Saturday, September 23, 2006

Zaltsberg breaks his own policy again!

Bob Zaltsberg broke Herald-Times policy by printing two letters to the editor that violate the his often-stated policy about claims made against candidates. Lucretia Cregar and Nico Brancolini both accused Mike Sodrel of being behind so-called "push polls" criticizing Democratic ex-Congressman Baron Hill.

Here are the facts: the "push polls" both letters are justifiably concerned about were not done by the Sodrel campaign. The "push polls" were conducted by an independent "527" political group. A "527" group cannot coordinate expenditures with a candidate or campaign, and any such coordination is a violation of federal law.

Interestingly enough, independent political groups have been making negative calls against Congressman Sodrel for well over a year. I remember hearing about these "killer calls" at the Friday Lunch Bunch shortly after Congressman Sodrel took office. I suspect that had someone written a letter to the editor accusing Baron Hill of being behind the anti-Sodrel calls, the letter would not have been published.

Of course, neither Cregar nor Brancolini provided one single fact, one shred of evidence or the slightest hint of proof for their claims, because their charges are false. If Bob Zaltsberg were actually following the policy he has implemented and endorsed repeatedly, neither letter would have been printed. Let's review Zaltsberg's statements on this policy:

  • September 4, 1999 -- "If these letters refer to a public vote or position taken by the candidate, I must have documentation of that claim. Documentation can come in the form of minutes from a meeting or a report in the H-T or another publication. Writers must provide proof, or the letter will be rejected."

  • August 28, 2000 -- (L)etters critical of candidates must include documentation about specific charges being made. Otherwise, they will not be published.

  • August 31, 2002 -- (L)etters critical of positions taken by candidates should include documentation to allow us to make sure what is being written accurately relates the position the candidate took.

  • August 30, 2003 -- Documentation will be required on any claims about specific actions of candidates being criticized.

  • September 4, 2004 -- We will make every effort to check out claims made in letters, and negative charges should be accompanied by documentation.

This, of course, is not the only time that Bob Zaltsberg has broken his own policy. The Herald-Times has lost a lot of credibility over the years because of bias or simple laziness. One way for the H-T to regain credibility is for publisher Scott Schurz to make it very clear to Zaltsberg that if he does not follow H-T editorial policy, then Schurz will find a new editor who will.

The precedent for this was already established with the error made by Kurt Van der Dussen> that got the veteran reporter demoted. The standard should be even higher for an editor like Zaltsberg. KVD is responsible for his own articles, but Zaltsberg is responsible for the entire paper, especially areas (like the terribly mismanaged editorial page) he has complete control over. Zaltsberg needs to shape up or ship out.