The Enquirer’s top boss has told CityBeat that her connection to a major real estate development group was “overlooked” in a lengthy, front-page article about the organization that was published April 15.
Publisher Margaret Buchanan wrote in response to an email that she didn’t influence the preparation, editing or placement of an article about the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC). Buchanan sits on 3CDC’s executive committee, and is in charge of overseeing publicity and marketing efforts for the organization.
The Enquirer published a 1,900 word-plus article about 3CDC, lauding the group for its efforts to redevelop Over-the-Rhine despite the economic downturn. Buchanan’s role with 3CDC wasn’t mentioned, but she told CityBeat it has been disclosed in past articles and will be done again in the future.
Buchanan’s response was sent the same day that CityBeat published a column criticizing the lack of disclosure, and questioning whether her role violates The Gannett Co.’s ethical guidelines for news-gathering.
Here’s the full text of Buchanan’s response:
Over several years, The Cincinnati Enquirer has fully covered the pro's and con's (sic) of 3CDC's development efforts in Over-the-Rhine for our readers and we are very proud of that coverage.
As publisher, I sit on 3CDC's executive committee — and did not influence any of the reporting on this issue. Our editor is completely responsible for all editorial decisions. Typically my participation on this committee is disclosed, although it was overlooked for the article that ran on Sunday, April 15. It will continue to be disclosed in the future.
A search using the ProQuest database of The Enquirer’s archives found that the newspaper has published 481 articles and news briefs mentioning 3CDC since the group began its efforts in 2004. (Given how the database is organized, however, it’s likely that some of the entries might be duplicative.)
Of the 481 entries, Buchanan was mentioned in 15 articles. That equates to about 1/32nd of the articles.
Most of the published mentions about Buchanan’s ties to 3CDC weren’t in articles about the group’s retail and residential development projects. Rather, they mostly occurred in articles about 3CDC’s efforts to move a homeless shelter away from Over-the-Rhine.
Also, one mention was in an article about the new School for Creative and Performing Arts, while another occurred in a piece marking the 10th anniversary of the police shooting death of Timothy Thomas.
Interestingly, most of the mentions occurred after 2010, when local blogger Jason Haap and CityBeat began publishing items about the lack of disclosure.
This week’s Porkopolis column mentioned Gannett’s ethics code, which includes such admonishments as “We will remain free of outside interests, investments or business relationships that may compromise the credibility of our news report,” and “We will avoid potential conflicts of interest and eliminate inappropriate influence on content.”
The code also states “When unavoidable personal or business interests could compromise the newspaper’s credibility, such potential conflicts must be disclosed to one’s superior and, if relevant, to readers.”
In her email, Buchanan didn’t address why these rules don’t apply to her connection to 3CDC.