(Background, in chronological order, here, here and here.)
Sometimes, in news reporting, a lack of details that really help put the story in full perspective are due to a lack of space. Other times, the details are omitted through intent, though I'm not going to speculate in this post on the intent for today's article...I think it's clear.
So let's take a look at the story and examine what other points we need to know in order to have an informed opinion on the issue. We'll start with the headline:
Judge allows GOP rebels to put case before county
The headline identifies the non-Jon Stainbrook faction as 'rebels.' Now, this could be due to spacing requirements ... a copy editor trying to find a good word to describe one faction in as few letters as possible. Or it could be an attempt to generate a reaction by the reader - good or bad.
What I find interesting is the way Stainbrook has been referred to in past Blade articles:
* insurgent - January 28, 2008
* activist - January 12, 20, 25, 29; February 7, 17; March 2, 4, 5, 6, 19, 22, 2008
* "The Stainbrook Insurgency" - January 12, 2008
* maverick - February 13, 2008
Now, this is just from the first quarter of 2008 when Stainbrook was trying to take over control of the party - exactly what the Jeff Simpson group has been doing for the last couple of weeks.
The terms used to describe Stainbrook, a self-described friend of Blade publisher John Robinson Block, are rather positive...designed to make you think his efforts are 'noble' or 'just' in some way. That's certainly opposite of 'rebel' which immediately brings to my mind the movie title "Rebel Without A Cause."
The first four paragraphs of the article are pretty straightforward in reporting the events - a ruling against a Temporary Restraining Order requested by Stainbrook and the referral of the issue back to the Board of Elections for the process described in the law.
There are then quotes from the judge, Simpson and Stainbrook. But the Stainbrook quote begins another chapter in his efforts to maintain control of the LCRP.
Mr. Stainbrook said the battle is "far, far from over," and that he will pursue every legal action.
He called on Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates to investigate Mr. Kriner, Lynn Olman, and Jeremy Demagall, deputy director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, for setting a Board of Elections meeting based on "sham" documents. He said their actions could be construed as criminal.
They have quotes from Demagall saying he didn't consider the documents, when filed, a 'sham' and Olman saying the claim was 'baseless.' They also explain the state law regarding two competing groups vying for the official designation as the county party which calls for the party's state central committee to decide.
But then comes this:
The makeup of the elections board and the state GOP central committee would seem to favor Mr. Simpson and Mr. Hoag.
The two Republicans on the Board of Elections, Mr. Olman and Mr. Kriner, openly support Mr. Simpson and Mr. Hoag.
All four of the members of the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee from Lucas County participated in a meeting Thursday night at which members of Mr. Simpson and Mr. Hoag's executive committee were selected.
In addition, Mr. Hoag is a state central committee member and state party treasurer.
The words "would seem to favor" are clearly opinion which doesn't belong in a news report. It would have been different if the reporter had found someone to express the opinion and then quoted that individual, providing the backdrop of the support and positions. But the reporter didn't do that - he expressed his opinion.
Now, I happen to agree with the opinion and share it as well, but that's not the point. Opinions of the reporter are not supposed to be part of the news report.
Additionally, the makeup of the BOE is irrelevant - or it should be. The two Republican and two Democratic members of the BOE are supposed to make decisions regarding the issues before them based upon election rules and laws - not upon their personal preferences or interests. From what I've seen of the decisions coming from this board, that's exactly what they do.
But the paper doesn't want you to even consider that - or any evidence that fair, impartial and consistent decisions are being made by the board. They want to imply that the two Republicans can influence or sway the two Democrats to do whatever they want, which is why they put this opinion in the 'news' story.
Another point to consider is that, while they question the decision-making of Olman and Kriner, they never question the motivation of Stainbrook.
The only reason Stainbrook wants Olman and Kriner gone is not because of any wrong-doing on their parts. Stainbrook's accusations against them are well-publicized in the Blade and detailed in ... what else? ... lawsuits. But despite legal wranglings, accusations and thousands of dollars expended by the BOE answering public records requests, Stainbrook has not found anything to support his claims.
So what are Stainbrook's motivations? Some speculate that he wants the BOE position for himself because he wants the income and benefits, including health insurance, that come with the appointment - exactly what Olman is derided for and 'accused' of wanting to keep. From what I've been told by many individuals, Stainbrook promised his supporters employment in the BOE. But in order to bring them in, he has to fire current workers and the only way that will happen is if he or one of his sycophants is on the board.
But the paper doesn't tell you that...
The next thing of interest in the article is this:
In rejecting the temporary restraining order, Judge Zouhary said Mr. Stainbrook did not present a likelihood of succeeding in his suit and that no irreparable harm would occur if the order was not issued - the two tests for such a restraining order.
You have to wonder why such a critical statement is delayed until the 18th paragraph of the story - and the 'inside' page in the print edition. While it is more detailed information about the actual decision and might not belong in the first paragraph, wouldn't you think the reason for the judge's decision was more important and deserving of higher, more prominent placement than Stainbrook's claim of 'criminal' activity and the opinion of the reporter regarding the eventual decision of the state central committee?
And do you find it detrimental to Stainbrook's position that the judge ruled no likelihood of success on the lawsuit? Certainly that is more important to the reader than a further Stainbook complaint.
Supporters of Mr. Simpson and Mr. Hoag claim the duo were elected during a central committee meeting Dec. 21. However, the meeting's official record is in dispute, and the meeting itself was marred by shouting and an alleged shoving incident, with police and fire officials called out in response.
Mr. Stainbrook and his supporters contend the Simpson contingent did not put its motion on the floor legally. The Simpson group claims it properly elected a temporary chairman and then ran the meeting without Ms. Gallagher's oversight.
So far, no legal body has evaluated whether the meeting met the legal guidelines of the party and parliamentary rules.
I'm tired of reading that police and fire officials were called to the meeting in response to the 'unruly' crowd.
According to Stainbrook's own court filing, the fire department was called because one individual believed the space for the meeting was not in compliance with the fire codes, especially with the number of people who attended.
Here's a question any good reporter without bias would have asked Stainbrook: Why, if you scheduled a meeting of the central committee, did you not provide a space to accommodate even half of the people invited?
By Stainbrook's own admission, they were not prepared for the number of people who arrived. Why not? Stainbrook and his central committee chairman Megan Gallagher called the meeting and sent out notices to the over 200 central committee members. Why wouldn't they have a space prepared where at least half of those invited could sit and participate in the meeting they called?
While The Blade and Stainbrook like to imply that the Simpson group necessitated the call to the fire department, it is Stainbrook and Gallagher who are to blame for that phone call by not providing an adequate meeting space for the people they invited.
But then this sentence pops up: "So far, no legal body has evaluated whether the meeting met the legal guidelines of the party and parliamentary rules."
What is the purpose of raising the issue of a 'legal body' to do any evaluation whatsoever? According to state law, and The Blade's own reporting, the proper 'legal body' is the party's state central committee. That body is charged with deciding which group to recognize.
And how are they to perform such a task? Well, they'll examine the proceedings, look at both sides' report of what happened and when, and then determine which group is 'legitimate.' They'll have to examine the parliamentary procedures that were/were not followed. They'll have to examine the bylaws of the party. They might even interview participants or have each side present to them.
So if that is the legal process, what is the purpose of this sentence in the story? Is it to promote Stainbrook's claim that the actions taken by the Simpson group are not legitimate if a court of law doesn't decide them to be so? Is it to cast doubt in the reader's mind about the legitimacy of the 'rebels' actions? Or could it be to set the stage for Stainbrook to claim that, absence such a court ruling, nothing the state central committee does is legitimate? You can decide on your own now that you know what to question.
Mr. DeGidio argued unsuccessfully that the law requiring the rival groups to be certified by the Board of Elections applies only to the biennial organizational meeting of the party's central committee.
This is one of the points Stainbrook's attorney makes in the filing. But if the paper is so keen on the guidelines of the party, did they bother to check the bylaws themselves and report what the bylaws say versus what an attorney might claim? That would certainly be appropriate in this case - to provide information that puts a claim in context.
Here's what the bylaws say about removal of the executive and central committee chairmen in Article V Powers & Duties of the Central Committee:
F. Any officer of the Central Committee and the chairman of the Executive Committee may be removed by a majority vote of all voting members of the Central Committee.
So despite the claim in the filing that this type of activity can only occur at an organizational meeting (held biennially following the partisan primary election of central committee members), the bylaws clearly indicate that election of chairmen can be held whenever the central committee votes to remove said chairmen.
I wonder why no one at the paper has asked Stainbrook or his attorney about this section of the bylaws?
The problem is that The Blade has supported Stainbrook in both his takeover of the party and in all his efforts against fellow Republicans since then. (I should note, however, that such support of him personally did not result in editorial endorsement for his hand-picked candidates.)
Their stories, while containing some balance, are skewed to Stainbrook's favor which is easy to recognize if scrutinized as I've done. It isn't so much what is reported, but what is left out - or never even asked about - that makes the difference in what a reader knows and/or understands. But with this type of analysis, you have more information and can make a better informed decision on your own.