. Other factual questions arose, prompting Rolling Stone to commission an investigation with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and its dean, Steve Coll.
That investigation, released in early April, found the Rolling Stone story was a "journalistic failure that was avoidable. The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking. The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine's editors to reconsider publishing Jackie's narrative so prominently, if at all."
Though the report outlined specific failures in the Rolling Stone editorial process (while declining to adjudicate exactly what happened to "Jackie"), it also pointed to broader problems in how all outlets cover sexual assault, and offered some suggestions on "how journalists might begin to define best practices when reporting about rape cases on campus or elsewhere." It recommended, for example, that journalists spend time further deliberating how best to balance sensitivity to victims with the demands of verification, and how best to corroborate survivor accounts.
In interviews with Media Matters, editors from The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and other outlets said they have not adjusted their approach to covering the stories of rape survivors in light of the Rolling Stone mess and the resulting Columbia report.
Several editors said that the Rolling Stone saga would not cause them to believe survivors less or hesitate to publicize their stories.
"I don't think that story holds any larger lessons about rape coverage, or whether one should believe alleged assault victims," New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet told Media Matters via email. "It was a poorly-done story ... It doesn't make me any more or less likely to believe a source. We always verify, get the other side, and report the heck out of a story, no matter the subject."
Other editors who spoke with Media Matters maintain their coverage will be unaffected.
"It hasn't, or won't change how we view these stories," said David Callaway, editor of USA Today. "I always thought the idea that news organizations would cut back on their coverage because of one poor example seemed a bit far-fetched. We still get people coming to us with stories or requests for coverage many times a day, and the ones we choose to go after we only pursue if we can verify. We have detailed guidelines on sourcing and fairness in coverage and we have no plans to change those in the wake of the Rolling Stone debacle."
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan believes the paper is making progress when it comes to using the more accurate term "denier" -- rather than "skeptic" -- to refer to those who reject the scientific consensus on climate change.
In an interview with Media Matters, Sullivan described "denier" as the "stronger term" and the appropriate label "when someone is challenging established science." Sullivan said that "the Times is moving in a good direction" on the issue, adding that the newspaper is using the term "denier" more often and "perhaps should be doing it even more."
She also likened the discussion to the Times' process for evaluating whether to refer to "enhanced interrogation techniques" as torture, stating: "After a long time the Times came around to calling it torture and I thought that was a very good thing. I think we're sort of in the same realm with the business about skeptics and deniers."
Sullivan, who briefly addressed the distinction between "skeptics" and "deniers" in her May 7 column, said she doesn't have any immediate plans to return to the topic. But she reiterated that "language choice is something that interests me a lot because I think it's something that matters."
Philip Corbett, the Times' associate managing editor for standards, confirmed to Media Matters that Times staff are "aware of the issue and have discussed it." Corbett said Times reporters and editorial staff "do our best" to keep the proper use of labels in mind "even if the process is not always perfect," and that "[w]e intend to continue scrutinizing future stories with these concerns in mind."
Paul Gigot, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor since 2001, was named chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board on Monday. Under Gigot, the Journal editorial page has had several ethical lapses and has been a regular source of misinformation on climate science, health care, the Iraq War, and a host of other issues.
Pulitzer administrator Mike Pride told Media Matters a new board chair is chosen annually and the board member or members who have served nine years of their 10-year term normally get the post.
Gigot, who is going into his 10th and final year on the board, was the only member in that position this year, Pride said.
"It is really relatively automatic and nine years on the board give you a greater understanding in the way things work."
Pride, a former board member from 1999 to 2008, left in April 2008 after one year as co-chair with Joann Byrd. He is also the former editor of Concord Monitor. Pride became board administrator in September 2014.
But while Gigot's appointment is fairly routine, his position is one of power and influence over the board that distributes the most coveted awards in journalism, Pride said.
"The chair has some powers for sure in deciding which things we emphasize and which things we focus on," Pride said, later adding, "It's not a weak position at all, it's a strong position."
"He is on all the committees and is really involved in everything."
Gigot's appointment comes at a time when the Pulitzer Prizes have undergone sharp changes in recent years. In 2008, the categories were opened up to allow online-only entries, a major shift for the prizes that had previously been limited to newspapers.
And this year marked the first time magazine entries were allowed, in two categories. As board chair, Gigot can influence what changes are made or not, Pride said.
"The chair has a big effect on that so if the chair decides to slow down something the process will slow down," he explained. "If the chair decides to move faster, it will move along. It is a person that helps to determine the future of the prizes."
NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen called news of Gigot's new position "strange," noting that the Journal's newsroom "often rolls its eyes at the editorial page's evidentiary standards."
In 2011, Women's Wear Daily reported that the Journal's newsroom "often has objections to Paul Gigot's editorial page." The New York Observer noted that "under editorial-page editor Paul Gigot, opinion writers freely dispute the facts reported in the rest of the paper," while "news staffers disavow the contributions from Mr. Gigot's side."
One staffer told the Observer in 2006 that the editorial section is "wrong all the time" and that "they lack credibility to the point that the emperor has no clothes."
Rosen also noted it should "concern journalists" that the Journal editorial page under Gigot "has been a leader in the manufacture of doubt about climate change." As evidence, he linked to a Journal editorial comparing modern climate research to the party dogma of the Soviet Union.
The Journal's editorial page has also been criticized for ethical lapses under Gigot. In the run-up to the 2012 election, the paper routinely failed to disclose columnist Karl Rove's ties to political organizations acting to prevent President Obama's re-election and published at least 23 different op-eds from various Mitt Romney advisers without disclosing their blatant conflict of interest. (The paper eventually added a mention of Rove's political groups to his bio.)
In addition to its climate coverage and ethical problems, Gigot's editorial page has misled on several issues over the years, including electoral politics, the labor movement, health care, and the economy.
The Journal editorial page's low point under Gigot was probably its role in furthering falsehoods in the run-up to the Iraq War. The Journal routinely promoted the idea that Saddam Hussein either had -- or was on the verge of obtaining or producing -- weapons of mass destruction. A characteristic Wall Street Journal editorial from 2003 claimed that the coalition force would find "nasty weapons and the cheering Iraqis...when it liberates the country."