Wisconsin newspapers chastise employees for signing Walker recall petition

Thumbnail image for ScottWalker.jpg
Newspapers in Wisconsin want their employees to remain apolitical.
Two Wisconsin newspaper companies are upset with their employees for signing petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

In recent days, both the Green Bay Press-Gazette (owned by Gannett) and the Wisconsin State Journal (owned by Lee Enterprises) have published editorials chastising some of their workers for being openly anti-Walker. The names of all petition signatories are searchable at this site.

Both companies are considering taking unspecified disciplinary action against the employees.

From the Green Bay Press Gazette:

recall walker sign.jpg
Gannett employees aren't allowed to display yard signs at home.
Our journalists are expected to provide you with the clearest picture of the news as it develops -- with objectivity and impartiality. And, as readers, you must be able to trust that your newspaper is providing you the most complete picture, without bias of any kind.

In the interest of full transparency, we are informing readers today that 25 Gannett Wisconsin Media journalists, including seven at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, signed the recall petition. It was wrong, and those who signed the petition were in breach of Gannett's principles of ethical conduct.

It is little consolation to us that none of the editorial employees who signed a petition has any involvement in our news or political coverage or decides how those stories are developed and presented. None of the employees serve on the investigative team. Had they been directly involved, we would identify them.

But the fact that any of Gannett Wisconsin Media's 223 news employees did sign the petition is disheartening. It has caused us to examine how this could have happened, how we will address it and how we will prevent it from happening again. Most important is informing our readers and being as open as possible.

We now are in the process of taking disciplinary measures and reviewing supplemental ethics training for all news employees.

John Smalley, editor of the State Journal, said in an editorial he is "surprised and disappointed" to learn that staffers had signed the petition. "We apologize to our readers for the lapse in judgment by [six] staff members."

Journal photographer Steve Apps is one of the employees who signed the petition. Regarding Apps, Smalley said, "I remain confident in Steve's abilities as a photographer and a journalist. He knows he made a big mistake in signing a petition."

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is currently in the process of verifying over one million recall signatures. In order to force a recall election, 540,208 must be valid. Observers expect the recall election to take place this spring.

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Is that why they ask for applications like this?

To apply to become a community columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, send us:Three new writing samples. We will not read more than three.A brief biography (one page) that indicates your age, race, residence and political persuasion.Send them by March 30 to:

David D. HaynesEditorial Page Editor333 W. State St.Milwaukee, WI 53201

Mark Swanson
Mark Swanson

This is ridiculous!  These people are citizens of the United States and have a right to their opinions and who they support.  This phony indignation by the company is absurd and the employees should sue if they are faced with severe punishment.

Mike W.
Mike W.

Did either of these news outlets tell their employees that they could not sign the petition?  So they surrender their off-duty first amendment rights when then are newspaper employees?  Huh.....

A. Pismo Clam
A. Pismo Clam

Are these commie workers allowed to vote by their employers?


Umm... Don't I get a *clearer* picture of what I'm reading if I am familiar with the opinions of the author?  How does a journalist keeping his opinions secret lead to less bias?  The bias is going to be there regardless.  Seems to me that it is actually remedied to an extent by knowing where the writer is coming from.


This goes to show you that reporters are simply not allowed to be human. Gov. Walker is only trying to force his own political agenda against the people of Wisconsin, and if you speak out against that you may be pegged as being too liberal for the news.


Dave Salmonson
Dave Salmonson

So businesses can dictate what their employees political views are off the clock? The businesses found their names by looking over the petition signatures, but businesses don't want their monetary donations made public. Sounds fair?

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