CORRECTION: The original version of this blog post speculated that Timothy Peck might be the author of the un-named articles in the Raleigh Digest as well as posts on Rep. Moffitt's campaign website. I have since learned that Mr. Peck is not the author of any of these articles. - Pete
Over the Thanksgiving holiday quite a commotion got kicked up in Asheville after the local paper arrived at peoples' homes with a 48-page insert called "The Raleigh Digest."
It features no ads inside presents a positive spin on all things concerning the Republican-controlled NC General Assembly.
After complaints from readers, the Asheville Citizen-Times published an apology, saying it should've labeled The Raleigh Digest as a "paid advertisement."
It somehow fell through the cracks.
Jason Sandford picked up the story at his Ashvegas blog. Sandford used to work at the AC-T, and noted how a lot of the printing and inserting work for the paper is now done in Greenville, SC.
End of story, right?
Because The Raleigh Digest is published by a company owned by Rep. Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe). So, naturally, outrage has ensued.
WLOS took a look at the story:
The Raleigh Digest is published by a company called InTouchNC, which is owned by Republican State Representative Tim Moffitt. Moffitt says he doesn't write the articles, but he does pay the bills.
In the WLOS story, Moffitt says it's not paid political advertising, but is a competitor in the media marketplace.
I disagree with this assessment for two reasons.
First, the AC-T says it erred by not putting the "paid advertisement" label on the Raleigh Digest. So, obviously, one of the two parties in this endeavor believes it to be something the other does not.
Second, it seems to be supported by campaign contributions.
The Raleigh Digest is reportedly published by InTouch. This is the same company that the Raleigh News & Observer highlighted last Spring:
Moffitt said legislators would pay for the service through campaign accounts. But it wasn’t immediately clear how many legislators are paying the company for the sites.
But while I think it is political advertising, the burden to label it as such was on the AC-T before the paper allowed it to be inserted into the newspapers' distribution network.
As I stated on the Ashvegas blog:
The newspaper realizes no benefit by failing to put the disclaimer on the insert. If anything, they suffer more by NOT doing it. Look at the current public reaction.
But to conspiracy theorists, everything is evidence of the conspiracy – even a lack of evidence.
I suspect what is really at the core of the accusation is a belief that the average reader of the AC-T is stupid and won’t recognize a GOP hagiography unless it bears the disclaimer.
In many of the complaints over this I keep hearing, essentially: “Someone must tell the readers that everything in the Raleigh Digest is a lie!”
And I guess the disclaimer is supposed to do that.
Because, honestly, some folks are in massive hysterics over a very small matter.
The Moffitt-obsessed believe campaign finance violations occurred. I doubt it. Especially considering the new rules the General Assembly adopted this past session. However, I'm sure some enterprising Democrats will ask for an ethics inquiry. and maybe they'll find something.
Media publications derive whatever credibility they have based on the work they do and whether consumers find value in it. It appears some folks wanted a warning label applied to this publication to alert people that The Raleigh Digest is not a credible news outfit.
But I'm sure others would believe it is credible. Tim Moffitt sure thinks it is.
In politics, one's credibility is often closely tied to the ideology of the audience.
For example, is WLOS a credible outlet?
Or, more specifically, is the reporter who covered this story - Frank Kracher - credible? Kracher worked for the Obama campaign.
Should he disclose this association before reporting on any political story? Should he even cover politics for WLOS? Progressives would likely see him as more credible, given his experience. Conservatives would likely disagree.
Personally, I see The Raleigh Digest as nothing more than a newsletter - or a blog posting. I’ve seen them from candidates, organizations, and campaigns for a very long time.
Indeed, it’s very similar to a local elected official contributing and operating a blog. Oddly, there's not a lot of outrage over that.
-March 3, 2014-
3:00 -- Pete makes an uncontested arrival in the studio to discuss the Russian uncontested arrival in Ukraine.
4:00 -- More discussion on Russia's uncontested arrival in Ukraine. Plus, NC Lt. Gov. Dan Forest joins us to talk about his visit today to Asheville. Also, an update on the Kelo v. New London eminent domain case.
5:00 -- More on Russia, Russian dressing, and the horrors of Pete's childhood breakfasts. Plus, homeless Jesus statue causes outrage in Davidson, NC.
March 4, 2014
3:00 -- The Commissioner of the Southern Conference, John Iamarino, joins us to talk about the SoCon basketball tournament in town this week. Plus, the NC Democratic Party Chairman says party leaders don't "believe in the goodness of their neighbors."
4:00 -- Asheville City Council can't seem to figure out how to crack down on graffiti.
5:00 -- John Marshall joins us to appraise YOUR record albums.
March 5, 2014
3:00 -- Another delay in the implementation of Obamacare - this one specifically designed to shield vulnerable Democrats in the upcoming midterm election.
4:00 -- Jake Frankel from the Mountain Xpress joins us to talk about the latest issue on news stands today. Plus, if you think the local graffiti debate is over the "line between art and vandalism" - you've already lost the debate.
5:00 -- Sen. Kay Hagan votes to confirm to the DOJ a lawyer who defended cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Plus, what's the difference between a hot tub and a jacuzzi?
March 6, 2014
3:00 -- Roger McCredie from the Tribune joins us to talk about the City of Asheville's attempt to take over the Pack Place building.
4:00 -- The Asheville City School Board adopts a lottery to pay 25% of teachers
5:00 -- A teachers union launches a website called "Cashing In On Kids" to attack private companies looking to educate kids. Plus, the Sicilian Space Program launches a connolo into space.
February 28, 2014
3:00 -- Russia invades Ukraine; Buncombe County Board of Elections asks to reduce its early voting hours for the primary; Kay Hagan goes to Seattle to raise money comes back a "middle-out minion"; NC NAACP President says vouchers aimed at getting poor black kids out of failing government schools is the same as 1950s white racists who tried to use vouchers to get white kids out of going to school with black kids.
4:00 -- The last time Federal agents devoted massive resources to investigating voter fraud was 1982 in Chicago, where 100,000 fraudulent votes were discovered (about 10% of the total cast).
5:00 -- The President interrupts Pete's show to express his disapproval of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Plus, voter fraud and monogamous flies.