Regular readers of Ogden’s Wheeling “newspapers” see them a couple of times a year (especially on the Intelligencer’s or News-Register’s anniversary): self-congratulatory editorials telling readers how “fair and balanced” they are. The News-Register quote in my title is from 2017 but readers can find similar sentiments every year – here’s a similar one from the Intelligencer:
We are obliged to no individual, organization, political party or ideology.
Local coverage of WV's current senator, Republican Shelley Moore Capito
Some of this year’s longest articles in our local Ogden papers have been dedicated to Capito with Ogden’s political reporter, Steven Allen Adams, contributing two major ones: 1400 words on highway funding and 1300 words on a Republican police bill. In September, Capito visited Oglebay Park and the locals gave her two days’ worth of front page coverage. Add to that: two editorials, an op-ed by Capito, and mention in a number of other articles. Okay, Capito is a sitting senator and what she says or does could be considered newsworthy. But why print 2700 words on two bills that were clearly going nowhere and a front-page article that featured Capito reminiscing about visiting Oglebay when she was growing up? Answer: Capito is an Ogden favorite.
Local coverage of the Democratic candidate, Paula Jean Swearengin
Since winning the Democratic primary in early June, Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin’s name has appeared twice in Wheeling papers. The first was in a June 22 back-page column by Adams:
Every WV Can’t Wait candidate for the U.S. Senate and House of Representative made it through, including Paula Jean Swearengin challenging incumbent Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
And from another column by Adams on September 14:
As of Aug. 5, Sabato’s Crystal Ball also places West Virginia in the deep red for the U.S. Senate, where Republican Shelley Moore Capito is seeking a second term and challenged by Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin, the same person who challenged U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin for the Democratic primary for Senate in 2018.
That’s the extent of Ogden’s Swearengin coverage. Notice that all we learn about Swearengin is that she is challenging Capito this year and that she ran against Manchin in the 2018 Democratic primary. There is nothing about Swearengin's background, what she stands for, or what she hopes to accomplish.
Could the locals have done better?
Obviously. Non-Ogden papers have given Swearengin’s opportunity to air her views. (For instance, see The Dominion-Post, The Beckley Register-Herald and The Huntington Herald-Dispatch.) Why not have Ogden’s political reporter, Steven Allen Adams, interview Swearengin? In his first column for Ogden, Adams emphasized how he was an objective reporter – his fluff pieces on Capito notwithstanding, give him a chance to prove it.
Finally, here is a 750 word article from the Associated Press last Friday:
Incumbent Capito, WVa Dem Swearengin vie for US Senate seat
The AP article certainly does not cover all of the issues, but it does provide some information for voters. If the Wheeling papers actually wanted to inform its readers, they certainly could have carried the article. However, when it comes to local Ogden “favorites,” the journalistic standards of fairness and balance obviously do not apply. Consequently, local readers did not see the AP article.
Note -- Democrat Natalie Cline, Representative McKinley's opponent, has faired slightly better. She appeared in an article last week, her first since her June election, getting 260 words in an article about some of her and McKinley's views. Like Capito, McKinley appears regularly in articles, editorials, and op-eds.