Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Enid News and Eagle Is Not Locally Owned

Very rarely will I post twice in one day, but today is the exception.

My post earlier this morning A Defense of the Enid News and Eagle's Endorsement of Hillary Clinton on the Basis of a Higher Principle was written to defend the principle of "free speech," and to advocate for civil discourse and disagreement within the city of Enid. We should protect the right of any institution or person to express opposing views to the majority. That's true freedom.

I assumed that the Enid publisher and editor of the Enid News and Eagle, Jeff Funk and Rob Collins respectively, expressed their personal opinions in their endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I assumed this because the New York Times article quoted Atlanta-based Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., the parent company of the Enid News and Eagle, as saying "the local Enid editorial board had the freedom to endorse Mr. Trump." According to the Times article, CNHI Vice-President of News Mr. Bill Ketter responded to the question of whether or not the Enid News and Eagle could have endorsed Trump for President by saying:
“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.”
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. 

When the editorial board of the Enid News and Eagle published the endorsement of Hillary Clinton, I assumed it was the local publisher and local editor who were endorsing Hillary.

I have since been told by one who should know that our local editor and publisher were bowing to the demands of their corporate bosses. I did some quick research and discovered that Donna Barrett is the President and Chief Executive Officer of CNHI. 

Donna Barrett was elected chairperson of the Newspaper Association of America in 2015. Donna Barrett may be one of the main reasons Hillary Clinton received "the most lopsided batch of newspaper endorsements that the United States has ever seen." It seems Enid's own local newspaper editorial board was forced by CNHI to support Hillary Clinton.

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 stand by the principle of protecting freedom of speech, but the question that disturbs me now 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.  I have since learned that the editorial endorsing Hillary Clinton was sent to all 23 newspapers owned by CNHI, and the local publisher could tweak it as necessary, but they were told to run it. Hmmm. 
1. It now seems to me that the local editor and publisher for the Enid News and Eagle, for the sake of expediency, not principle, actually bowed to the mandate of their Atlanta-based corporate master CNHI when they endorsed Hillary Clinton.
2. Since CNHI actually told their affiliated newspapers to endorse Hillary Clinton, then at the very least CNHI is deceptive with the New York Times when its corporate spokesperson indicated CNHI "did not demand that the Enid News and Eagle do something." 
3. Enid does not have a "local paper" when it comes to the editorial page. If we were truly locally owned, it seems that there would have been no endorsement for President.
So, why am I reposting?

Well, believe it or not, I'll be having a discussion with my wife tonight about canceling my subscription to the Enid News and Eagle.  The reason I advocated keeping the subscription this morning was on the basis of principle. The reason we will have the discussion tonight to cancel our subscription is also on the basis of principle.

I would respect the local editorial board of the Enid News and Eagle if they actually chose to endorse Hillary Clinton in the face of massive opposition in Enid, Oklahoma. But when I discover that my local newspaper is being forced to present on its editorial page the opinion of a media publishing giant from Atlanta, while presented as a local editor's opinion, then I feel I'm reading subterfuge.

Our local publisher and editor are in a difficult position. Job security and dollars speak loudly. But principled editorial writing speaks even louder to me. I'm a ton more sympathetic with those who canceled their subscriptions to the Enid News and Eagle than I was 24 hours ago. 

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