Friday, December 30, 2016

Enid's Local Newspaper Is No Longer Totally Local

After a flurry of emails and Facebook comments linked to yesterday's article entitled A Defense of the Enid News and Eagle's Endorsement of Hillary Clinton on the Basis of a Higher Principle, many of my Enid friends filled me in on some information of which I was unaware. It seems the local editorial board of the Enid News and Eagle was forced to endorse Mrs. Clinton by Community Newspaper Holdings out of Atlanta, Georgia, the parent company of Enid's newspaper.  Donna Barett, the Chief Executive Officer of CNHI, was elected chairman of the Newspaper Association of America in 2015, representing over 2,000 American newspapers. That's a ton of power in terms of media. It seems through the influence and directives of Donna Barrett and her executive team at CNHI, as well as the Newspaper Association of America, very few papers in the United States endorsed Donald Trump. The overwhelming majority of newspapers, including The Enid News and Eagle, endorsed Hillary Clinton. 
The editorial endorsement of Hillary Clinton which appeared in the Enid News and Eagle was sent to all CNHI newspapers. Local editors were told they could tweak it as needed, but they must run it. In other words, Enid's editors were forced to endorse. 

I wrongly assumed that the Enid publisher and editor of the Enid News and EagleJeff Funk and Rob Collins respectively, expressed their personal opinions in their endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I attempted in yesterday's post to defend our local editorial board and their freedom of speech.

I wrongly assumed Enid's editorial board wrote the Clinton endorsement because the New York Times reporter asked CNHI Vice-President of News Mr. Bill Ketter if Enid's editorial board could have endorsed Mr. Trump. He responded:
“Let me put it this way. We would have been disappointed. Did we demand that they do something? No, we didn’t do that. We set out our principles and our standards.”
That sure sounds like CNHI is denying that they forced the endorsement of Clinton.

But they did.

Notice the word "We" and the "they" in Mr. Ketter's statement. The "We" is the Atlanta-based executives of CNHI. The "they" are the local editors of the Enid News and Eagle. 

Times have changed. It used to be your paper was locally managed and locally owned. Now, though we have local management, a big-city corporation (CNHI out of Atlanta) owns the Enid News and Eagle. CNHI's management team is the "de facto" editorial board for the Enid News and Eagle - not our local guys.

William Faulkner once said, "I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on it." I always laugh when I hear that quote. 

After reading my original article again I know something about what I've written on.  I stand by my desire to protect someone's freedom of speech, but the question that must be asked is "Whose speech are we protecting?" 

Any paid subscriber of the Enid News and Eagle should have the privilege of knowing who is writing the editorial he or she reads.

Unless someone locally with deep pockets steps up and buys the paper, the only way Enid and other cities of 100,000 or less will have a paper is for big-city corporations to own them. Maybe we have to get used to "top-down editorials" in our local paper that do not represent the community.

Regardless, in my opinion, social media has leveled the playing field when it comes to information power.

I'm a lot more sympathetic today with those who canceled their subscriptions to the Enid News and Eagle knowing what I now know happened behind the scenes.

However, my wife and I will probably keep our subscription paper. Our city will take Atlanta's corporate money, but I'll be ignoring Atlanta's editorials in the future. It's a small price to pay to keep supporting the 100 employees who work at the Enid News and Eagle and cover our local sports and local news. CNHI would be better off letting our local boys give us their thoughts nationally as well.

My suggestion to our Enid News and Eagle local editors, for what it's worth, is that in the future you be transparent with readers and tell us CHNI corporate forced you to write an editorial. 

I will lead the charge to accept you - our local editors -  when you think differently than the majority in our community. But I'm not a happy subscriber when CNHI and the Enid News and Eagle are less than transparent with the newspaper's readers.

It's a matter of principle.


Bob Cleveland said...

Good observation.

Personally, I do not understand any news media which endorses a political candidate. Reasoning: I don't think I can really accept, at face value, any news reporting about the opposing candidate, once they do. Particularly since, despite protestations to the contrary, newspapers and TV stations are (except public television stations) profit-making corporations and that mandates ratings and circulation numbers, which control much of what they do.

Wade Burleson said...

Good point, Bob.

I think abstinence is the best policy! :)

Rex Ray said...

Looks like we’re back to Mark Twain’s statement on newspapers.

I think in general there are two types of people---those that watch Fox News and those that don’t. :)

We like watching “Outnumbered”.