Wisconsin newspapers chastise employees for signing Walker recall petition

Two Wisconsin newspaper companies are upset with their employees for signing petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

In recent days, both the Green Bay Press-Gazette (owned by Gannett) and the Wisconsin State Journal (owned by Lee Enterprises) have published editorials chastising some of their workers for being openly anti-Walker. The names of all petition signatories are searchable at this site.

Both companies are considering taking unspecified disciplinary action against the employees.

From the Green Bay Press Gazette:

Our journalists are expected to provide you with the clearest picture of the news as it develops -- with objectivity and impartiality. And, as readers, you must be able to trust that your newspaper is providing you the most complete picture, without bias of any kind.

In the interest of full transparency, we are informing readers today that 25 Gannett Wisconsin Media journalists, including seven at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, signed the recall petition. It was wrong, and those who signed the petition were in breach of Gannett's principles of ethical conduct.

It is little consolation to us that none of the editorial employees who signed a petition has any involvement in our news or political coverage or decides how those stories are developed and presented. None of the employees serve on the investigative team. Had they been directly involved, we would identify them.

But the fact that any of Gannett Wisconsin Media's 223 news employees did sign the petition is disheartening. It has caused us to examine how this could have happened, how we will address it and how we will prevent it from happening again. Most important is informing our readers and being as open as possible.

We now are in the process of taking disciplinary measures and reviewing supplemental ethics training for all news employees.

John Smalley, editor of the State Journal, said in an editorial he is "surprised and disappointed" to learn that staffers had signed the petition. "We apologize to our readers for the lapse in judgment by [six] staff members."

Journal photographer Steve Apps is one of the employees who signed the petition. Regarding Apps, Smalley said, "I remain confident in Steve's abilities as a photographer and a journalist. He knows he made a big mistake in signing a petition."

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is currently in the process of verifying over one million recall signatures. In order to force a recall election, 540,208 must be valid. Observers expect the recall election to take place this spring.

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