Last year I tweeted about KCP judicial profiles that were not labeled "sponsored content," though in a separate email the candidates were listed as advertisers, though the disclosure did not follow FTC guidance.
Now, a day before the primary election, heck out the softball profiles on candidates Gina Levy, Ingrid Joseph, Steven Mostofsky, and Loren Baily. As of the pre-primary spending deadlines, I have not seen spending from the following relevant campaign committees: GINA FOR CIVIL COURT JUDGE, FRIENDS OF INGRID JOSEPH, and COMMITTEE TO RE-ELECT LOREN BAILY. (I couldn't even find a live committee for Mostofsky.)
Update Sept. 13: But they do advertise in the newsletter--see below, from today's KCP newsletter. (I have an ad blocker on my browser.)
by republishing elected officials' press releases, though they should be labeled as such rather than as "Brooklyn Lawmakers on the Move."
But it departs from journalistic ethics even more than in the above examples.
Politico, KCP, and a Brooklyn Senate race
This morning's New York Playbook from Politico tackles the curious source of emails attacking state Senate candidate Zellnor Myrie, who has lots of endorsements and is challenging incumbent Jesse Hamilton, who has fewer endorsements.
The Senate District 20 includes parts of Prospect Heights (but not Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park). From Politico:
Another piece of this story: Hamilton’s campaign and the Senate Independence Campaign Committee, which is linked to the IDC, paid more than $7,300 this year to Never Sink Media LLC, the parent company of Brooklyn politics news site Kings County Politics, for what the campaign committees had designated as “PRINT” “COMMERCIAL-MEDIA” expenses. We reached out to the site’s editor in chief Stephen Witt to find out more about those expenses, but never heard back. Late Tuesday, before our story on Hamilton published this morning, Witt published this editorial, endorsing Hamilton, calling Zellnor Myrie a “phony” and declaring that the site “doesn’t belive [sic] in objective journalism” and “survives as a business by taking money from advertisers across all political spectrums.”Indeed, Witt's piece is a doozy, stating:
Here’s three news flashes:Rather grandiosely, Witt claims:
Kings County Politics (KCP) doesn’t believe in objective journalism. KCP survives as a business by taking money from advertisers across all political spectrums, and Zellnor Myrie, the progressive Democratic candidate for the 20th State Senate district is a phony.
KCP is a leader of a new media movement and has coined the phrase “Real American Journalism,” which traces its roots to such journalists as Mike Royko of Chicago and Dr. Hunter Thompson.I don't think KCP is the leader of anything. Mike Royko was a noted columnist, who created fictitious personae, while Hunter S. Thompson wrote wildly entertaining, drug-fueled observations.
Near the top of the “Real American Journalism” school of thought is not accepting the premise of objective journalism as taught in most J-schools across the country. This idea of objective American journalism is what helped create the term “fake news”, that politicians on the right and the left now use whenever something is reported that they don’t like.
In terms of government reporting, “Real American Journalism’ adheres strongly to covering from the ground up as opposed to from the marble corridors of power down. We belive readers and the American public would be better served if they knew about local elections and local political clubs, who runs them, their bylaws, etc. We believe this engages the American public in a way they can touch, smell and feel.
Sure, more ground-up reporting is good, and "objective journalism" deserves questioning, as I've suggested, and as scholar Jay Rosen writes about "The View from Nowhere." But it should be grounded in checkable reporting, rather than dubious business practices.
Secondly, Never Sink Media, the parent company of both www.KingsCountyPolitics.com and www.QueensCountyPolitics.com is a for profit business and our main source of revenue is advertising. We have sold advertising to the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) when it existed, to Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, unions and any sector with business before government. We are nonpartisan and favor ideas over ideology.(Emphasis added)
For those who feel we show favor to our advertisers, please feel free to level your perceived playing field by taking out an ad. There’s an old saying in business about what happens for those that don’t advertise? Nothing!
OK, he just admitted: buy an advertisement to get good coverage. That's simply not anything close to journalism. That's advertorial. Articles appearing in KCP should be labeled "sponsored posts" and Witt should not be invited to journalism conferences--or, at least, not invited without a "sponsored" disclaimer.
Glad we can all stop pretending now. I certainly didn't appreciate that when I raised questions about fair coverage among candidates during a campaign I managed, I was chastised about not buying and ad and then ALSO chastised about not pitching stories to him first.— Kayla Santosuosso (@kaymsanto) September 12, 2018
Witt goes on to call Myrie "a phony." I'm not going to arbitrate that at this moment because I haven't done the reporting. (In his article, Witt sloppily refers to "Esmeraldo Simmons" of Medgar Evers College, rather than Esmerelda.) Hamilton has received a lot of real estate money, as City & State reported. Here's coverage from City Limits, the Max & Murphy podcast, and an NY1 debate.
It's true that Myrie passed the bar exam in February 2016 but (as his critics charge) isn't registered as an attorney in the state. He worked as an associate at a law firm; state rules say "applicants who passed the bar examination administered prior to July 2016 must file the complete application for admission within three (3) years from the date of the letter sent by the Board notifying the applicant that the applicant passed the bar examination." So he's not in violation.
And Witt goes on to endorse Hamilton:
Lastly, KCP endorses Hamilton. Prior to becoming state senator, he was the local school board president for a number of years, headed his block association, is a homeowner, has two kids in the district, was a district leader, has been a licensed and practicing attorney, and as a state senator and IDC member he brought both money and jobs home to his district. He is also not afraid to cross the aisle and party lines to get legislation passed.Those may be virtues, but as Politico reports, "Hamilton also has a pattern of getting what appears to be outside help from nonprofit groups that are loosely related to his campaign," and Common Common Cause New York, as Crain's reported, urged the Attorney General’s office to investigate Hamilton's seeming use of a nonprofit block association's space for political activities.