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Friday, July 06, 2007

Did This Huddle At The PeeDee Cost GOP A U.S. Senate Seat?

CLEVELAND (TDB) -- Connie Schultz's recollection of a conversation with an editor at The Plain Dealer clearly demonstrates there are shoals under the surface when politics and journalism are mixed in the workplace with partisan ideology. It turns out that Connie, a Pulitzer-winning feature section columnist, was advised by her boss -- during a private workday meeting -- to urge that her husband, Sherrod Brown, enter the 2006 U.S. Senate race in Ohio. She quotes the editor saying of Brown, "this country needs him to run."

Brown is a Democrat. The Senate seat was held by two-term Republican Mike DeWine, who lost last November. Some could say the workplace conversation was a meeting that helped alter the state and nation's political course, a course that has tacked away from the GOP.

Connie recounts her talk with Stuart Warner, the editor who handled her columns, in her new book "...and His Lovely Wife," and describes how she was reluctant about having Brown run statewide. In effect, she portrayed herself as the main roadblock to her husband's candidacy.

She said she told Warner, a former Beacon Journal columnist who wrote "Warner's Corner" for years, that Sherrod was thinking about running. The editor then motioned to move the conversation to a more private setting, an empty meeting room. She quotes Warner:

"Sherrod should run. This country needs him to run, and he needs you by his side to do it. You'll be a tremendous asset. Look at what you believe in. Look who you've been fighting for your entire career. That's who he'll be running for, and they will vote for him and he can win. You can always come back to work if you want. Or you can move on to something bigger. You have nothing but options, but this is the right time, maybe the only time, for him to run."

Warner had endorsed a Brown candidacy, and Connie wrote in the book, "I was stunned, but I was also listening."

Doug Clifton, the paper's editor at the time, was worried about Connie's relationship with a statewide candidate. In December 2005 he wrote a column reassuring readers her marriage to Brown "will have no influence -- for or against -- our coverage of his campaign."

Of course, Clifton probably didn't know that the campaign had been partially fanned into life by a conversation in his own newsroom.


  1. Bill, you've got a serious learning disability if you can look at the race that DeWine ran and say that a private conversation Stuart Warner had with Connie Schultz was what did him in.

    What sort of god like powers do you think Warner has? How do you explain all the critical coverage on Brown by the PD? And who did they endorse, anyway?

    Is what you are saying is that Journalists are not allowed to be politically involved? That they shouldn't have political opinions, and that they should be barred from expressing them?

    To me, the big thing is that people are open and honest about things. The way the PD handled Connie Schultz was the most open and honest way I have ever seen any media group deal with something like this.

    Finally, I have to ask if you are being honest with your readers about your own personal stake in this whole thing?

  2. Clifton -- her marriage to Brown "will have no influence -- for or against -- our coverage of his campaign."

    Of course not -- they were going to slant their reporting relentlessly towards Brown no matter what. :-->

  3. bill.....this is fairly explosive. glad someone is reading the books from the "toy department."

  4. To All --

    Stuart Warner is a brilliant editor and journalist.

    Connie Schultz writes an excellent column, and I admire almost everything I have read that she has written.

    I love the Plain Dealer and believe it is one of the best newsgathering organs in the United States. It certainly towers over anything in Ohio.

    I voted for Sherrod Brown.

    However, as long as Connie is in the newsroom there will be a perception that the newspaper is biased toward her husband -- even though it may not, indeed, be biased at all. I wish it were otherwise. I have not wanted nor tried nor intended to disparage anybody or anything. And if anybody thinks that is what I am trying to do they are absolutely mistaken.

    I feel sympathy and apologize to all with serious learning disabilities. You don't deserve to be insulted by Chris Baker, who lumped me in with you all. You shouldn't be tied to somebody like myself. Perhaps Chris meant that I belong in the seventh level of Hades, or should go out for an evening with Ann Coulter, or write speeches for Dick Cheney.

  5. Bill,

    Don't dodge the issue. Answer the question that your headline asks.

    If your answer is yes, that I suggest you find help.

    The serious question is can a reporter be married to a politician without it clouding the reputation of the paper they work at. My answer is yes, if they are honest about things. The PD has bent over backwards on this issue. That's why I think that you should be honest about your agenda in all this.

    Is there some personal reason why you'd have a grudge with Connie Schultz or the Plain Dealer? What about some of people commenting on your page? Note that I don't ask a question without already knowing the answer.

  6. Chris --

    You are welcome to write about my "personal agenda." However, the reason this came up is because I received a call from another Plain Dealer reporter, an Ohio native from a Democratic political family, on Wednesday who told my wife and I that I had been accused of journalistic wrongdoing, or breaking the rules.

    That is what got me going.

    As far as a "grudge" against Connie -- that is ludicrous. I will go on record right now: Read her columns, read her books, buy The Plain Dealer, it is a great newspaper and I look at it every chance I get online. There is no other news product available in Ohio that is superior to the one put together on Superior Avenue. If you are implying that I left the Plain Dealer under a cloud, watch out. You would be wrong and I'm sure I would react appropriately to such a slander.

    However, I have said repeatedly that I think Connie should move on because of the perception her presence causes -- a perception that the paper is a bastion of liberals on the lake, an expression I detest but have heard way too often for my own taste.

    Anyhow, I am not going to have anything more to say on this (at least I can't think of anything to say) and my real "agenda" is about patching a hole in my roof, which has been difficult to work on between the heat and the rain we've been having in Cincinnati. You are welcome to come down from the Dayton area to help me, Even if you do not accept that invitation, I'd really like to meet you and I'm sure we'd enjoy each other's company. That would be far preferable than sniping at each other via the Internet.

  7. Large Bill --

    It was great to hear from you again today. I'm not sure how great it is to be back, though, because I seem to have pissed off Chris Baker, whose work I have admired and whose opinions and views I (usually) respect.

    For now, he is a burr under my saddle. And a very effective burr at that.

    Do you know much about patching roofs?

  8. Bill, one of the fun aspects of my craft is hammering people who I think unfairly attack people or issues that I support. Readers of my blog might miss the fun since it often happens on other people's sites. As a blogger I love more than anything giving a good thrashing to ideas I oppose. Embrace it... hit with your best shot... it is the nature of the blogosphere.

    Anyway, back to the fun...

    I'm assuming that now that she's a syndicated columnist that you feel that her relationship with Sherrod Brown taints every paper that runs her column and that she should "move on" and be a good little housewife. What sexist claptrap.

    Beyond the cheap shot it really bugs me that you don't even try to defend the headline of your post. It's a stupid question? DeWine lost because he ran a horrible campaign representing the failed agenda of a failed Party.

    If you are really worried about how newspapers are perceived, here's an idea: Instead of focusing on what you call a "fluff" columnist like Connie, how about worrying about the perception of the paper for their early drum beating and continued white washing of the nightmare that is that Iraq war. That's a real problem that taints almost every paper in the country, from the New York Times to the PD.

    Also, since this is now the standard for right wingers like BizzyBlog and people with vested interests, I will eagerly wait for columns and posts questioning all the other reporters that are married to or used to be politicians. God forbid we have an appearance of conflict with our sanctified old media.

    Get working Bill, I think you're really onto something.

  9. hey baker....

    is there some reason you defend connie at every turn other than the fact that you appear in the index of her "book" from the "toy department" as some guru of blogging? honestly, just asking about your personal relationship to this issue.

    give a guy a prop in print and he's your whore for life.....god, baker, you really are a cheap lay.

  10. Hey Tim,

    All I can say is I'm glad that I wasn't the kind of person that justly flatly bought all the vindictive crap that you and other parties were selling about Connie Schultz.

    I'm also glad that I didn't just flatly buy all of the vindictive crap that other parties were distributing about you. Lord knows I got enough from people I normally respect. You're a tragic character not because of your past but because you won't to stop living in it.

    What's strange to me is that you refuse to understand why this happened. You knew what you were doing. You knew that you had this issue. You knew the game. You stuck your neck out in a patty and vindictive way and got nailed with a petty and vindictive headshot. Not a hard one to see coming Tim. Welcome to the NFL.

    My advice is to stop being a victim. When you're on your game you're one of the best. Here your posts make the case for all the worst things said about you better than any phone call to a radio station.

    Finally, Bill... I just think that you are flat out wrong on this one. Personally, I chalk it up to being too close to something. I keep trying to remind myself that it's never about me, and when it starts feeling like it is about me I step back.

    I've really enjoyed your work online and think that except for this recent focus on Schultz it has been an amazing addition. Frankly I'm envious of how you use your reporters craft and think that it will be interesting to see how it plays out with you unshackled from the constraints of the printing press. This is certainly a case in point ;-)

  11. Chris and Tim:

    I'm appreciative of you all stopping by, very appreciative that you at least looked at what I have to say.

    However, the back and forth that has started, and the tone it has begun to adopt, is really making me more than a little bit uncomfortable.

    Can I ask for a timeout?

    And I wonder: Is it possible to agree to disagree on the Internet or a blog comment line without getting into vitriol that takes a personal turn? Is that how things work?

    There is too much intellectual mud wrestling out there already, I think. Hopefully, we in Ohio can have our dustups, but they won't turn into F-5's on the f/u verbal insult scale. (I'm probably a naif on this.)

    So, have a great day this glorious Saturday. I am working on the roof.

  12. Folks, I think it is a reasonable to wonder:
    - If Connie had her mind changed by her conversation with Warner. If she really was against her husband running up to that point, it's possible that nothing else would have come along to convince her otherwise.
    - If Brown hadn't run, it would have been someone else (duh) against DeWine, probably Hackett, unless the Dem establishment was so worried about him that they would have tried to find someone else to take him out (I'm not even going to try to speculate on who that could have been).
    - Perhaps Hackett or that other candidate wouldn't have been able to defeat DeWine. Hackett is/was a timebomb who could have gone off at the wrong place and time, and "whoever else" might have been run a lackluster campaign.

    What I just described, none of which is extraordinary or wildly unlikely, justifies Bill's post title.