Tuesday, June 26, 2007

NO Room for Free Speech, Expression, or Association?

TV Reporter Who Backed Candidate is Out ...

By Bill Dedman | Investigative Reporter | MSNBC

The TV reporter in Omaha who posted a photo of herself on Facebook.comwith a congressional candidate, urging her friends to vote for him, is no longer working at the station


The Facebook photo of Calvert Collins, a reporter for Fox station KPTM in Omaha, was published at the top of the article. She was listed in FEC records as having given $500 to the Democratic candidate, though she said her father actually made that donation in her name.

A blog, Omaha City Weekly Media Watch, reported Friday that KPTM had fired Collins, citing three unnamed station employees. KPTM's news director, Joe Radske, would not say Monday whether Collins still worked at the station or not, saying he could not discuss a personnel matter. But when MSNBC.com called the KPTM newsroom and asked for Collins, the response was, "She no longer works here." Collins did not return messages left on her cell phone.

The Facebook photo had been public since October, as had FEC records showing that Collins gave $500 to Democratic congressional candidate Jim Esch. The photo was reposted then on a Nebraska political blog, and an anonymous comment on that blog had also divulged the donation.

Collins told MSNBC.com last month that her father made the $500 donation in her name. She also said that her father had made a $2,000 donation in her name to Kay Granger, a Republican congresswoman from Texas in 2004, when Collins was a student in broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

As for the photo, Collins explained that building rapport with candidates was part of her job, and said she had removed it immediately when her boss heard about it. "In a way, I'm glad this happened to me at age 23, and not 33," Collins said, "and I will learn from it."


An organizer for the Newspaper Guild sent e-mails to the donating journalists at the Los Angeles Times, offering "to aggressively support your right to contribute your time and/or money to causes important to you regardless of your political persuasion."

"As individuals, Guild members are all over the place on the ethics of journalists' involvement in public advocacy," wrote organizer Lesley Phillips, as reported on the Web site Mediabistro.com. (Phillips confirmed today that she sent the e-mails.) "But among the principles promoted in the Guild's Ethics Policy ... is: 'Those responsible for gathering and presenting the news retain their rights to private lives free of restriction, provided there is no actual conflict with their ability to be trusted sources of information.'"


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