Monday, July 27, 2009

Recalling The Recall

We normally don't dip into politics here at your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm), but this one directly involves the media.

Today, the Ohio Supreme Court voted to pull the effort to recall controversial Toledo mayor Carty Finkbeiner off the November 3rd ballot...in a narrow decision. From an article posted this afternoon on the Toledo Blade website:

The all-Republican high court, by a 4-3 vote, came to the defense of the Democratic mayor in finding that the deadline of two months before the election for the printing of absentee ballots did not provide Mr. Finkbeiner adequate time to challenge recall petitions filed by a group calling itself Take Back Toledo.

That's where we come in, as a blog covering Ohio media outlets.

(And we haven't checked his drivers' license, but we're not altogether sure that the Toledo mayor's full legal name is The Controversial Carleton S. Finkbeiner.)

The local news media in the Akron area played its mostly usual role in the breathtakingly unsuccessful recall effort against that city's mayor, Don Plusquellic, in June. The long-time King of Akron kept his job by something like a million to three margin. OK, not by that much, but not that far off, it seems.

In Akron, the media played a mostly secondary role. Recall supporters occasionally invoked "pro-mayoral coverage" by the Akron Beacon Journal. The newspaper, and Rubber City Radio news/oldies WAKR/1590, devoted a lot of straight-ahead news coverage to the effort.

The Cleveland-based TV news operations mostly stayed on the sidelines, give or take occasional coverage by WKYC/3 anchor/reporter Eric Mansfield...an Akron resident who still watches over his hometown, news-wise, though he's now based at WKYC's Cleveland newsroom as co-anchor of the station's 7 PM weeknight newscast.

And the recall provided lively discussion on Western Reserve PBS' "NewsNight Akron", a weekly news roundtable that is still hosted by Mansfield from studio space shared with his primary employer in downtown Akron.

In Akron, recall politics and media had its closest relationship on the Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 evening talk show hosted by Tom Erickson. Erickson's daughter, "Heaven Can Wait" animal shelter director and now-Akron city council at large candidate Heather Nagel, was a strong recall supporter, and was part of the group putting that unsuccessful effort on the ballot back in June.

But even Erickson's show on "The Talk of Akron" wasn't actually running the recall effort in Akron.

In Toledo, one media outlet has been a key player in forming and operating the "Take Back Toledo" effort.

Clear Channel/Toledo market manager Andy Stuart and Clear Channel talk WSPD/1370 program director/afternoon host Brian Wilson are directors of the recall campaign, and Wilson and other WSPD local hosts have made no bones about their dislike of Finkbeiner and his actions in his now-third term as Toledo's mayor, both on and off the air.

The local radio cluster enlisted the help of various Toledo area businessmen in the effort that will now no longer appear on Toledo's November ballot.

The Blade article linked earlier suggests that Clear Channel Toledo used the recall effort to boost listenership:

Take Back Toledo backers, including WSPD-AM Radio and several suburban businessmen, bankrolled the unsuccessful recall effort because Mayor Finkbeiner angered them over development issues and to try to boost radio ratings.

Well, we don't know about that. We don't know Toledo politics at all, but from afar, we get the idea that Finkbeiner provides WSPD and its hosts with more than enough material on his own... and probably helps the station's ratings more when he's actually in office.

And the Blade notes that Finkbeiner has announced he isn't running for re-election, which means if the recall effort in Toledo would have been successful, he'd basically have lost a few weeks cleaning out his office.

Maybe the "Take Back Toledo"/WSPD folks, if they want to "boost ratings", should secretly urge Carty to run for a fourth term sometime down the road...

4 comments:

dmking12370 said...

I think that everyone will agree that Erikson might as well be running the "Change Akron Now" group, as the talk show host was a very outspoken critic of Mr. Plusquellic. This seems very similar to the Toledo effort you described.

Even after the Akron recall failed, Erikson continues to take potshots at Plusquellic and his administration. Erikson blames the administration for his daughter's current criminal case (of course he won't talk about the case allegedly because he feels that he cannot be objective in discussing it).

One thing that has not been mentioned here. Nagle and her mother are being represented by Warner Mendenhall, who led the "Change Akron Now" recall effort. How convinient.

I have a question regarding the FCC regulations on political issues. Are the talk show hosts allowed to actively participtate in political campaigns to the extent that the Toledo talk show hosts did. Is Tom Erikson even in compliance with the FCC regulations?

One final comment regarding the recall process. It really bothers me that these fringe groups can force an election (especially against an incumbent who is not running for re-election and would only be in office about eight more weeks after the election). All because the group does not like a person and that group cannot convince the general public to replace that incumbent. Furthermore, these fringe groups have the backing of some of the media (in certain violation of FCC regulations).

Wayne In Akron said...

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Furthermore, these fringe groups have the backing of some of the media (in certain violation of FCC regulations).
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Care to provide the exact section and line number from the FCC statutes that you claim are being violated?

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P.S.

Since Blogger stopped allowing OpenID entries from LiveJournal be processed about 1 month ago, I've had to establish a Blogger account so that I can comment here.

Thanks Google!

dmking12370 said...

Wayne,

I can't quote you the specific section of the FCC regulations (I will leave that to the people who actually work in the media who work with the FCC regulations all the time). However, I believe that the FCC regulation that covers this is in the same section that says that when a radio or television personality runs for political office, they must immediately resign from their position. Examples of this include Fred Thompson and Pat Buccannon.

wkdddj said...

DMKING12370 said:
of course he won't talk about the case allegedly because he feels that he cannot be objective in discussing it

That's the problem. Talk show hosts aren't supposed to be objective, Journalists are. Those are two different functions. Nobody likes to listen to middle of the road radio. As a host, have an opinion! stand by it, even if it's wrong! Talk radio is entertainment, at least it should be. Objective hosts are good for roundtable shows, not long form talk shows.

Also, I'm pretty sure they would be in compliance.
Remember when stations ran editorials? WAKR recently ran one against the recall, as did WHLO.
Nothing wrong with that as long as you allow opposing viewpoints to be heard. There is nothing that prevents a station from endorsing an issue or Candidate.

-KK