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Friday, November 18, 2005

ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: ALL THE HYPOCRISY THAT IS FIT TO PRINT

Here's a follow-up to my post yesterday about the blatant hypocrisy and partisan censorship at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I received a response (form letter that is) from Cynthia Tucker, the Editorial Page Editor. The letter is their official response to the situation. Let's take a look at it piece by piece, shall we?

Thank you for your comments to the AJC. Below please find a statement released today by Cynthia Tucker regarding the Equal Time column.

The governor's office today accused the opinion pages of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of hypocrisy and censorship because a paragraph was edited out of op-ed piece we published today.

What she is calling "a paragraph" was actually the heart of the Governor's response to their criticism. The AJC blasted the Governor for offering tax incentives and other perks to AFLAC in order to get the company to expand their operations in Columbus, GA. The AJC calls that "corporate welfare" and says it is a bad use of taxpayer dollars. The Governor countered that claim and also pointed out that the parent company of the AJC - Cox Enterprises - has itself benefited from so-called "corporate welfare," noting that "[w]hen Cox Communications, parent company of the AJC, returns the $6.7 million in Fulton County property tax incentives it received to locate its headquarters in the county, then it will have the credibility to make such judgments." Ouch; that must have stung. No wonder they wanted that sentence taken out.
I take these allegations very seriously and want our readers to know what we did and why we did it. I don't feel we were hypocrites or censors. Here's what happened:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's acting op-ed editor contacted the office of Gov. Sonny Perdue around noon on Wednesday, requesting a response to an editorial the newspaper planned to run on Thursday. (The editorial criticized state and private incentives offered to encourage insurer AFLAC to expand in Columbus.) The response, penned by press secretary Dan McLagan, didn’t arrive until 7 p.m., well after the normal deadlines for the opinion pages.
So, how long do you think the AJC has been planning on running this editorial? I feel certain they didn't just throw it together on Wednesday. Let's just assume that they didn't start working on it until Monday. That would have been two days they could have given the Governor for a response - even one day would have been better than mere hours. Instead they sprung it on him at noon the day before the editorial was to be published. Yet they snarl and complain about the Governor missing a publishing deadline. Hmmm, do you get the funny feeling that they were hoping the Governor would miss the deadline? You can just smell their arrogance can't you? In fact, the stench becomes overwhelming in the next paragraph.
That gave us no time to check the accuracy of statements McLagan made about tax incentives received by Cox Enterprises. Since previous assertions McLagan has made on the subject were inaccurate, we were concerned about his most recent statements.

In the previous case, he accused us of hypocrisy because we were arguing for open government while the Cox Enterprises deal was handled in secret. Faced with the facts, he removed that press release from the governor's website.
Good God, what nerve. If they were so concerned about accuracy, why not call the Governor's office and say they need time to check the facts. Then hold both pieces for a day until they felt comfortable with the facts. Isn't that what they would have done if they were really interested in fairness and accuracy?
In the latest essay, McLagan said: "When Cox Communications, parent company of the AJC, returns the $6.7 million in Fulton County property tax incentives it received to locate its headquarters in the county, then it will have the credibility to make such judgments." I instructed the op-ed editor to delete that sentence, concerned about the accuracy and believing the omission did not affect the overall point he was making in the op-ed piece.

Today, a Cox Enterprises official has said that McLagan's estimate was incorrect. (The AJC's parent company is Cox Enterprises Cox Communications.) Cox received $3.4 million in property tax incentives over a ten-year period from Fulton County, according to Bob Jimenez, vice-president for corporate communications and public relations.
She couldn't really be that dense, but she could definitely be that much of partisan. It doesn't matter if it was $6.7 million, $3.4 million, or a buck fifty! Cox Enterprises took the same sort of incentives that you lambasted the Governor for giving to AFLAC. The part that gets me in these two paragraphs though is where she says she didn't think removing the sentence in question would "...affect the overall point he was making in the op-ed piece." Jesus H. Jones! It didn't just affect his point, it was his point!
"Cox did not seek or receive any financial incentive that was unavailable to any other similarly situated corporation who requested them from the Development Authority of Fulton County (DAFC). Many other companies in Fulton County, both large and small, have, in fact, received the same types of benefits. Throughout this process, the AJC wrote about the development and it was debated in public forums and neighborhood organizations," Jimenez said.

The policy of the opinion staff is to verify the accuracy of all information that appears on our pages, whether in nationally syndicated columns, letters to the editor or essays from the governor's office.
So apparently it's okay when her bosses do it, but not okay when a Republican governor does it. She has so many double standards I bet she can't walk down a hallway without hitting a wall. Suddenly they're concerned about accuracy. Unfortunately they didn't take any steps to verify anything other than calling their bosses. Gee, I'm sure that's a fair and balanced source. Why not do what the Governor did, go to the tax records. Oh wait; they may not have given them the answer they wanted. Sorry, I thought for a moment they were really interested in the truth.
By the way, as editorial page editor, I am not privy to the corporate economic decisions made by Cox Enterprises. They hired us to be independent thinkers, making the recommendations we believe are best for Georgia. That's what we try to do every day. Tell the truth. Give our opinion and let the people decide.

Cynthia Tucker
By the waaay...byyyy the waaaaayyyy....BYYYY THE WAAAAAYYYYY, you little peons who dare to question me, just shut up and take what I tell you as gospel or I'll get you and your little dog too! Well they certainly have the "give our opinion" part down-pat. Cynthia, here's some advice: try a little less snark and partisan politics and a bit more objectivity and you won't have to listen to the "little peons excoriate you.

Would you like to contact Cynthia Tucker to let her know what you think? You can reach her here:
  • Editorial Page Editor - Cynthia Tucker, phone 404-526-5432, cynthia@ajc.com
You can contact the AJC's Public Editor, who takes comments from readers about fairness and accuracy in news coverage and editorial pages here:
You can contact the AJC's publisher here:

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