Peoria Journal Star: ethical conflict?

Opinion & Analysis

The Peoria Journal Star, under the editorial management of Dennis Anderson, published an editorial Oct. 21 endorsing Gov. Bruce Rauner. The editorial concluded Rauner is a much better choice for governor than his opponent JB Pritzker, and the editorial cited Pritzker’s level of “corruption” for the method he used seeking to lower his property taxes.

Problem is the editorial has its own seeming ethical violation. Anderson’s son, Eric Anderson, works for the Rauner campaign. However, the editorial endorsement published under the father’s supervision makes no public disclosure of this conflict of interest.

Both the Rauner and Pritzker campaigns did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Anderson said he informed the Journal Star’s publisher and has been open in the newsroom with other editors about his son’s employment with the Rauner campaign, and there was no concern with Anderson’s role on the editorial board of the paper and with the editorial endorsement of Rauner.

Anderson said his son is 26 and has his own career.

He said he also discussed the situation with members of the AP Media Editors board and there was no concern and no indication a disclosure statement should have been included with the editorial.

Further, Anderson said, the Journal Star endorsed Rauner four years ago and this editorial serves to back up that previous endorsement.

The editorial also chided Rauner for his lack of transparency in the investigation into the Veterans’ Hospital in Quincy.

Yet the Journal Star editorial had its own lack of transparency by failing to publish a statement explaining the relationship between Anderson’s role regarding the editorial and his son’s role in the Rauner campaign.

Journalism is a profession that demands disclosure and accountability from others, but failing to follow the same standards ourselves hurts us all.

A retired editor from a large Central Illinois daily newspaper called the conflict  “disingenuous at best . . . and this coming from an industry that constantly preaches transparency and full disclosure but operates under a separate set of guidelines when it applies to newspapers. No wonder readers don’t trust us. Anderson should have stayed clear of it or at the very least had a disclosure of his family connection to Rauner.”

(Clare Howard)





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