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The Spirit of the Rule, and Pat Snyder

by on April 4th, 2012

Today Pat Snyder had a guest column appear in the Wausau Daily Herald.  In the column Pat attacked Democrats on Medicare and does a bit of campaigning.  I think this column, and its appearance, begin to whittle away at the credibility of Pat Snyder as a host of a local news program on a locally owned radio station.

We posed the question before — is it a good idea that a man who is running for office be allowed to have an active radio show on a FCC licensed station.  The rule is that he can.  There is a set timeline that the FCC determines to be the campaign period, that Pat cannot be an active member of the broadcast team, which of course they are complying with.

The question becomes then — is it a good idea that Pat be allowed to stay on the air while also campaigning for office?  This is less a question of legality, because of course he can, but should he?  His supporters, of course, believe he should: any chance Pat gets to raise his profile, speak to the public, the better.  Now that he has taken on the role of active campaigner though, should Midwest Communication consider the option of taking Pat off the air to at least prevent the appearance of conflict?

Our infrequent food blogger Matt Lehman posted this on facebook, “Got called tonight by two separate pollsters wanting my opinion about the recall race and the presidential primary in Wisconsin. I declined both, citing my media ties. Some of us have higher standards than those Gannett’ers who signed the recall petitions.”  Matt essentially took those members of the Gannett staff who signed the recall petitions to task.  This makes sense.  But, it led me to consider the role of the campaign, and Pat Snyder, and the spirit of the FCC rule about campaigners being on the air.  Matt clearly took a position that the signing of the petition, engaging in the political process by individuals is wrong for members of the Gannett staff.  One wonders if Lehman holds the same position for all members of the media.

But, there is not any law or rule against a private citizen actively engaging in the political process.  There is apparently a company policy that Gannett employees must adhere to.  The policy is in place, I would assume, to avoid any PERCEPTION that the media outlet or the staff of said media outlet from being partisan, or engaging in any electioneering sort of activity.  Critics like Lehman and others have not leveled any substantive claim that the staff has gone out of its way to be partisan, but the policy exists to push back against such a claim, and clearly signing an election recall petition is a violation of said policy.  The policy itself appears in place to prevent even a whiff of partisanship.

This obviously brings me back to Pat Snyder, the law, and the perception issue.  If Matt Lehman of 550 AM, is going to throw stones, then I wonder if Midwest Communication has a policy that prohibits staff members from taking part in election or campaign activities?  Because, it is my reading of the tea leaves that running for office is both an election type activity, a campaign style issue, and furthermore, a partisan issue.

So, is it appropriate for Pat Snyder to remain on the air while actively campaigning, or does it put the news gathering activities of 550 AM and other Midwest Communication radio stations in question?

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