Sharon Boyd, Editor/Publisher

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10/16/06  Dallas Managed News has an ethics code? 

It was shocking when The Dallas Managed News  endorsed Tracy Holmes over Judge Faith Johnson. It made no sense to endorse an obscure White former Public Defender who lives in the Park Cities over a respected African-American incumbent judge.  See DallasArena.com's DMN Endorses Carpetbagger and other unqualified candidates

Criminal District Court Recommendations
Monday, September 25, 2006

363rd CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT
Tracy Holmes

  Republican incumbent Faith Johnson has established herself as a community leader. But her conduct in the courtroom raises questions about her temperament and judgment. Last year, Judge Johnson, 55, of DeSoto received a public admonition from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for throwing a party in her courtroom to celebrate a fugitive's recapture. The Dallas Bar Association's poll also raises concerns about her demeanor and knowledge of the law.
   Tracy Holmes, a 51-year-old Democrat from University Park, has more than two decades of experience in criminal law and has worked both sides of the courtroom. While she is untested on the bench, we think a change is needed in this court, and we recommend Ms. Holmes.

The DMN Editorial Board met with Holmes and Judge Johnson on August 30, 2006 for their recommendation.  That same day, Rhonda  Gibbons made a $90 contribution to Holmes' campaign. 

A $90 contribution is pretty odd.  People usually make contributions in $25 increments:  $25, $50, $75, $100, then $250, $500, $1000.  Ms. Gibbons must have thought the cutoff amount for campaign reporting is $100, not $50.  If you make a contribution to a candidate of $50 or less, they don't have to itemize your name.  That's why the $90 looks like a mistake on Gibbons' part.  I doubt Rhonda Gibbons wanted her name listed on Tracy Holmes' campaign financial report, much less the name of Gibbons' employer.

Do you know why Rhonda Gibbons would not want her name or her employer's name on a political contributions report?  I do!

Ms. Gibbons lists her job title as "Assistant News Editor".  Do you know where she works as an "Assistant News Editor"?  Of course, you do! 

Rhonda Gibbons listed
The Dallas Managed News as her employer.  Isn't that wonderful?

Everyone has noticed
The Dallas Managed News has taken a definite leaning this year to Democrat candidates.  A Democrat friend (sometimes a contributor to DallasArena.com) e-mailed me that he and other Democrats had also noticed the surprising number of Democrat endorsements by DMN this campaign season, but he wished the DMN endorsements were based on principle, not quotas.
   
10/16 Kent Fischer:
FYI -- I'm pretty sure Ronda Gibbons is not an assistant news editor at the DMN -- think she's a writer in the promotions department at WFAA. Don't know how/why that job title got listed on the campaign report, but it's wrong. In fact, three weeks ago, Gibbons was nominated for a Lone Star Emmy for her work on the promo campaign for WFFA's "Daybreak" show.
   Maybe she got promoted since then, but nobody here in the newsroom has heard of her.
   Her campaign contribution (if, in fact, she really made it) was a nice catch on your part, but I'm not sure how ethics standards apply to Channel 8 promo writers.  
  
Just thought you should know.
 
 
Boyd's response:
   It's the title she used on the donation form.  If I remember right, the DMN ethics code applied to all DMN employees.
 
Kent Fisher:
  
Except she's NOT a DMN employee. She works for WFAA. She's no more an DMN employee than you are. Should the DMN ethics rules apply to you?
  Your post called for her to lose her job, saying, "Contributing to political campaigns is just not done -- well, it is not done by ethical journalists. But then, we're talking about The Dallas Managed News." She's not a journalist, Sharon. She writes promotional copy for TV commercials! For WFAA! As such, she certainly would not be bound by a code of DMN ethics written some 10 years ago.
  Did you confirm that she's the one who provided the job title on the form? Donors don't fill out those campaign forms, the campaign treasurers do. Isn't it possible that the treasurer got it wrong? Did you contact Gibbons to see if the info was correct? I find it amazing that, in the same post, you also chided some DMN reporters for lazy journalism. Seems to me you were pretty lazy on this one.
 
I mean no offense, but it needed to be said.
 
Boyd Response:
  I am not and have never represented myself as a reporter.  I am a commentator.  This article is a commentary about data that appears on a sworn statement/financial report filed by a judicial candidate with the Secretary of State.  If the data is wrong, Ms. Gibbons should take it up with Tracy Holmes.  If Tracy Holmes files an amended report with the Secretary State, I will be glad to post another commentary with the new information.

Apparently, principle has been replaced with inside politics at the DMN.  This is page 4 of 11 pages of Tracy Holmes's financial report for 7/01-9/28/06:

Pretty damning stuff, don't you think?  Wonder what Assistant News Editor Gibbons' boss is going to say to her since DallasArena.com has exposed her electioneering?  Her contribution to Holmes' campaign clearly violates the DMN's own ethics code. 

You say you didn't know
The Dallas Managed News had an ethics code?  A DMN ethics code is something of an oxymoron, but they actually have one. 

To read the entire "News Department Guidelines", see
Ethics Code.  Here's a portion of the Guidelines that Rhonda Gibbons must have skipped in her job training: 

Ethics code: The Dallas Morning News

Published: January 28, 1999
Last Updated: February 17, 1999

The Dallas Morning News

NEWS DEPARTMENT GUIDELINES

The news department has guidelines to supplement the company's employee handbook. All staffers are encouraged to discuss them with any of the senior editors at any time. Each newsroom employee is expected to be familiar with these guidelines.

Any newspaper's reputation rests on its credibility and its readers' perception of that credibility. Fairness and accuracy are the cornerstones of credibility.

The following should be kept for reference and may be updated. Violating some guidelines could result in disciplinary action or termination. ...

14. Political Activity

Avoid any public political activity, including contributions that would be on public records and could be used in endorsements without your knowledge. Do not run for office, speak, sign political petitions or campaign for any candidate or in behalf of any issue except in connection with professional journalism groups. This is not intended to discourage exercising your right to vote. ...

Finally, no guidelines or codes can or should anticipate every situation. Individual cases require individual discussion, so feel free to contact the appropriate editors any time, day or night, if problems arise. In summary, always be guided by fairness, accuracy and good common sense.

Gilbert Bailon
Vice President and Executive Editor

Stuart Wilk
Managing Editor

June 1998

 

This lapse of judgment would be bad enough in any campaign, but it is particularly troublesome in a judicial campaign for a candidate to accept a campaign dollars from an news editor of the only daily newspaper in town.  What does it say about Tracy Holmes' judgment?  It's not like she had a lot of contributions and just overlooked the $90 from Rhonda Gibbons. 

Someone might want to check into Tracy Holmes' tenure as a Dallas County Public Defender and why she left that position.

When I heard about the Gibbons contribution to Holmes' political campaign, I called several  reporters asking if they had ever heard of a journalist making a contribution to a political campaign.  One prominent reporter said "Never heard of such a thing."  Another said "No publication I've ever worked for would allow it."

Contributing to political campaigns is just not done -- well, it is not done by ethical journalists.  But then, we're talking about
The Dallas Managed News.   We know it is not the same paper it used to be.  It's our only daily newspaper, and we can't trust it and at least some of the people who work there. 

That's why no one should have believed Gromer Jeffers over Pat Cotton.  See
Dallas Managed News - Lazy liars are still liars.

Ethics code: The Dallas Morning News

Published: January 28, 1999
Last Updated: February 17, 1999

The Dallas Morning News

NEWS DEPARTMENT GUIDELINES

The news department has guidelines to supplement the company's employee handbook. All staffers are encouraged to discuss them with any of the senior editors at any time. Each newsroom employee is expected to be familiar with these guidelines.

Any newspaper's reputation rests on its credibility and its readers' perception of that credibility. Fairness and accuracy are the cornerstones of credibility.

The following should be kept for reference and may be updated. Violating some guidelines could result in disciplinary action or termination. ...

1. Fairness

All sides of an issue should be included in every report. Every effort will be made to obtain a prompt, complete rebuttal where any accusations are made against an individual, company or institution. Similar play will be given for initial accusations and acquittal. Include rebuttals in the main or deck portion of a headline as well as in the early paragraphs of a story and definitely before it jumps from the cover page of a section front.

2. Corrections and Clarifications

These will be published promptly after their accuracy is determined. Memos from appropriate staffers will explain how the error occurred. Every staffer is an ombudsman in this sense, and we pursue each complaint vigorously. Every complaining party must get a response, regardless of whether we publish a correction or a clarification. The explanatory memo is not punitive, but seeks to ensure we do not repeat errors and to determine how they happened. ...

4. Plagiarism, Fabrication

This is a firing offense and includes material from Dallas Morning News stories as well as other sources. Plagiarism is lifting identical material without appropriate attribution or citation and does not preclude using specific facts from research. Wire service materials should be attributed in the story text or in the tagline. Fabricating stories that purport to be truthful also is a firing offense. ...

Gilbert Bailon
Vice President and Executive Editor

Stuart Wilk
Managing Editor

June 1998

 

They certainly did not follow their own guidelines regarding Gromer Jeffers' big lie concerning his "virtual" conversation with Pat Cotton about Mitch Rasansky.  They would not even allow Pat Cotton to print a letter to the editor denying Gromer's fabrication, much less offer a retraction.

There's nothing fair or correct about the way Pat Cotton was treated.  There's nothing fair or correct when a
DMN Assistant News Editor makes a campaign contribution to judicial candidate Tracy Holmes the same day the DMN's Editorial Board met with Judge Johnson and Holmes.  The fix was in from the beginning.  They should have told Judge Johnson to just stay in Court because they already were endorsing the Democrat.  Why else would DMN Asst. News Editor Rhonda Gibbons feel free to violate a basic rule of journalism, impartiality?

If you are a Democrat, you cannot be happy about this either.  Next time, it could be your candidate who walks into a stacked deck at the
The Dallas Managed News.  I cancelled my subscription after the arena sales tax campaign.  More and more of my friends are canceling their subscriptions, too.  If your neighborhood looks like mine, you have to walk several blocks to see a DMN paper in someone's yard.

The Dallas Managed News owes apologies to both Pat Cotton and Judge Faith Johnson.  Of course, they won't apologize to either. 

Hopefully, Rhonda Gibbons will be looking for a job in another industry this time next week.

sb
 

                                        

    





                            

 

  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8