JG Editor's Views Excerpt: (Feb.7, 2010)On Saturday the newspaper ran two articles, one asserting that Sheridan no longer lives in his district since filing for divorce, and the other one describing the findings (comical) uncovered by the AP's Open Records search of the legislator's e-mails. What they found was a series of e-mails describing a shell-shocked staff wondering how and why a seemingly legitimate newspaper would fire off repeated rounds of vicious rumors to hurt the speaker's reputation.
In nearly every case, the Gazette got credit for reporting the story first. We love to be first with any story. We particularly like it when the story has statewide significance.
Adding to the poisonous newsprint mix was Stan Milam's column of buffoonery and fabrications questioning in disbelief why Sheridan's colleagues would come to the defense of the wrongly maligned legislator. A solid 80% of Milam's rant was just made-up stuff, not typical even for this establishment concern troll.
Then on Sunday, the Gazette unleashed one of their puritanical editorials attempting to shame the legislator even further with sensationalized rehashments of previously ratched-up news bites, and a cartoon.
JG Editorial Excerpt: (Title: Sheridan Is Eroding Credibility) They accuse us of trying to destroy Sheridan because he's a Democrat. That's nonsense. Why would we do that when we've repeatedly endorsed him and when someone in his position could help Janesville's economic recovery?They continued..."no lawmaker should be friends with a lobbyist." Is that so?
How about when a newspaper enthusiastically endorses a lawmaker who by most definitions IS a lobbyist? Let me explain.
Do you know why the newspaper endorsed Mike Sheridan for assembly in the Wisconsin State legislature? Any idea? They endorsed him because...and this is the unbelievable part, they endorsed him because at the time, he was still the UAW chief at the Janesville GM plant! Technically the UAW local chief is not a lobbyist, but I would challenge anyone to draw up definitive enough descriptions between the two to show any major differences. At the time, he wasn't dating a lobbyist nor was he in bed with a lobbyist so to speak...no sir, nothing that politically offensive...instead, HE WAS THE LOBBYIST! He was a state legislator and a paid special interest representative all wrapped in one. This made him a prize in the Gazette's eyes. That is precisely why they endorsed him!! There was no other reason. I can't stress this enough.
Just a few days after the newspaper's chilling endorsement back in 2006, I wrote the following...
Nov. 4, 2006 -- On Nov. 1st, the Janesville Gazette editors endorsed Rep. Mike Sheridan for the 44th state assembly. I thought for a moment, “wow, this IS news, a Democrat,” but after reading the full story, their reasons became increasingly clear. Sheridan also happens to be president of UAW local 95, and it is this corporate connection that the Gazette finds highly desirable in elected public officials. Sheridan's ability to play both fields would seem to pose a moral dilemma for principled progressives and Democrats. But the difference between principled politics and Gazette principles is far apart. ...but it's also plain to see if he weren’t the Janesville GM union leader, the Gazette would have endorsed Yoss in a heartbeat.I'd like to see the Gazette re-publish their editorial endorsement for Sheridan from 2006.
Granted, none of this effects anything in Sheridan's personal life today. But for the Gazette to impart any editorial credibility today, they would have had to have some credibility yesterday on which to stand on before accusing this legislator or any legislator of a conflict of interest. Yet, it's undeniable this peek into the newspaper's editorial history uncovers yet another marketing campaign deeply rooted in intellectual dishonesty and partisan publishing. The newspaper isn't even true to themselves. But there's more.
Rock Netroots Excerpt:The Janesville Gazette and their minions not only turned a blind eye towards this unethical relationship, they actually trumpeted it. I was one of a very few who spoke out against the legislator's ties with GM. And yet they call me the partisan? The truth is, Sheridan came clean nearly two years ago from this conflict of interest when he finally cut his commissions to the UAW and corporate GM.
After he was first elected to Wisconsin legislative office, I was one of few who spoke out against his continued employment with corporate GM as a conflict of interest to serve the greater good. I was happy to see that when it came time to make a decision of either/or, he chose public service. -- Kaye
So what's changed? From here on I could leave that up to you, but let me explain further while I still have your attention.
For one, Sheridan is no longer bringing Janesville the economic security he once did as a UAW lobbyist working the legislature, so he no longer possesses those Gazette-desirable qualities he once had. Plain and simple. Two, the GM plant's operational infrastructure has been gutted since early 2009. There are no signs of GM coming back anytime soon.
No longer a lobbyist pulling the strings for the GM juggernaut, Sheridan becomes expendable to the profiteers at Forward Janesville and the Gazette. That he happens to be a Democrat at a time of perceived party weakness and heightened political partisanship, he then becomes intolerable to the right-wing tabloid. He's become an easy target.
To the predatory publishers at the Gazette, Sheridan is now like a piece of used chewing gum that's lost all its flavor.
Folks should ask the Gazette. Why did they endorse Sheridan for legislature when he was a fully salaried special interest lobbyist, but now run a smear campaign against him for merely having a date with one? What really changed? Was it the payday loan industry's perceived lack of economic contribution to the Gazette's bottom line? As compared to the wealth that previously trickled down from GM to the Gazette? Is this how the newspaper wages political war to finally spit out that used wad of gum? Why was only one legislator targeted when they all are directly effected by the corrosive influence of lobbyists? Who are the sources that the newspaper has been taking marching orders from? What is their motivation and party affiliation?
The perception to the matter is, no matter how juvenile and petty the ethically challenged Gazette comes across in Sunday's editorials on Sheridan, they've still damaged his honorable reputation.
The bottom line in my opinion is; the Janesville Gazette owes the entire State of Wisconsin and their newspaper industry colleagues an apology. But more importantly, they owe Mike Sheridan a public apology with sugar on top. But it shouldn't end there. They also owe the citizens of Rock County and their subscribers an apology for the constant feeding of disinformation. That would be a good start. It's time to come clean.
NOTE: This posting is the independent perspective and opinion of its author. Kaye has no affiliation with political parties or collaborated in any way with the subjects in this commentary.
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