The old saying “If it weren’t for double standards, they wouldn’t have any standards at all” has resurfaced in the way the largest newspaper in Alaska is covering political races.
The campaign for Gov. Mike Dunleavy for governor has sent an open letter to the publisher and owner of the Anchorage Daily News, pointing out that a reporter who is preparing a hit piece on the governor is married to a political activist who is openly supporting Democrat Les Gara for governor.
The reporter is Sean Maguire, and the political activist is his wife Juneau Assemblywoman Carole Triem.
It’s not the first time the ADN reporting staff has had perceived conflicts of interest in its reporting. In 2017, the wife of ADN editor David Hulen signed the recall petition against Dunleavy, while Hulen oversaw news coverage of that recall effort.
In the letter sent to the campaign’s entire media email list, spokesman Andrew Jensen said that reporter Maguire’s wife is actively supporting Gara on social media, has sign-waved for Gara’s campaign the day before the primary, and has strongly encouraged people to vote for Gara. She has made a number of comments on the record that are critical of Gov. Mike Dunleavy and former Gov. Bill Walker. She also supports Mary Peltola for Congress.
This presents an undisclosed conflict of interest with Maguire, Jensen wrote, and is problematic for ethics in the journalism field:
“According to the New York Times Handbook for Ethical Journalism regarding conflicts of interest, ‘Staff members must be sensitive that perfectly proper political activity by their spouses, family or companions may nevertheless create conflicts of interest or the appearances of conflict. When such a possibility arises, the staff member should advise his or her department head and the standards editor or the opinion editor or the managing editor. Depending on the circumstances, the staff member may have to recuse himself or herself from certain coverage or even move to a job unrelated to the activities in question.’”
Leftists have tried to create a scandal around Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas because his wife, Virginia Thomas, is a conservative activist. Leftists have called for Thomas to be impeached for the offense of being married to an activist. But that’s the standard only applied to conservatives.
Spokesman Jensen continued, “In light of this guidance from the New York Times, it is clear that at a minimum Ms. Triem’s political activity creates the appearance of a conflict of interest for Mr. Maguire’s reporting, if not an actual conflict.”
The campaign spokesman, who was previously the managing editor for the Alaska Journal of Commerce (owned by the ADN), then challenged ADN owner Ryan Binkley, publisher Andy Pennington, and editor Hulen if Maguire to reveal whether Maguire had disclosed this conflict of interest when he was hired, and to explain the rationale for assigning him to cover the gubernatorial election in spite of the conflict.
Maguire is a politics and general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Juneau who previously reported for KTUU. He accepted a position at the ADN in July and began at the newspaper on Aug. 15. The story he is working on appears to be about how people have left the professional office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy to accept positions working on his reelection campaign. Maguire has called all the people on a list at the Alaska Public Offices Commission that shows the disbursements from the campaign to individuals. He has also called volunteers.
Such a practice of moving from the professional offices to campaign work is not uncommon. Gov. Bill Walker hired John-Henry Heckendorn during his governorship, and then Heckendorn left to run his failed reelection campaign in 2018, after having worked for the radical leftist governor as a senior policy and political adviser. The ADN never reported on that or other incidences involving Walker’s campaign.
The Maguire story, which has yet to appear on the ADN website, may reinforce the notion that the newspaper is working to take down the Republican governor, just as it worked in 2014 to take down Republican Gov. Sean Parnell.
The Jensen letter in its entirety: