Reporter Covers Fitzgerald Recall, Supports Recall Effort

By: Brian Sikma

As the clock runs out on the initiative to recall Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), organizers are urging volunteers to continue to collect as many signatures as possible. The more signatures they have, the better it is for their effort because inevitably a number of signatures will be found invalid. Building a so-called “buffer” is a smart strategy.

On the official Facebook page of the Recall Fitzgerald campaign an update was placed, most likely by Lori Compas, the recall organizer, asking volunteers to continue to sign up for signature gathering shifts and providing volunteers with a few key details for the final push.  Fascinatingly, the first comment left on the post was from a man named Ryan Whisner who said, “You can do it Lori!”

Whisner is a reporter for the Jefferson County Daily Union, a newspaper based in Ft. Atkinson, squarely inside of Sen. Fitzgerald’s district. The owners of the paper are considered by some to be conservative.

Whisner has written articles covering the recall Fitzgerald effort. His most recent story ran in the paper the day before he left his pro-recall Facebook comment.

Certainly reporters are entitled to their own political opinions, but it would seem that a reporter whose beat includes covering the recall effort should not be publicly picking sides one way or the other. Perhaps it is this kind of bias that has caused the public to lose confidence in so-called impartial, unbiased reporting.

Whisner and other reporters would do well to fully disclose any general predispositions they have when it comes to the news that they cover. But then disclosing those biases would need to mean that the stories reporters produce and the publications they produce them for be no longer viewed as impartial arbiters of fact. What is needed in media is not the masquerade of impartial journalism, what is needed is a healthy dose of honesty and reality that does not mislead the public into thinking that reporters and editors are the ultimate guardians of an informed citizenry.

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