Wichita Eagle reporting, headlining discussed by commissioners

In today’s meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission, Wichita Eagle reporting and editorializing was the subject of an off-agenda item.

Commissioner Gwen Welshimer used this opportunity to read into the record part of a press release she issued yesterday. The entire press release, as well as video, is at the end of this article.

Commissioner and Chairman Kelly Parks mentioned that he has been disturbed with some headlines in the Wichita Eagle recently, and that the media has “not checked out some of the headlines they’ve put out.”

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn shared his concerns with misleading Wichita Eagle headlines, referring to a headline that appeared after the county approved its budget, as covered in my post Wichita Child Advocacy Center still in business, despite headline.

I spoke to Wichita Eagle reporter Bill Wilson, and he had no comment other than his reporting speaks for itself.

It should be noted that reporters generally don’t write the headlines for their stories.

Regarding this matter, it may be that the parties are quarreling over relatively minor details of events and the meaning of words.

For example, Welshimer’s press release states “Reporter Bill Wilson’s latest article stated that the City of Wichita knew nothing about the County’s plans.” The article referred to (“County scouting locations for site to ease jail crowding” August 20, 2009 Wichita Eagle) states, in part: “The county’s search is unwelcome news to city officials …” (emphasis added)

Editorialist Rhonda Holman‘s August 21 piece repeats this idea: “It reportedly was news to city officials and downtown leaders that county commissioners were discussing the possibility of locating such a facility and hadn’t ruled out the core.” (emphasis added)

Does this all boil down to what the meaning of “news” is? Does “unwelcome news” mean that someone has never heard of an item before, or does it mean “Yes, I am aware of this item, and I don’t like it?”

Following is the full text of the press release issued by Gwen Welshimer on August 25, 2009.

Either the Wichita Eagle knew they were putting out false information on their jail annex stories or they didn’t know for sure and printed their stories recklessly. Their August 20, 21, and 23 articles and editorial, claiming the County Commission had been reviewing properties in Downtown Wichita for a jail annex, were not true. The Eagle’s actions caused considerable concern for Downtown business owners. No commissioner has looked at any Downtown buildings with any real estate agent for the purpose of housing detainees. A retraction and an apology are due to the county from the Eagle.

The Eagle reporter who wrote the stories quoted me erroneously and had not interviewed me. Eagle editorialist, Rhonda Holman committed an egregious act with her August 21 editorial in which she scolded the commission for having the intent to put jail detainees Downtown. Reporter Deb Gruver showed a lack of professionalism by her participation in this deed.

Reporter Bill Wilson’s latest article stated that the City of Wichita knew nothing about the County’s plans. That was also not true. On July 29, the Wichita Mayor, Vice Mayor, and Sedgwick County Commission Chairman and I met at City Hall. The topic of conversation was that the County’s prison farm on McLean and Harry would need to be replaced in the future. This facility is currently being used to house work release detainees who go to their jobs and return there for the duration of their sentence. The Mayor said he would see if the City had a building that could be used for this purpose.

The truth is that Chairman Parks and I took one short afternoon to see two buildings with a real estate agent. We were shown warehouse properties, one off south Southeast Boulevard and one off north I-135. These properties had no potential of filling our needs. The next day the Eagle reported that we were scouting for a site in Downtown Wichita and attempting to do harm to Downtown redevelopment plans. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

I believe the Eagle is angry because of the county’s decision not to continue funding the needs of Downtown and give more consideration to the future of Sedgwick County. County commissioners did put their political careers on the line to raise the money and build a $210 million economic tool for Downtown. I have not witnessed appreciation for this effort. What I have witnessed is a constant demand for more. It appears that we will continue to be harassed by the Eagle, until we bring out the checkbook.

Gwen Welshimer
Chairman Pro-Tem
Sedgwick County Commission


3 thoughts on “Wichita Eagle reporting, headlining discussed by commissioners”

  1. The quality of reporting in general by all the media has diminished IMO. They are all pressed for space or time and all the public gets is “sound bites”. I never take anything reported by the media as accurate or factual. Sad state of affairs quite frankly.

  2. Editorials are not based on facts. They are the opinions of the editorial board members. There are several problems with the way the Wichita Eagle use the editorial pages. (a) personal/ideological agendas, (b) running the editorials knowing that the facts do not support the issue being discussed, (c) camouflaging editorials as news.

    I thought that the new Mayor and City Council had promised better communication and relationship with the County. What happen to all of those campaign promises?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>