Category Archives: Wichita news media

For Wichita Eagle, no concern about relationships

Should the Wichita Eagle, a city’s only daily newspaper and the state’s largest, be concerned about the parties to its business relationships?

It’s a question that the Wichita Eagle should be considering. But the newspaper’s top executives seem to have no concern.

On February 14 I sent a message to the publisher and executive editor of the Wichita Eagle expressing my concerns about the newspaper’s future landlords. That letter appears below. After several follow-up attempts by email and telephone, neither would respond.

Sent I sent this message, I’ve found I was mistaken about the ownership of the building to where the Eagle will move and become a tenant. Brandon Steven is not an owner. I had relied on Eagle reporting1 from January, naming Steven as an owner. The reporter confirmed to me that was an error.

An error in the digital archives of the Wichita Eagle which could easily be corrected.

Of note, the Eagle portrays itself as a digital entity. One of the things about material published digitally is it can be easily corrected. As of today, the erroneous story from January 3 has not been corrected, even though the reporter knows she made an error.

Is it important that a newspaper avoid business relationships or entanglements with parties that are frequently in the news? I’ve been told that the Eagle has to rent from someone, and Wichita is a small town. Well, not really. The Eagle owns its current building, which eliminated the relationship with a landlord. And if the newspaper wants to be a rental tenant, it could rent from the many landlords who are not frequent newsmakers, especially those that the Eagle needs to hold accountable.

This is a sad episode for the Eagle. When Eagle reporters ask someone about uncomfortable topics and the subject does not respond to messages, the newspaper reports that, and in a negative light. Here, the top two executives at the Eagle would not comment on something they may be uncomfortable discussing. I think we deserve a newspaper with greater capacity for self-examination, and one whose executives are responsive to legitimate concerns.

Following, the message I sent. Note the corrections indicated in footnotes.

February 14, 2017

Mr. Roy Heatherly
Mr. Steve Coffman
The Wichita Eagle

I’m writing because I’m concerned about some issues regarding the Wichita Eagle and its news coverage.

Specifically, I’m concerned about the Eagle entering into business arrangements with the parties who purchased the Eagle building, and then becoming a tenant of the same parties.2

The three parties are Brandon Steven, Dave Wells, and David Burk. While the Eagle is certainly free to do business with anyone it wants to, these three men are newsmakers that the Eagle has covered in the past, and will likely need to cover in the future.

Mr. Heatherly, you may remember that last year at a Wichita Pachyderm Club meeting I asked you about the arrest of Brandon Steven (although I did not use his name), and why the Eagle did not cover this news. Other newspapers did, including the Topeka Capital-Journal and The Morning Sun in Pittsburg.3 4 Those newspapers thought the item newsworthy as Steven had recently been an applicant for a Kansas casino license, and factors such as a person’s reputation are relevant to these applications. Many thought it curious that the Eagle did not report this news.

Regarding David Burk, he is a continual newsmaker in Wichita, and not always in a positive way. A notable incident was his appeal of property taxes on property located within a tax increment financing district, which defeats the purpose of TIF.5 6 Worse, he misrepresented himself as an agent of the city in order to obtain this benefit. When the Eagle reported on this, it rated designation of “special report.” Other than this, Burk is a newsmaker in that he has, for many years, made large and regular campaign contributions to many city council members, and has received much subsidy from the city through many different programs.

For Dave Wells, a principal of Key Construction, he is often in the news for the same reasons as Burk: Large and continual campaign contributions, and a frequent recipient of subsidy. A particularly troubling matter involving Key Construction and public policy occurred in 2012, regarding the awarding of the contract for the new Wichita air terminal, a contract worth around $100 million. Key was one of the parties pursuing the contract. We learned that Key and its partners were making campaign contributions to one Wichita city council member, Jeff Longwell, immediately before and after he participated in a council vote on awarding the contract to Key.7 Several months later after additional campaign finance reports were filed, we saw that Key made contributions to other council members during the run-up to the contract dispute.8

When it was announced that the Eagle was selling its building to these parties, I was not comfortable with this transaction. But it was a one-time deal. Later we learned that the Eagle is to become a tenant of the same parties,9 a business relationship that is likely to last for a long time.

When the Eagle gives these parties free publicity in future news stories, will readers need to be concerned about the motivation for the Eagle printing the stories?

But more important: When these parties do something wrong, will the Eagle vigorously pursue an investigation? An investigation against its landlord?

I hope you can understand my concern.

I would appreciate receiving comments on this matter for a story I am writing for the Voice for Liberty. In addition, if either of you would like to appear on WichitaLiberty.TV to discuss that matter, we can do that too.

Thank you,
Bob Weeks


Notes

  1. Rengers, Carrie. Wichita Eagle signs deal for new downtown headquarters. January 3, 2017. http://www.kansas.com/news/business/article124312049.html
  2. An error. See introduction.
  3. Kansas casino bidder Brandon Steven busted for public nudity. Topeka Capital-Journal, October 1, 2015. http://cjonline.com/blog/tim-carpenter/2015-10-01/kansas-casino-bidder-brandon-steven-busted-public-nudity.
  4. Castle Rock developer arrested. The Morning Sun, October 8, 2015, http://www.morningsun.net/article/20151008/NEWS/151009892.
  5. Developer appealed taxes on city-owned property. Wichita Eagle, February 14, 2010. http://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/article1024583.html.
  6. Report: Errors made in Old Town Cinema district tax appeal. Wichita Eagle, March 10, 2010. http://www.kansas.com/news/local/article1027324.html.
  7. Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn questions out-of-state contributions to challenger Jeff Longwell. Wichita Eagle, August 1, 2012. http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article1096574.html.
  8. Campaign contributions show need for reform in Wichita. Voice for Liberty, January 11, 2013. https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/campaign-contributions-show-need-for-reform-in-wichita/.
  9. An error. See introduction.

The Joseph Ashby Show, revived

Joseph Ashby on WichitaLiberty.TV 2015-06-21He’s no longer on AM radio at KQAM, but people still want to hear him. So for now there’s the Joseph Ashby Show podcast.

There are several ways to listen:

  • Like The Joseph Ashby Show on Facebook. Click here for this. (Be sure to ask for notifications, or at least for posts to show at the top of your newsfeed.)
  • Subscribe to the podcast on Podbean. Click here for this.
  • Follow The Joseph Ashby Show on Twitter. Click on @JosephAshbyShow.

Wichita Business Journal editorial missed the news on the Wichita economy

A Wichita business newspaper’s editorial ignores the history of our local economy. Even the history that it reported in its own pages.

Of the several problems with a Wichita Business Journal editorial, the worst is the author’s view that now, with the result of the David Dennis/Karl Peterjohn election for Sedgwick County Commission, the Wichita area can return to making progress in economic growth. The article is full of phrases like “good news for anyone in Wichita who values the city’s growth” and “We once took pride, in Wichita and in Kansas, in our record of pragmatic, collaborative economic growth.”1

Chung Report cover image from Facebook 2016-08-08Except: This is not truthful. Making such a claim ignores the evidence. Anyone who pays attention knows economic growth in the Wichita area has lagged for a long time. Even the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce belatedly came to this conclusion. Even the Wichita Community Foundation realizes it, having just started a project titled “The Chung Report: Examining Wichita’s Economic Downtown and How We Can Reverse It.”

None of this should be a secret to the editorial writers at the Wichita Business Journal. Two years ago it reported on, and showed, a chart from the Wichita Chamber that is similar to the chart at the end of this article.2 That chart showed slow job growth in the Wichita area. The Chamber used it to campaign for a new sales tax in Wichita.

Why don’t Wichita Business Journal editorial writers understand this? Regardless of one’s view on government’s role in economic development, to write as though we’ve had much growth in Wichita is factually incorrect. It’s not responsible.

An interactive visualization that is the source of the following chart is available here.

Wichita MSA and other job growth. Click for larger.
Wichita MSA and other job growth. Click for larger.


Notes

  1. Wilson, Bill. Kansas, Wichita take a step to the center. Wichita Business Journal, August 5, 2016. Available at www.bizjournals.com/wichita/blog/2016/08/kansas-wichita-take-a-step-to-the-center.html.
  2. Stearns, John. Chamber speakers: Wichita’s red line on jobs recovery a call to action. Wichita Business Journal, February 7, 2014. Available at www.bizjournals.com/wichita/blog/2014/02/chamber-speakers-wichitas-red-line.html.

Wichita Eagle, where are you?

The state’s largest newspaper has no good reason to avoid reporting and editorializing on an important issue. But that’s what the Wichita Eagle has done.

In November 2014 Wichita voters rejected a proposed Wichita city sales tax. The largest portion of that tax, $250 million, would have gone towards expanding the capacity of the Aquifer Storage and Recharge, or ASR, project.

The Wichita Eagle editorial board urged voters to approve the tax. It told readers that spending $250 million on ASR would “assure a future for Wichita with enough water.” “The needs are clear,” the editors wrote, adding “Investing in the aquifer project seems the best thing to do to anticipate and meet Wichita’s water needs.” The Eagle warned of “much higher water rates” if the sales tax is not passed.

Since voters rejected the tax to support that spending, the cost of providing adequate water has dropped, and dropped a lot. But you wouldn’t know that by reading the Wichita Eagle or by relying on our city’s other mainstream news media.

If you viewed a Wichita City Council workshop on December 1, however, you’d have learned that the city can provide adequate water for much less than $250 million. The rise in water bills will also be much less than what the Eagle and the city used to frighten voters into approving the sales tax.

So why hasn’t the Wichita Eagle reported on the December 1, 2015 workshop, in which Director of Public Works and Utilities Alan King presented the new plans — plans which will cost much less? Why have there been no editorials celebrating that we can provide adequate water at much less expense?

I can understand the editorial writers not wanting to admit they had been duped. That’s human nature. But for the news division of the Eagle: Why no reporting on this?

As it happens, the newsroom of the Eagle was also a cheerleader for the sales tax and ASR project. As an example, the Eagle printed a fact check article that disputed claims made by opponents of the tax. When asked why there was not a similar fact check article on the proponents, the reporter said there were no errors to be found. Nothing. That was incredulous — unbelievable — at the time. There were many questionable claims made by sales tax proponents. In hindsight, we are even more certain of that.

Tubs of ink the Wichita Eagle could be using to tell us what we need to know.
Tubs of ink the Wichita Eagle could be using to tell us what we need to know.
The Eagle has plenty of reporting capacity, barrels of ink, and lots of online bandwith to report and editorialize on issues like who gets free parking at the Wichita airport. That’s important, perhaps, but trivial in terms of financial impact. But on this issue involving over $100 million in savings, there is silence.

The state’s largest newspaper has no good reason to avoid reporting and editorializing on an important issue. But that’s what the Wichita Eagle has done. We wonder why.

Newspaper reports on lack of source for news

I wonder if the reporters and editors at Wichita Business Journal can see the rich irony in this article. It reports on a group of business leaders complaining about the lack of information about Wichita.

I wonder if we’ve forgotten about the role of newspapers, their websites, and mobile apps.

Emerging Leaders want to know what’s happening in Wichita

Daniel McCoy, Wichita Business Journal

Wichita has a lot of great things going on, but how do people find out about them?

There should be an app for that, say members of the Emerging Leaders program.

Rather than having to visit a number of individual websites to find out about what’s happening locally, the all-female group of 10 Emerging Leaders who sat down with the WBJ as part of the Breakfast with the Editor series on Friday say Wichita would be well-served to have a single place people can go for a comprehensive list of all the goings on in the community.

Continue reading at Wichita Business Journal: Emerging Leaders want to know what’s happening in Wichita.

Wichita Eagle: Reporting, then research

Wichita Eagle reporting on a controversy involving religion might leave discerning readers wondering just what is the correct story.

Wichita Eagle 2015-10-06 01In its article of October 6 titled “News of Wichita State chapel renovation to help Muslims sparks backlash” the Wichita Eagle reported:

Muslims at Wichita State University wanted a better place to pray. In May, workers renovated the campus chapel and removed the tiny altar and pews.

WSU administrators thought the change had resolved the problem by giving Muslim students a place to kneel on the floor and pray. Christian students could use portable chairs.

Everyone on campus seemed satisfied.

Later in the same article: “Muslims say they feel taken aback. They’d asked for the accommodation in the spring, in part, because they had difficulty finding a prayer space on campus.”

On October 8, the Eagle reported in “Wichita State president: ‘Grace Chapel can serve the needs of all faiths'”: “The pews were removed by WSU officials after some Muslim students asked that more space be made for them to pray there, in part by kneeling on roll-out rugs.”

What conclusion should we draw from these two stories? That the renovations were the result of requests by Muslim students? That seems to be what the Eagle reported.

Wichita Eagle 2015-10-06 02But if you formed that conclusion, you were wrong, evidently. On October 12, this report from the Eagle in the story “Campus minister: Muslims not ones who asked for Wichita State chapel renovations”: “The removal of the pews at Wichita State University’s Grace Chapel — criticized by some as a Muslim takeover of the facility — actually was sought by a Christian campus minister and Christian students who wanted a more flexible worship space, the former campus minister and others said Monday.”

Here we see a reversal in the story. Renovations weren’t at the request of Muslim students after all.

Finally, the largest newspaper in Kansas reports on October 29: “Eagle research has found that the request to remove pews and other furnishings from the chapel had originated not with Muslims, but with Christian students and former campus minister Christopher Eshelman, who wanted a more flexible space for their worship services.” (“Wichita State sets Friday town hall on controversy over university chapel”)

I guess it would have been nice if the Eagle had performed its research before printing the October 6 and 8 news stories. Or, at least the newspaper could acknowledge that its earlier stories were incorrect. I haven’t seen that.

In Wichita, bad governmental behavior excused

A Wichita newspaper op-ed is either ignorant of, or decides to forgive and excuse, bad behavior in Wichita government, particularly by then-mayoral candidate Jeff Longwell.

In a column just before the April 2015 Wichita election, Bill Wilson, managing editor of the Wichita Business Journal, reported on fallacies during the mayoral campaign, fallacies he called “glaring.” 1 But only a juvenile interpretation of the facts surrounding the events could find them fallacious. This is especially troubling since Wilson covered city hall as a reporter for the Wichita Eagle.

The first reported fallacy concerns the award of the contract for the new Wichita airport terminal. Jeff Longwell, then a city council member, had received campaign contributions from executives of Key Construction, the local company bidding on the contract. He also received contributions from Walbridge, the Michigan partner of Key. The Walbridge contributions are problematic, as they were made just a few days before the vote. More arrived a few days after Longwell’s vote. 2

In his column Wilson had an explanation as to why the council voted the way it did. That explanation was a matter of dispute that the council had to resolve. But the validity of the explanation is not the point. The point is something larger than any single issue, which is this: The Wichita city council was asked to make decisions regarding whether discretion was abused or laws were improperly applied. It is not proper for a council member to participate in decisions like this while the ink is still wet on campaign contribution checks from a party to the dispute. Jeff Longwell should not have voted on this matter.

For that matter, several other council members should not have voted. Wichita City Council Member James Clendenin (district 3, southeast and south Wichita) received substantial campaign contributions from Key Construction executives several months before he voted on the airport contract. So too did Wichita City Council Member and Vice Mayor Lavonta Williams (district 1, northeast Wichita) . In fact, the only contributions Williams received in 2012 were from Key Construction interests. 3

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer with major campaign donor Dave Wells of Key Construction.
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer with major campaign donor Dave Wells of Key Construction. Brewer has voted to send millions to Key, including overpriced no-bid contracts.
Then we have Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. Here he’s pictured fishing with his friend Dave Wells of Key Construction. Do you think it is proper for the mayor to have voted in a quasi-judicial role on a matter worth millions to his fishing buddy? How do you feel about the mayor voting for no-bid construction contracts for his friend? Contracts that later were found to be overpriced? 4

In Wichita, city council members receive campaign contributions while participating in a quasi-judicial proceeding involving the contributors. This doesn’t seem to be improper to the Wichita Business Journal. But it isn’t alone. The Wichita Eagle doesn’t object to any of this. Well, maybe once in a while it does, but not very strenuously or for very long.

Another problem: Wilson dismisses the claim that Longwell was able to exert much influence over the other six council members in order to benefit a project in his council district. But during the campaign, Longwell eagerly took credit for the good things that the city council did. Though Longwell was but one of seven votes, his commercials made it seem like he performed these deeds all by himself. But when things go wrong, well, he’s just one of seven votes.

The last fallacy Wilson objects to is this: “The idea that a $500 campaign contribution buys a vote, a specious claim by Americans for Prosperity that inexplicably lives on. If a council member’s vote is for sale for $500, their stupidity trumps their corruption. And yet some of these false claims remain in political advertising, despite being debunked by two media outlets — and here.”

A few points: First, it’s not just a $500 contribution. We find many examples of individual $500 contributions from executives of the same company, along with spouses and other family members. The contributions are effectively stacked. Second, sometimes campaigns are funded to a large extent by these stacked contributions from just one or two firms. 5 Third, if these contributions are not seen as valuable to those who make them, why do the same small groups of business interests make the maximum contributions year after year?

As far as the claims being debunked: A few weeks ago I showed you the inexplicably bad reporting from the Wichita Eagle. 6 The Business Journal didn’t do any better.

Wilson’s op-ed seems more like an audition for a job at city hall than a critical look at the campaign and its issues. Making a move from news media to a government job in communications is a common career move. There are three former journalists working in Wichita city hall. One former Wichita Eagle reporter went to work for the Wichita school district. There are many examples in Topeka. It’s a problem when journalists who are supposed to be exercising watchdog duty over government agencies end up working for them. We can also recognize when journalists are auditioning for jobs in government.

Wichita Eagle fails readers, again

In its coverage of the 2015 election, the Wichita Eagle prints several stories that ought to cause readers to question the reliability of its newsroom.

Readers of the Wichita Eagle must be wondering if the newspaper trusts its own reporting. In a fact check article regarding the Wichita mayoral general election printed on March 27, the newspaper looked at claims made by campaign ads. The story examined this claim from an advertisement by Sam Williams, referring to opponent Jeff Longwell: “Supported government handouts for low-paying jobs and then chastised voters when they rejected his plan.”

The article’s verdict on this claim: “There is no apparent reference to ‘chastising’ comments in the blog posts or article.”

Here’s what the Eagle itself reported on September 14, 2011, regarding the possibility that citizens might petition to overturn a measure Longwell supported. I’ve emphasized a few portions.

City council member Jeff Longwell called the petition drive “disappointing.” “We had a very transparent, open hearing, listened to both sides, listened to all of the arguments,” Longwell said. “We moved in a direction we felt was most compelling, and now you have a group that still is unhappy and it is just sour grapes. I’d argue that when they keep pulling these kinds of stunts, they will continue to lose credibility.

The dictionary holds this definition for chastise: “To criticize severely; reprimand or rebuke.” I’d say that Longwell’s criticisms fit this definition. It’s unknown why the Eagle reporters and editors came to a different conclusion.

This is not the only example. Here’s the start of the newspaper’s profile of Longwell:

It’s 4:45 a.m. on a Friday, and Jeff Longwell is playing basketball with a group of guys at the Northwest YMCA. Three days a week, 10 to 15 men gather before dawn to shoot hoops. Sneakers squeak. Shouts echo. Longwell, 55, jokingly describes himself as a “prolific three-point shooter.” “I don’t think WSU is going to recruit me,” he says, worn out after the game. The guys say that if Longwell is elected mayor, he still has to play with them. He agrees. Teamwork is his style, he says, and not only in basketball.

For the Williams profile, the article started with this:

Sam Williams sits on a cerulean blue couch in his campaign headquarters, nervously picking at the edges. “Stuck in the Middle With You” plays on the radio as volunteers – mostly family members – make calls, urging people to vote for Williams for mayor on April 7. For a few moments, a guy who spent a lifetime in advertising has trouble articulating why he should be mayor of Wichita. “It’s uncomfortable for me having this conversation talking about me,” Williams says, still picking at the couch.

The difference in the way the Wichita Eagle chose to portray the two candidates is startling. It’s not that there are no awkward or unflattering incidents that could be used to introduce Jeff Longwell. There are many. Likewise, there are many positive aspects to Sam Williams that could have been used in his introduction, including feats of athleticism. These two articles illustrate, in my opinion, an effort to promote Longwell and dismiss Williams.

Wichita Eagle Building, detail
Wichita Eagle Building, detail
This is not the only recent incident regarding the Eagle newsroom that is troubling. In the campaign for the Wichita sales tax last year, The newspaper published a fact-check article titled “Fact check: ‘No’ campaign ad on sales tax misleading.” There was no similar article examining ads from the “Yes Wichita” group that campaigned for the sales tax. Also, there was little or no material that examined the city’s claims and informational material in a critical manner.

It’s one thing for the opinion page to be stocked solely with liberal columnists and cartoonists, considering the content that is locally produced. But newspapers like the Eagle tell us that the newsroom is separate from the opinion page. The opinion page endorsed Jeff Longwell for mayor, just as it endorsed passage of the sales tax. As far as the newsroom goes, by failing to hold Longwell accountable for his remarks, by printing the two introductions illustrated above, and fact-checking one side of an issue and failing to produce similar pieces for the other side — well, readers are free to draw their own conclusions about the reliability of the Wichita Eagle newsroom.

Wichita Eagle labels hold a clue

How Wichita Eagle news stories label outside organizations is a window into the ideology of the paper’s newsroom.

A Wichita Eagle op-ed references a report released by two think tanks, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and Kansas Center for Economic Growth. (Kansas tax system among the most regressive, January 18, 2015.)

Here’s what readers can learn about the mindset of the Wichita Eagle. These organizations were named. Named and referenced without labels, adjectives, or qualifications that give readers clues about the ideology of the organizations.

That wouldn’t be remarkable except for noticing the contrast in how the Eagle labels conservative and libertarian organizations, most notably Kansas Policy Institute. A quick use of Google finds these mentions of KPI in recent Eagle pieces:

  • “Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute and an outspoken advocate for conservative education reforms”
  • “The Kansas Policy Institute, a free-market think tank linked to Koch Industries”
  • “The Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative think tank”
  • “Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative think tank in Wichita”
  • “The Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative think tank based in Wichita”
  • “The Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative Wichita nonprofit organization”
  • “parallel recommendations from the Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative small-government think tank”

Always, a reference to Kansas Policy Institute includes a description of the organization’s politics. This is not inaccurate, as KPI is conservative and free-market.

Contrast with these recent excerpts from Eagle stories:

  • “Duane Goossen is a senior fellow at the Kansas Center for Economic Growth”
  • “said Annie McKay, director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth”
  • “The Kansas Center for Economic Growth recently surveyed districts and analyzed data from the Kansas State Department of Education”
  • “A study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that Laffer disputes”
  • “said Matt Gardner, executive director of the liberal-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy”
  • “according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which is based in Washington, D.C.”
  • “Wednesday’s report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says”

You can see that one time the Eagle slipped and labeled ITEP as “liberal-leaning.” That’s actually a gentle characterization of ITEP, which in reality lies quite far on the left end of the political spectrum, as does Kansas Center for Economic Growth. But the use of a label shows that someone, at one time, was aware of ITEP’s politics.

So why does the Eagle routinely label Kansas Policy Institute, but never or rarely label Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and Kansas Center for Economic Growth?

We know the editorial page of the Eagle is liberal, favoring progressive policies of more taxes and larger government over economic freedom almost without exception. We see too that the newsroom shares the same view, as shown by the sampling of references above. Labeling a source as conservative, free-market, and linked to Koch Industries is not meant by the Eagle to be a compliment.

A note: The two outfits the op-ed relied upon produce much content that is demonstrably wrong. The Tax Foundation has found many serious problems with the report that is the subject of the Eagle op-ed. See Comments on Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States (Second Edition). For KCEG, see Kansas school teacher cuts, student ratios.

Wichita Business Journal remodels, features Charles Koch interview

wichita-business-journal-cover-2014-02-28The Wichita Business Journal has, it its own words, “reinvented” itself, and starts its new life with features on Koch Industries and an extended interview with Charles Koch.

To get started, the weekly newspaper has made its complete digital edition available to read at no charge. Click here for access.

The interview with Koch is wide-ranging, covering the business interests of Koch Industries and Koch’s political involvement, detailing his relationship with Americans for Prosperity. An example quote: “When you start attacking cronyism and people’s political interests, it gets nasty.”

What is the import of the farm bill to Kansas?

Wheat combine on farmCorrecting the Wichita Eagle’s facts will place the importance of the farm bill to Kansas in proper perspective.

In criticizing five of the six members of the Kansas congressional delegation for voting against the farm bill, Rhonda Holman of the Wichita Eagle editorialized this: “Five of the six members of the Kansas delegation just voted against a farm bill — a stunning abdication of leadership in a state in which agriculture is 25 percent of the economy.” (Eagle editorial: AWOL on farm bill, Wednesday, February 5, 2014)

The Eagle editorialist didn’t specify what she meant by “percent of the economy” or where she got these figures. But the most common measure of the size of an economy is gross domestic product (GDP), and it’s easy to find.

Data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce) for 2012 tells us that the category “Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting” contributed $5,428 million towards the total Kansas GDP of $138,953 million. That means agriculture contributed 3.9 percent to Kansas GDP. The Eagle based its argument on a value of 25 percent, a value that’s 6.4 times the actual value.

If you included the category “Food and beverage and tobacco product manufacturing” you’d add a few additional percentage points. But you’d still have a number that is just a fraction of what the Eagle editorial board believes to be the contribution of agriculture to the Kansas economy.

Now that you have the facts that the Wichita Eagle doesn’t have, how important do you think is the farm bill to Kansas?

Besides this, the Eagle praised former U.S. Senator Bob Dole for his “effort to bind rural and urban interests in agricultural policy by including food stamps in the nation’s safety net for farmers.” In political science this is called logrolling. It’s one of the reasons why government continues to grow faster than our willingness to pay for it. I think the Wichita Eagle likes that.

It’s for things like this that Dan Mitchell created the “Bob Dole Award” for Misguided Conservatives. It’s for those who fit this description:

“If you say something about fiscal policy and a statist can respond by saying “I agree, so let’s raise taxes,” then you’ve made the mistake of focusing on red ink rather than the real problem of too much government spending.”

Mitchell explains the naming of the award:

Naming the award after Bob Dole also is appropriate since he was never a sincere advocate of limited government. The Kansas lawmaker was a career politician who said in his farewell speech that his three greatest achievements were a) creating the food stamp program, b) increasing payroll taxes, and c) imposing the Americans with Disabilities Act (no wonder I wanted Clinton to win in 1996).

For all of these reasons, and more, no real conservative should want to win an award linked to Bob Dole.

Fired KAKE reporter on Joseph Ashby Show

Today former KAKE Television news reporter Jared Cerullo appeared on the Joseph Ashby Show. Audio is here or below.

Additional background on this matter is at KAKE Viewers Say Reporter Was Fired, Express Their Anger on Station’s Facebook Page.

There’s also this story: Wichita mayor said to be ‘under lockdown.’ At this point it is not known whether there is any connection between this story and Cerullo’s departure from KAKE.

Joseph Ashby on local news media, anti-conservative bias

Wichita city hall logoLast week KAKE Television news anchor Jeff Herndon addressed the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Today, on the Joseph Ashby Show, the host commented on Herndon’s views on Wichita news media, and drew some conclusions about anti-conservative bias in Wichita news media.

[powerpress url=”https://wichitaliberty.org/audio/joseph-ashby-show-2013-05-23-excerpt.mp3″]Joseph Ashby Show, May 23, 2013 (excerpt).

The KAKE Television news story referred to is Wichita mayor comes under scrutiny for controversial vote.

Wichita Eagle quality control could use improvement

When presented with evidence of errors in its stories, the Wichita Eagle, Kansas’ largest newspaper, is not being responsive in correcting its errors.

On July 12, the Eagle ran the story 84th District race a repeat for 2 candidates, highlighting the two Democratic Party candidates for a Kansas House of Representatives district. The article said there was no Republican filer, when in fact Dan Heflin had filed as a Republican. This could be seen clearly at either the Kansas Secretary of State’s listing of candidates, or at the Sedgwick County Election Office’s listing.

The article was written by “courtney looney,” a name I wasn’t familiar with at the Eagle. I couldn’t find an email address or telephone number, so I couldn’t contact the reporter directly. I, and one other person, left a comment to the story calling attention to the error. As of today, the error is still in the story. I couldn’t find evidence of a correction.

In another example, on August 10 the Wichita Eagle printed the story Kansas’ justice-selection process unique, in which the reporter wrote: “Changing the constitution requires a two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate and approval of the governor. Then the issue goes to voters during a general election.”

The process is described correctly except for the role of the governor. Unlike regular legislation, the governor does not sign or approve a constitutional amendment. The only parties involved are the legislature and the people voting on the amendment in an election.

In this case, I knew the identity of the reporter, so I sent an email message about this error. A comment writer called attention to the error, too. I never got a response, and the story still appears on the Wichita Eagle website with the error intact. Finally, on August 17 the Eagle printed a correction.

The story was printed in the Lawrence Journal-World under an Associated Press byline, and the error was there, too. The story may have been printed in other newspapers.

For a final example, on August 11 the Eagle printed the story Wichita City Council OKs tax districts, in which the reporter wrote: “The approval means the hotel can charge an extra cent or two of sales tax for up to 22 years, with the revenue rebated to them after the state and city remove 7 percent in administrative fees. That will mean about $9.6 million in revenue from the extra sales tax for the $12 million hotel.”

John Todd, a friend of mine with an interest in this issue, called me and asked me if it was true that the extra sales tax this hotel can charge through the Kansas Community Improvement District program would be worth $9.6 million over 22 years as reported. I said no, the CID is just one part of a package of subsidies the city created for this project, with the total package being worth $9.6 million or thereabouts. The total package is reported on at Waterwalk hotel deal breaks new ground for Wichita subsidies.

A simple back-of-the-napkin calculation can confirm this, using publicly available sources of data: The hotel may have up to 130 rooms. A study commissioned by the city regarding this hotel found that “In 2008, the proposed Fairfield Inn’s competitive set’s average daily rate was $86.31.” In January, Goody Clancy, the firm planning the revitalization of downtown Wichita, said that Wichita hotels are doing well with an occupancy rate of about 67 percent, with a companion chart showing downtown hotels at about 70 percent.

Doing the arithmetic (130 rooms times $86.31 daily rate times 365 days per year times 70 percent occupancy factor times two percent CID tax rate) results in about $57,336 in revenue per year from the CID tax. Or over the 22 year life of the CID, about $1.3 million. It’s possible the hotel might generate additional CID revenue through sales of drinks or other incidentals, but this would likely be a small amount.

Even if one disputes the assumptions and substitutes a higher room rate or occupancy factor, there’s no way the CID will come close to generating the revenue the Eagle article reports.

Todd called the reporter, and the reporter was insistent that the reported figures are correct, saying he received them from Wichita economic development director Allen Bell. I think this means we shouldn’t expect a correction.

It’s part of human nature to make mistakes. I do, and when I do, often I get an email from someone at the Wichita Eagle notifying me of such. When I realize I have made a mistake, I correct it, as can be seen in this example.

But the Wichita Eagle isn’t doing the same in a timely manner, and sometimes not at all.

It’s not as though I’m disagreeing with opinions presented in editorials on the opinion page (and people in Wichita have enough trouble with those). The problems here are with facts that can easily be verified. In particular, when the Eagle mistakenly reports the governor’s role in amending the constitution, and then doesn’t quickly issue a correction and leaves the erroneous story on its website, I think we have a problem.

Wichita Eagle editorial endorsements: helpful, or not?

Yesterday’s primary election in Kansas provided a measure of the influence of the Wichita Eagle editorial board. Voters ignored many of its endorsements, indicating that the newspaper — its editorial side, at least — is increasingly out of touch with its readers.

Starting from the top, here’s how the Eagle endorsed and what the voters did. An endorsement is a recommendation to voters, and not intended to be a prediction of the outcome.

For the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate, the Eagle endorsed Jerry Moran. He won. For the Democratic Party side of this race, the Eagle picked Kansas Senator David Haley. He finished in third place.

For the Republican party nomination for United States Congress from the Kansas first district, the Eagle picked Kansas Senator Jim Barnett, noting his “balanced legislative record.” The Eagle dismissed challenger Kansas Senator Tim Huelskamp, calling him a “hard-right conservative with a hard edge.” This race was in a three-way tie in the last poll, but voters chose Huelskamp with 35 percent of the vote to Barnett’s 25 percent and Tracey Mann’s 21 percent.

(There is a pattern here. According to the Eagle editorial board, conservatives are “hard,” while liberals are portrayed as soft and cuddly — or “balanced” and “nuanced,” at least.)

For the Republican party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district, the Eagle chose Kansas Senator Jean Schodorf. This had the potential to be a close race, with some polls — her own, mostly — showing Schodorf in the lead. But the race turned out to be not close, with Wichita businessman Mike Pompeo gathering 39 percent of the vote to Schodorf’s 24 percent and Wichita businessman Wink Hartman‘s 23 percent.

On the Democratic side, the Eagle endorsed Kansas Representative Raj Goyle, and he won handily over a little-known and inexperienced challenger with no experience in elective office.

For the Republican party nomination for Kansas Governor, the Eagle endorsed Sam Brownback, whose only competition was from a candidate with some very peculiar beliefs. Brownback won handily.

For Kansas Secretary of State Democratic Party nomination, the Eagle backed appointed incumbent Chris Biggs over opponent Kansas Senator Chris Steineger, who the Eagle faintly praised for his “out-of-the-box thinking and independence.” Biggs won.

On the Republican side, the Eagle endorsed career bureaucrat Elizabeth Ensley over Kris Kobach. The Eagle — Rhonda Holman, mostly — has criticized Kobach steadily on the editorial page for his contention that voter fraud is a problem in Kansas. Voters overwhelmingly chose Kobach. He got 51 percent of the vote to Ensley’s 27 percent.

For Republican Party nomination for Attorney General, the Eagle chose Kansas Senator Derek Schmidt, and he won handily over the capable but little-known Ralph De Zago.

For Republican Party nomination for insurance commissioner, the Eagle chose incumbent Sandy Praeger, and she easily won.

Sedgwick County Commission voters ignored Eagle recommendations

In primary contests for Sedgwick County Commission, voters didn’t give much weight to Wichita Eagle endorsements.

In the contest for the Democratic Party nomination for District 1, Eagle-endorsed Betty Arnold won. She’ll face unopposed incumbent Dave Unruh in the general election in this heavily Republican district.

In District 4, two Republicans ran to replace Kelly Parks, who chose not to seek re-election. The Eagle endorsed Lucy Burtnett, who served two years in this position when she was appointed by the precinct committee system to replace Carolyn McGinn, who won election to the Kansas Senate. When Burtnett ran for election to that position in 2006, she did not win. Instead of backing the Republican primary winner, she ran a write-in campaign that had the potential to contribute to a possible Republican loss.

Despite her loss in 2006, the Eagle endorsed her over Richard Ranzau, praising her “thoughtful” voting record, which I — after looking at her past votes — characterized as thoughtless. Ranzau won with 55 percent of the vote to Burtnett’s 44 percent. She told the Wichita Eagle that she will not support Ranzau in the general election, which naturally leads to speculation as to whether she’ll run another write-in campaign.

For the Democratic party nomination for the position, the Eagle endorsed former Wichita city council member Sharon Fearey. From the council bench, Fearey had blasted the Eagle for uncovering problems with a real estate developer’s past dealings, blocking passage of a project she supported. Besides the editorial board endorsement, the Eagle also ran a last-minute news story embarrassing to her opponent, Kansas Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau. As of now, Faust-Goudeau has won by a margin of 60 votes out of 3,450 cast.

In District 5, the Eagle endorsed Chuck Warren in a three-way race for the Republican Party nomination. Wichita city council member Jim Skelton won with 42 percent of the vote to Warren’s 36 percent.

Kansas House of Representatives endorsements

In an open seat in the Kansas House of Representatives, the Eagle endorsed Jim Howell for the 82nd district, which is primarily the city of Derby. He won.

In the Republican party primary for Kansas House of Representatives district 83, parts of east Wichita, veteran legislator Jo Ann Pottorff faced a challenge from the right in recent college graduate Kyle Amos. Pottorff had to run a last-minute ad in the Eagle attempting to burnish her conservative credentials. She won with 53 percent of the vote. This qualifies as a squeaker.

In Kansas House of Representatives district 94, parts of west Wichita, the Eagle chose to endorse a challenger to incumbent Joe McLeland in the Republican primary. The Eagle criticized him as a “yes-man for GOP leadership and anti-tax think tanks” and said he “parroted misleading information about school budgets during the past session.” McLeland won with 63 percent of the vote. His two challengers received 22 percent and 16 percent.

In the Republican Party primary for Kansas House of Representatives district 96, parts of south Wichita, the Eagle endorsed first-term incumbent Phil Hermanson, and he won.

The Eagle recommended that voters chose incumbent Gail Finney in the Democratic Party primary for the 84th district, and she won by a large margin.

For election results from races in Sedgwick County, click on August 3rd, 2010 Primary Election Unofficial Results — Sedgwick County. For statewide races and other races, click on 2010 unofficial primary election results at Kansas Secretary of State.

Wichita Eagle endorsements deserve scrutiny

The Wichita Eagle editorial board has made its endorsements for offices in the August 3rd Kansas primary election. Before voters decide whether to rely on these recommendations, they deserve some examination.

For example, for the Kansas House of Representatives the Eagle endorsed incumbent Republican representative Jo Ann Pottorff for her “balanced voting record.” The Eagle said she was willing to stand apart from the area’s “hard-line conservatives.”

But an examination of Pottorff’s voting record indicates something other than balance. This year, on the Kansas Economic Freedom Index (a project of this site), her score was 13 percent. That placed her in the tenth percentile of members of the Kansas House on a scale that rewards fiscally conservative votes. It’s a liberal voting record, in other words. We might even say a “hard-line liberal” voting record.

(If the Eagle was to criticize a liberal, however, it would probably use the softer and preferred term “progressive.” Even liberals try to hide their lineage.)

Other examples of language that reveals the Wichita Eagle’s bias is in their endorsement of an opponent to current representative Joe McLeland. In its endorsement, the Eagle editorial board wrote: “Unfortunately, he also seemed at times to be a yes-man for GOP leadership and anti-tax think tanks. It was particularly disappointing how McLeland, the chairman of the House Education Budget Committee, parroted misleading information about school budgets during the past session.”

Why didn’t the Eagle write this about Pottorff: “Unfortunately, she seemed to be a yes-woman for the governor and the anti-economic freedom, big-spending teachers union leadership and school spending advocacy groups”?

Regarding McLeland, the Eagle is probably referring to the controversy about unspent school fund balances. The Eagle, along with the teachers union and other school spending lobbies, didn’t believe that these balances existed and wrote so in several opinion pieces. The Eagle probably still doesn’t believe these funds exist, notwithstanding the fact that the schools spent the very same fund balances they said didn’t exist and couldn’t be spent: “By using fund balances, schools in Kansas were able to increase spending by an estimated $320 million in the current school year. Revenue to Kansas school districts declined by about $50 million, but $370 in fund balances were used to boost total spending by $320 million.”

So when the Eagle makes an endorsement based on a factually unsound position, what should voters do?

In the Republican party primary for Sedgwick County Commission District 4, the Eagle chose Lucy Burtnett over Richard Ranzau, praising Burtnett’s “thoughtful voting record” during her two years as an appointed commissioner.

In 2006, while campaigning for this same position, Burtnett was reported by the Wichita Eagle to have this reaction to a proposed Sedgwick County property tax increase: “Lucy Burtnett, the current 4th District county commissioner, told 30 people attending a candidate forum at the Northeast Senior Center that none of the commissioners find the increase acceptable.” Part of the purpose of the proposed tax increase was to fund a jail expansion.

After losing the primary election, Burtnett voted in favor of a tax increase that was somewhat smaller than what the county manager originally proposed. Its purpose, partially, was to fund a jail expansion.

Two years later — realizing the jail expansion wasn’t necessary after all — the county rolled back part of the tax increase that Burtnett voted for.

“Thoughtful” voting record, as the Eagle endorsement said? Or thoughtless?

For Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas, the Eagle chose Kansas Senator Jean Schodorf.

Describing her as “not overly ideological or partisan,” the Eagle again overlooks facts.

Webster’s dictionary gives one definition of ideology as “the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program.” The Eagle uses this term with a dark connotation, implying that candidates with ideologies are inflexible and unwilling to consider anything other than their own views. Other liberal media outlets use this term in the same way.

But ideologies cut both ways. And Schodorf hasn’t seen many school spending programs and accompanying taxes that she won’t vote for. This is in spite of evidence that schools had money they weren’t spending, and that all the spending hasn’t done much to improve student outcomes. (The Eagle and Schodorf would have to look beyond the fraudulent Kansas state assessment scores to see that.)

The view of Schodorf and the Wichita Eagle editorial board is that Kansas public schools are always underfunded, and schools can be fixed only with more money. That’s an ideology, and one that is demonstrably harmful to Kansas schoolchildren.

This is all the more striking when we consider that Schodorf is chair of the Senate Education Committee. She has been in one of the most powerful positions to do something for Kansas schoolchildren, but she has not done that. So when the Eagle praises her for being “a pragmatist who cares about finding real solutions, not scoring political points,” consider that Kansas has few of the reforms such as charter schools and school choice that are working in other states. These are “real solutions” that the Eagle doesn’t favor. Instead, Schodorf seeks favor and campaign contributions from the teachers union and school spending lobby, earning the “political points” the Eagle editorial board purportedly condemns.

As for not being partisan, Schodorf simply belongs to the wrong party, if we are to believe that the Republican Party is home to conservative thought and practice. Schodorf’s voting record this year is more liberal — considering the same bills — than that of the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for this position.

It’s pretty easy to appear non-partisan when your party label is wrong.

It’s hard to tell, but it appears that the Eagle editorial board gave extra consideration to its Schodorf endorsement because she didn’t run a negative campaign. Regarding Mike Pompeo, the Eagle wrote, after listing his credentials, “It’s too bad he ran such an ugly campaign.”

That “ugly campaign,” however, can be viewed as simply responding to the allegations and charges made by another candidate. He didn’t attack Schodorf — perhaps he should have — so she, as well as the other candidates, didn’t have to defend themselves.

Correction

In my article Wichita city hall silent on handling of ethics issue, I made a mistake in stating that a ready-to-print story was canceled by Wichita Eagle newsroom management. Eagle editor Sherry Chisenhall informs me that the newspaper did perform research as I reported, but the matter never advanced to a story that was ready for publication. Therefore, there was no story to “squash,” as I reported.

I regret this error and apologize to the newspaper.

The issue remains that the Eagle newsroom is fully aware of the situation and decided to mention it only as a small part of a larger story, as my article explains. The Eagle editorial page is still silent on this issue.

KSN news director meets with critics

Can You Hear Us Now? Wichita October 17, 2009KSN News Director Jason Kravarik

On Saturday October 17, 2009, about 50 Wichitans met in front of Wichita’s KSN Television studio to express their concerns about the state of news media. The event was part of a national protest named “Can you hear us now?” Locally, the South Central Kansas 9.12 Group promoted the event.

Jason Kravarik, KSN News Director addressed the group. The crowd was contentious at first, but after emotions cooled a bit, a more constructive dialog emerged.

Kravarik stressed that KSN is a local news organization. It is affiliated with NBC News, but KSN employees are not employees of NBC. The focus of KSN is local news, not national. When national news stories appear on KSN, they’re furnished by NBC.

Someone in the crowd asked: “Why don’t you correct the national news?”

Kravarik replied that KSN covers national news as it affects Wichita. KSN can’t send reporters to Washington.

The crowd was critical of KSN’s news coverage of the Wichita tea parties. It’s possible that KSN may have broadcast a mistake when counting the number of attendees in its coverage of one of the tea parties. But by and large, KSN has covered the Wichita tea parties. As Kravarik mentioned, this website (WichitaLiberty.org) holds several references to KSN’s coverage. (See Wichita tax day tea party preview on KSN news and Wichita Tea Party News Coverage on KSN Television for examples.)

Can You Hear Us Now? Wichita October 17, 2009

He also told the group that KSN provides no opinion or commentary, just coverage of local new stories.

One complaint from the audience was that KSN doesn’t provide advance notice of events like tea parties. Kravarik recommended that groups contact the station to make sure that reporters know of the event, and make contact well in advance of the date of the event — not just the day before.

(If I had been in Kravarik’s position, I might have said that local television news stations shouldn’t serve as advertising services for anyone.)

There was also mention of cable television news networks. Kravarik told the audience that based on the ratings success of Fox News with shows like The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC decided to counter with their own opinion-based shows like Keith Olbermann’s.

One speaker requested time for local exploration of national issues and how they will affect us locally in Wichita and the surrounding area.

Kravarik also mentioned that when local people do things with national impact, that’s something his station is interested in. But reporters need to be notified of such things.

One audience member said “The print media is useless, because people might see it, but it doesn’t register. You guys put stuff on the actual news on the television. People look at that television and take it as gospel, as bad as it is.”

Kravarik also mentioned that as events such as tea parties are repeated, they become less newsworthy: “By the time there’s a hundred of these, will they get as much coverage as day two, three, and four?”

He urged the group to get specific with its issues. Are there local people who are being negatively affected by a policy? Then it moves from the abstract to the concrete. It then becomes a new story idea.

In response to a question about the economics of news, Kravarik mentioned that his station is struggling, as are all stations, due to loss of advertising revenue.

Analysis

While the protesters complained that the issues they’re concerned about are not being covered, somehow the members of the group are informed about them. So the news must be getting out somehow. I believe this points to the diversity of news sources available today, largely due to the Internet.

Some of the protesters were complaining to the wrong person. One person complained about the reporting of the count of protesters at the September 12 protest event in Washington. Regardless of the merits of the complaint, Kravarik’s news station didn’t cover that event.

The plea for attention is understandable. But if KSN gives more attention to issues and events that are important to the protesters, we would expect other interest groups to insist on increased coverage of their issues.

The criticism of print media by one person is mistaken, I believe. One of the important differences between print journalism and television journalism is breadth and depth of coverage. Print media — Internet too — has the space to cover issues in depth. The daily television news broadcast doesn’t.

Some people asked why doesn’t local news media explain issues like the “Fair Tax” or the Federal Reserve system. This is more like educational programming, which network television has rarely embraced, as it doesn’t produce ratings. Public television is more likely to provide this type of programming. An important advance in just the past year or two is the rise of Internet video services like YouTube, which contains many educational videos.

There’s also the issue of “What is the truth?” While I am largely sympathetic with the political views of the protesters at this event, there are other groups that are just as firmly convinced that their version of the world is the truth.

Perception, too, plays a large role in opinion of news coverage. The Wall Street Journal has a reputation as a bastion of conservatism. But a UCLA study in 2005 found that “the newspaper’s news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times.”

As an example of how truth and perception can vary from person to person, I would be happy to make any readers a DVD of the video I captured of this event, on the condition that they write their own news coverage or commentary. (Or maybe create video or audio coverage and commentary.) I’ll then post it here.

It’s a slow, slow news day

Is there no substantive news to cover in Wichita?

One of the top stories in the headline rotation at KAKE TV’s website has the headline “Girls Burned By Hot Coffee.”

Here’s the lead of the story: “Two girls were burned in Southeast Wichita Wednesday when one of them tripped on a coffeemaker cord and spilled hot coffee.”