Monday, February 14, 2005

Journalistic Payola

My old hometown is in the news today for journalistic payola. I first spotted this story by Howard Kurtz at Captain's Quarters regarding a little Kansas City controversy:
The issue of pundit payola, it seems, is not limited to inside the Beltway.

Eric Wesson, a columnist for the Call, an African American newspaper in Kansas City, offered plenty of praise last year for the successful House bid of Democrat Emanuel Cleaver. "Rev. Cleaver," he wrote, "has the experience to get things done and getting people to work together, he unites people. . . . Rev. Cleaver is a master at getting others to see his vision and surrounding himself with role players to make the vision become a reality. . . . I admire his honesty."

Cleaver's campaign last summer paid $1,500 to a firm called One Goal Consultants. And the sole owner of One Goal Consultants, according to state records, is Wesson.

"I wrote out some phone scripts for his phone banks," Wesson says. "I think I did about 50 of them and some other miscellaneous things. It had nothing to do with the job I do for the Call. The Call has always written articles favorable to African American candidates. We're an advocacy newspaper."

Readers of the Call, however, were unaware that Wesson was getting cash from the campaign. "Should I have disclosed it in my articles? I don't know," says Wesson. "Would it have made any difference?"
The difference between this and the Armstrong Williams story, besides scale, is that Wesson doesn't seem to think that he's done anything wrong. And, if I'm reading Kurtz correctly, Wesson was on the payroll of the candidate Cleaver and now he's on the payroll of Congressman Cleaver. All the while covering Cleaver for the Call.

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