Monday, August 25, 2014

UPDATE: Possible breach of ethics in latest Gazette endorsement

Posted By on Mon, Aug 25, 2014 at 3:34 PM

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UPDATE: Publisher Dan Steever responded with this:

"The Walker Campaign was notified up front, and during our Editorial Board meeting with the candidate, that Wayne’s wife worked for the Littleton Campaign. Moreover, Wayne Laugesen recused himself from the decision-making process and did not write the article. The decision to endorse Commissioner Littleton was made by four other members of the editorial board."

———

Yesterday, the Gazette endorsed two candidates for El Paso County Board of Commissioners: sitting incumbents Darryl Glenn over his opponent Thomas Nieman, and Peggy Littleton over her opponent Jariah Walker.

Here's the daily's take on Littleton:

"Peggy Littleton [sic] commitment to open government can be seen in her accessibility to constituents and her cooperative approach to professional media," it writes. 

Of course, we don't know who wrote it, but the person who usually handles editorial page business is its editor, Wayne Laugesen, who's also a part of the editorial board.

This is interesting for one reason: The editor's wife, Dede, is Peggy Littleton's campaign manager.

Now, it's possible Wayne recused himself from the endorsement discussions. But the piece is silent on that, as it is on any disclosure. According to the code of ethics followed by members of the Society of Professional Journalists, which the Gazette and Indy both are, journalists should either "avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived" or "disclose unavoidable conflicts." 

Neither was done here, a source of concern for Christy Le Lait, head of the El Paso County Democrats.

"Am I surprised? I thought that they would cover themselves a little better on this," she says in a phone interview. "I saw it online, and the fact that they didn’t make a point of either addressing that issue or making it clear that [Laugesen] had recused himself from it really surprised me."

We've contacted Laugesen and publisher Dan Steever for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

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