Wick Communications

When the newspaper is involved

In Ethics on January 3, 2013 at 11:33 am

El_Paso_Times_Big-624x468

Suppose you were the city reporter for a newspaper and you discovered that the city was about to pay your newspaper $3.7 million more than it should? That was the intriguing situation for Marty Schladen of the El Paso Times earlier this year.

It seems the city of El Paso was going to demolish City Hall to make way for a baseball stadium. That meant it needed new digs, pronto. It identified the newspaper office as an ideal site for new city offices and a deal was struck: The city would pay $14 million for the building. … That is, until Schladen did what no one else apparently did: read the appraisal. The city’s own appraisal came in at $10.3 million for the building. Schladen confronted city leaders and they postponed the purchase.

“If we screwed up, we need to get to the bottom of it,” said city Rep. Cortney Niland in the resultant story.

The story ends like this:

Sergio H. Salinas, the publisher of the newspaper, acknowledged the difficulty of covering a business deal in which the newspaper is involved.

“We will continue to fulfill our responsibilities as a watchdog,” he said. “At the same time, we have a valuable piece of property that we want to maximize.”

You know this was the talk of the day – and the week – in the newspaper office and at City Hall. …

This is one of the things that makes newspapers different from almost any other business entity. What private business in your community would go public with news that the city was about to overpay it for something?

Obviously, if you stumble on any story that has an impact on the newspaper for which you work you need to tell your supervisor. Don’t surprise the publisher with something like this. Then do the right thing and be a credible watchdog.

— Clay

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  1. In these tough economic times it must have been very difficult to resist the temptation to take advantage of the city’s stupidity.

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