Define Conflict Of Interest

November 2, 2007

A few dots to connect here, but it looks like a journalist, John Cheeves of the Lexington-Herald-Leader, with current and previous ties to McClatchy and Knight-Ridder respectively, has been involved in one dubious scheme that at least suggested pay for play journalism. And given where his name also turns up, he might not be the most objective journalist to be leading a witch hunt against current Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Check this out:

It’s one thing to dislike Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell or his record; it’s quite another thing to impugn this public servant’s integrity without any basis in fact.

But that is exactly what Lexington-Herald-Leader reporter John Cheves has done in his latest hit piece on the Senator.

Dot2: Cheeves was involved with a deal that even McClatchy balked at when it came under their umbrella due to their buying the Lexington Herald-Ledger. According to an item labeled Tainted Series?, by Howard Kurtz in the Washington  Post, it was actually a liberal group, the Deer Creek Foundation, that was fronting the money for Cheeves to do an investigative series on McConnell. So, McClatchy balks and where does Cheeves turn up? See below excerpts.

WASHINGTON – Marilyn W. Thompson, then editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, faced a problem last year that is afflicting more and more newspaper editors across the country: She wanted to initiate a major reporting project but lacked sufficient resources to finance it.

Thompson, who wanted the paper to take a deep look at Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s senior senator, came up with an answer. She would seek support from the Center for Investigative Reporting, a California-based non-profit group that has financed or conducted groundbreaking work in television and print journalism.

The idea was approved by Thompson’s bosses at Knight Ridder, which owned the Herald-Leader. The center approved a $37,500 grant, and reporter John Cheves went to work.

via Kurtz: The paper’s parent firm, McClatchy Co., decided last week to repay the $35,000 grant, which underwrote six months of salary and expenses for a Herald-Leader reporter (Cheeves) on leave. The grant came from the respected Center for Investigative Reporting, which was passing on money provided by the St. Louis-based Deer Creek Foundation.

Cheeves turns up with a fellowship in the offices of a Liberal Democrat with some potentially pertinent terms and conditions. Must be nice having someone recently with the status of Congressional Staff penning hit pieces on the opposing party’s leadership. Not that that’s political or anything, right? Think maybe if he does a good job he’ll end up back on the Hill with a nice paid position? It’s a thought. And it certainly doesn’t look much like objective journalism.

Ron Wyden (D-OR)
John Cheves
Lexington Herald-Leader

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST. The Congressional Fellowship Program is nonpolitical and professional, and Fellows are expected to choose congressional assignments for their educational value rather than their political value.

ASSIGNMENTS. No Fellow may make a commitment to serving on a Senate or House office or committee staff prior to: (a) a group discussion of the procedure for choosing offices, and (b) full opportunity for every Fellow to have an equal chance in securing a position.

FEES & HONORARIA. Fellows may not receive pay for serving in congressional offices during the course of their fellowship. They also may not hold any paid position (including speaking engagements) that will interfere with their full participation in the Program or pose a conflict of interest with their status as congressional staff.

More background here and here

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