Writing Monday in the WaPo, Howard Kurtz related the story of an Arkansas politician who, unhappy with the coverage of his re-election campaign he was receiving in a local newspaper, appealed to a friend whose company just happened to own the paper. The paper was ordered to endorse the politician, prompting its editor to resign.
What's amazing to me is not so much the fact that the politician tried to influence the paper's position as how brazen he was about it. Kurtz quoted the Congressman's email that claimed the paper was biased against him and proposed a remedy:
Among other things, the Republican candidate asked in an e-mail that the Commercial endorse him "and have coverage that will complement such endorsement, not look contradictory. Somehow devise a plan that will allow the pendulum to swing my way for a considerable period of time until a balance is achieved."
What's more, [candidate] Dickey told the paper that he should be asked for comment on all news releases by his opponent, Democratic Rep. Mike Ross, "and don't ask him on mine all the time." Dickey also asked the Commercial to stop running letters by a local critic of his and "publish our favorable letters."
It's no secret that newpapers often take an adversarial role with politicians. And I don't know; Dickey may have even had a point that the paper was biased against him or not submitting his opponents to equal scrutiny. But it raises a warning flag when a politician solicits favorable coverage from a newspaper's owner. Readers deserve to trust that their paper's coverage, good or bad, is not the result of a backroom deal.