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The news outlet Stringer co-owns doesn’t see what the big deal is

By: - December 4, 2018 12:06 pm

In my most recent column, I noted that Rep. David Stringer has written at some length about the white nationalist views he holds. His opinion pieces were published in the latter half of 2017 on Prescott eNews, an online news outlet that serves Prescott and the surrounding communities in Yavapai County.

Yesterday, eNews Editor Lynne LaMaster wrote an article aimed at giving Stringer cover “for making comments that some have interpreted to be racist.” She continued:

Were the comments really racist? Frequently, media, in it’s (sic) zeal to push a chosen narrative, carefully picks out comments in order to make a point. Often that media will have limitations on exactly what they can report – only so many words in an article, only so long in a newscast. In order to attract readers or viewers, they choose a few words they think will be salacious.

In this case, does the total context of Representative Stringer’s comments make a difference?

What followed was a transcript of the entire conversation in which Stringer said that black people “don’t blend in” with America, non-native-English-speakers in schools are a “burden” and Somali-Americans don’t look like “every other kid.” How did LaMaster obtain the transcript? She listened to the full-length audio that Phoenix New Times posted along with its story on Stringer’s remarks.

Nevermind that LaMaster’s denigration of journalists “choos(ing) a few words” and “carefully pick(ing) out comments” in their reporting misses the fundamental purpose of journalism: Conveying newsworthy events and statements to readers and viewers.

In LaMaster’s view, at least as it pertains to Stringer (more on that in a moment), journalists should be mere stenographers, reporting the entirety of what a person says and not focusing on the important or outrageous or offensive things they might say. God forbid a journalist in her organization were to inject some degree of skepticism to the comments of the people they cover, as opposed to simply regurgitating arguments made for or against something.

All of that misguided view of journalism aside, the most important thing about LaMaster’s attempt to give shelter to Stringer yesterday was the shocking disclosure she made at the end of the article in an editor’s note:

In full disclosure, Representative Stringer is a partner in Specialized Publishing, the parent company of Prescott eNews. However, he has no input in the editorial content of this publication. Comments he makes as a politician, or as a guy on an elevator, are comments he makes for himself.

This is a big deal! An elected official is a part-owner of a local media company, and that local media company regularly covers that elected official. This is only the second time eNews has seen fit to make that disclosure in an article about Stringer; the first was after Stringer landed in the hot seat in June for saying immigration is “an existential threat” to the American way of life, and that disclaimer said it was “premature” to call for his resignation, and urged “conversation” on the topics Stringer raised.

Stringer has published 7 columns for eNews, and readers were never informed in the body of the article that he was a business partner with LaMaster in owning the news outlet. Nor were readers informed of Stringer’s financial interest in the website in the dozens of news articles covering and quoting him that have been published.

The best I can tell, Stringer has only ever disclosed his interest in Specialized Publishing LLC, the parent company of eNews that LaMaster owns, in the financial disclosure statement he was required by law to file in January because he is an elected official.

In it, he lists himself as “Publisher/Co-owner” of the company.

Gee, I wonder why LaMaster and eNews are trying to deflect criticism away from Stringer.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.