Newspaper Editorials Counter Unfair Judicial Campaign Ads

Newspaper Editorials Counter Unfair Judicial Campaign Ads

Hendrickson, Richard D

An analysis of the editorials published about the 2000 campaign for the Ohio Supreme Court reveals that nearly half of the editorials about the race went into some detail on the content of the television attack advertising.

One way newspapers serve their historic role as a “Fourth Estate” of American government is by reporting on and commenting about the process by which the democratic society elects its leaders. A case that cried out for such attention was the 2000 campaign for Ohio Supreme Court, which featured in one of its races candidates with clearly contrasting judicial philosophies. While it may be argued that contrast in candidates and issues is not unusual in a twoparty system, it must also be observed that one aspect of this particular campaign was far from routine. That was the expenditure of considerable funds by anonymous individuals for television advertisements that attacked an incumbent justice.1 Such anonymous attacks-and the public attention they drew to the contest-should have sent newspaper editorial writers and political columnists scurrying to their keyboards. In this campaign, surely, they had a duty to offer readers clarification on the truth or fairness of the claims and to present vigorous commentary on the choices facing voters. This research examines whether they served that purpose.

The issues between incumbent Justice Alice Robie Resnick and challenger Terrance O’Donnell were particularly complex for the average media consumer and voter to grasp. Resnick, a Democrat and a two-term incumbent, was portrayed as a judicial activist and a member of a four-judge majority on a sevenperson court that voted against the interests of business. O’Donnell, a Republican serving on the Cleveland circuit of the Ohio Court of Appeals, was described as a critic of judicial activism. The court that included Resnick had reached controversial decisions on tort law2 and on the adequacy of Ohio’s system of tax support for public schools.3

Ohio judicial ethics prevented the candidates from taking specific stands on issues, depriving voters of traditional cues for evaluating contenders.

An unprecedented amount of money was spent on the state Supreme Court election, mostly on television advertising. The largest share of the spending was by anonymous contributors who called themselves “Citizens for a Strong Ohio.”4 Those contributors were never identified by name.5

These attack ads were harsh and negative; some would characterize them as vicious and misleading.6 For example, one claimed Resnick received $750,000 in donations from plaintiff attorneys and said she was the only Ohio Supreme Court justice to reverse herself. The ad said, “Is justice for sale in Ohio? You decide.”7 The $750,000 amount was deceptive because it referred to contributions to both her 1994 and 2000 campaigns. Also, the allegation that Resnick switched her vote was incorrect and was based on a case involving Episcopal Retirement Homes8 in which she voted with the majority. The court had voted to rehear the case and then vacated its decision to do so. Resnick was never given any opportunity to switch a vote.9

Resnick won the election,10 but the problems that marred the campaign persist in Ohio and other states. A 1995 article noted that the public votes on judges in 42 states and elects 7,000 appellate and trial court judges.” A law review article about the 2000 Ohio Supreme Court election concluded: “The current law of campaign disclosure is not sufficient to protect the integrity of Ohio’s judiciary.”12 An Ohio forum in the spring of 2003 noted that the 2002 elections for Ohio Supreme Court were among the most expensive and contentious in the nation.13 A 2002 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court about judicial elections in Minnesota assured that future state judicial campaigns will be even more contentious. The court ruled unconstitutional a state judicial canon that prohibited judicial candidates from announcing their views on disputed legal or political issues.14

Such complexities in judicial elections demand balanced, accurate and detailed reporting. But they also demand editorial coverage that provides clarification and specific advocacy. The following sections of this article will analyze the literature about the functions of newspaper editorials, explain the methodology for a content analysis of editorial coverage of the Ohio judicial election, report the findings of the content analysis and discuss the implications.

Literature

This literature review about the purpose of newspaper editorials begins with an acknowledgement of two of the basic functions of the news media-surveillance and correlation. The review examines the concept of correlation specifically as it applies to editorials and to the need in editorials for clarification and advocacy. The review concludes by examining the special needs for clarification and advocacy in the coverage of state appellate court elections.

Sociologists such as Lasswell, Wright and McQuail traditionally have listed four functions for the mass media: surveillance, correlation, transmission of the cultural heritage and entertainment. News media, through their reporting of breaking news, primarily serve the surveillance function.15

The editorial page, columns and editorials primarily serve the correlation function, through “correlation of the parts of society in responding to its environment. “lf> Jeff res and others said this editorial correlation consists of “explaining, interpreting and commenting on the meaning of events and information.”17

Scholars and journalism practitioners have emphasized two purposes of newspaper commentary: clarification and advocacy.

Hulteng argued that the purpose of editorials was “bringing meaning out of the jumble of news and events … despite the tides of passion and propaganda that swirl about and obscure them.”18 Washington Post editorial writer Williams said editorials should “make sense of the modern onslaught of news and information” and add “perspective and context to today’s newspapers.”19 An editorial writer for the Greensboro (N.C.) News and Record, Yardley, said that the role of editorials, “as lofty as it inay sound-is to educate, provoke debate and offer enlightened judgments to their readers.”20 Bingham, a nationally respected editor in Louisville, Ky. said: “The editorial page is the natural source of thoughtful comment, of the calm analysis that puts news in its proper perspective.”21

This clarification function is not new. A 1924 textbook argued that “the prime function of the editorial column is interpretation of significant news that may not be readily clear to the average reader.”2 The book quoted Chicago journalist Shuman, who said that editorials “point out the relation of isolated facts to each other and to general principles.”23

Journalism practitioners and scholars also agree that editorials should do more than explain and clarify, that they should take a stand or advocate a position. Hynds’ 1992 national survey found that 96 percent of editorial writers said that a purpose of editorials was to “provide community leadership by taking stands.”24 A former editor of The New York Times said that the purpose of the editorial page was to provide “constructive, responsible criticism of every aspect of public affairs.”25 Consistent with this argument, since 1928 one criterion for judging Pulitzer Prize editorials has been “the power to influence public opinion in what the writer conceives to be the right direction.”26 One of the basic principles of the National Conference of Editorial Writers has been to provide guidance “toward sound judgments that are essential to the healthy functioning of a democracy.”27

A strong case may be made for editorials about state judicial elections. Even the judges recognize this need. In a national survey, recently retired members of state supreme courts evaluated press coverage of themselves as judges, of their court’s decisions, of oral arguments before their courts and of judicial elections. The justices rated the coverage of themselves the most favorable2.92 on a 0-4 scale; and they rated coverage of judicial elections the weakest at 1.72. The justices indicated they valued newspaper editorial endorsements. Some 72 percent said that newspaper endorsements of judicial elections were somewhat or very important compared to traditional news coverage or campaign advertisements.28

Hynds’ 1992 survey found that three-fourths of editorial writers believed that editorials had moderate or much influence on campaigns.29 Editorial writer Yardley observed:

Newspaper endorsements can be crucial in local contests, particularly in races for state judgeships where name recognition can be minimal and a candidate’s credentials hazy.30

Foley said:

The problems with judicial elections are well-documented: lack of voter information, low turnouts at the polls and infrequent defeat of incumbents.31

The article, published before the 2000 Resnick-O’Donnell campaign, observed that “multimillion-dollar judicial campaigns in Texas, California and Ohio have raised concerns about judicial independence.”32

Method

Content analysis was selected for examining newspaper editorials and columns about the Resnick-O’Donnell campaign. Lacy, Fico and Riffe defined quantitative content analysis as the systematic assignment of communication content to categories according to rules, and the analysis of relationships involving those categories using statistical methods.33 Lacy, Fico and Riffe specifically recommended content analysis for measuring the media’s coverage of political campaigns; they observed that the priorities journalists give issues ultimately provide a basis for voting decisions.34

Copies of editorials and columns published from August to December 2000 were obtained from the Ohio Supreme Court, which subscribed to a service that copied from print or Internet editions of Ohio’s daily or weekly newspapers all articles that mentioned the court, including news stories, editorials, columns and letters to the editor.35

The unit of analysis was the individual editorial or commentary. Sixty-eight editorials and 34 columns were analyzed.36 The study focused special attention on general circulation dailies because the authors contend those newspapers are the source of most in-depth news about state government and state politics. The study also focused special attention on the ten largest of Ohio’s 84 daily newspapers. The ten largest weekday editions of dailies reached 62 percent of 2.5 million subscribers. The ten largest of Ohio’s 43 Sunday editions of dailies reach 75 percent of 2.8 million subscribers.37

Each editorial and column was coded for the following 16 variables:

* Type. Was the article from a general circulation daily or some other publication such as a legal newspaper or a city or county weekly?

* Content. Was the item an unsigned editorial or bylined opinion column?38

* Newspaper. What was the name of the newspaper?

* Date. What day and month was the item published?39

* Names. Were Resnick or O’Donnell or both explicitly named?

* Endorsement. Was any candidate clearly endorsed or supported?40

* Endorsed Candidate. Did Resnick or O’Donnell receive clear support?

* Endorse Reason. What was the first reason given or the one stressed in the summary of the endorsement?41

* Advertisement. Was there any mention of television advertisements?

* Anonymous. Did the article discuss the anonymous nature of the attack ads?42

* Anti-Resnick Content. Did the item detail the content of any anti-Resnick TV advertisements?

* Anti-O’Donnell Content. Did the item detail the content of any antiO’Donnell TV advertisements?

* Excessive Costs. Did the item discuss excessive costs of the campaign?43

* Unfair Resnick. Did the item discuss specifics of unfair characterizations of Resnick by any opponent, not just the opposing candidate?

* Unfair O’Donnell. Did the item discuss specifics of unfair characterizations of O’Donnell by any opponent, not just the opposing candidate?

* Campaign Reform. Did the item discuss setting new limits on expenses or receipts or the naming of contributors?

* Merit Selection. Did the item discuss an alternative to the popular election of judges or some version of the Missouri Plan for appointing state judges?

Each of the study’s two authors used the above operational definitions of content categories to independently code all of the editorials and columns. Then the two author-coders compared their coding sheets, resolved all disagreements and made corrections. The corrected coding sheets were entered into a computer data file and analyzed using frequencies and cross-tabulations in a statistical program.44

Research Questions

RQ1:

To what extent did Ohio dailies, particularly the 10 largest, endorse a candidate in this contentious judicial election? And who was endorsed and why?

RQ2:

To what extent did approximately 300 Ohio weekly and specialty publications editorialize on the judicial race?

RQ3:

To what extent did the dailies discuss television advertising related to the Supreme Court campaign, particularly the anonymous nature of the attack ads that were directed against Resnick?

RQ4:

To what extent did the dailies attempt to correct impressions created by unfair characterizations of either candidate in advertisements or attacks by opponents?

RQ5:

To what extent did the dailies discuss the unprecedented cost of the campaign and the need for various forms of campaign reform?

RQ6:

To what extent did the dailies discuss alternatives to the popular election of state Supreme Court justices?

Findings

The state’s top 10 newspapers accounted for 72 of the 102 items examined.45 The number of these items published peaked on the fourth weekend of October. Seventy (68.6 percent) of the editorials or commentaries named both Resnick and O’Donnell, while 28 (27.5 percent) mentioned only Resnick and 4 (3.9 percent) contained no candidate’s name. Following are the research questions and the data and findings related to each:

RQl: To what extend did Ohio dailies, particularly the 10 largest, endorse a candidate in this contentious judicial election? And who was endorsed and why?

Twenty nine articles in 26 newspapers carried endorsements or phrasing indicating clear support of either Resnick or O’Donnell. All 10 of the top dailies, 10 of the other dailies, three traditional weeklies and three non-traditional weeklies also indicated endorsement or support for one candidate or the other. The top dailies’ backing was split evenly, five endorsements for each candidate, but all 10 of the smaller dailies that made choices picked Resnick.

The reason most often stated for support of candidates related directly to the court’s previously stated position on school finance reform. Six of the smaller dailies applied that reasoning in support of Resnick and one newspaper in the top 10 group said it was a reason to back O’Donnell. Four of the top 10 mentioned judicial “restraint” and one its opposite, judicial “flexibility,” all in recommending O’Donnell. One of the smaller dailies recommended Resnick for flexibility. Two of the top 10 said the choice of O’Donnell would assure “balance” on the court; one of the smaller dailies emphasized balance in supporting Resnick.

Three newspapers, including two from the top 10, mentioned the attack advertising as a primary reason for their endorsements; all three supported Resnick.

-RQ2: To what extent did approximately 300 Ohio weekly and specialty publications editorialize on the judicial race?

The data indicate that only 12 of Ohio’s estimated 300 weekly and alternative newspapers editorialized on the judicial race. Two had two articles each, while 10 had one each. This should not be regarded as conclusive without further inquiry. Future research could seek to determine what percentage of weeklies do any editorial or opinion writing at all and whether those papers that do comment confine their attention to local issues and races and ignore statewide campaigns.

RQ3: To what extent did the dailies discuss television advertising related to the Supreme Court campaign, particularly the anonymous nature of the attack ads that were directed against Resnick?

The controversial TV advertising was mentioned in 66 of 102, or 64.7 percent, of the editorial and opinion articles. Sixty articles with mentions (68.2 percent) were in the 88 daily articles studied. The most frequent mentions were in the Cincinnati Post (9 out of 12), Akron Beacon Journal (8/8), Cleveland Plain Dealer (7/8) and Dayton Daily News (7/7). Among most of the other top 10 newspapers, the subject came up more than half of the time: Columbus Dispatch (6/10), Toledo Blade (4/5), Cincinnati Enquirer (4/8), Lake County News Herald (4/ 7), Canton Repository (3/5) and Youngstown Vindicator (2/3).

The anonymous nature of the advertising drew considerably fewer comments, being mentioned in only 33 of 102 or 32.4 percent of the articles. The less frequent attention may be attributed to the fact that, while the names of specific contributors to the anti-Resnick campaign weren’t known, they were generally understood to be business interests and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The Cleveland Plain Dealer discussed anonymity in four of eight opinion articles, the Columbus Dispatch in four of 10, Toledo Blade in four of five and the Akron Beacon Journal in five of eight. One of the largest papers, the Cincinnati Enquirer, did not touch on the point at all, and its chief local competitor, the Cincinnati Post, mentioned it only four times in 12 opinion articles.

RQ4: To what extent did the dailies attempt to correct impressions created by unfair characterizations of either candidate in advertisements or attacks by opponents?

Forty-nine opinion articles in 14 newspapers, or 48 percent of the 102 items we analyzed, discussed the TV advertising in terms that implied the messages were unfair. Forty-two of those articles (48 percent) were among 88 articles from daily newspapers in the study. In every one of its seven opinion articles, the Dayton Daily News noted content in an advertisement that it regarded as unfair. The paper cited one instance of unfairness to O’Donnell, and six examples of unfairness to Resnick. Thirteen other dailies, including all others in the top 10, noted content that was regarded as unfair to Resnick. Among the others discussing fairness were: Cincinnati Post (6 /12), Columbus Dispatch (5 /10), Akron Beacon Journal (5/8), Lake County News Herald (4/7), Canton Repository (3/5), Toledo Blade (2/5) and Youngstown Vindicator (2/3).

Among the references to these points:

The Cleveland Plain Dealer characterized the attacks on Resnick in its endorsement of O’Donnell. The paper urged voters:

…to assess O’Donnell’s campaign on its own merits, not by the motives and behaviors of interest groups that have waged a shrill, mega-bucks campaign against Resnick.46

A post-election editorial recommending debate over a proposal for merit selection of judges described the advertising campaign as “unsavory.”47

The Dayton Daily News relied on the Ohio State Bar Association for its initial characterization of the TV ads, quoting a statement that called the ads “an attack on the integrity of the Supreme Court and our entire judicial system.”48 Later, the newspaper said clearly that the advertising was “spreading imbecilic non-sense” and called it “a smear campaign” that, if successful, “will be a setback to the quality of campaigns for a long time, not only in Ohio, but nationally, because this race is being watched.”49

One day before the election, the Akron Beacon Journal called the attack advertising “especially ugly” and an “assault on judicial integrity,” and noted that it was sponsored by a “front organization” of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The Akron Beacon Journal said the chamber was hurting itself:

Public confidence has been jeopardized in ways far more alarming than the misguided rulings of a court majority. ‘Justicefor sale ?’one miserable ad asked. That is the regrettable appearance, watching this campaign. The chamber won’t soon escape the image it fashioned for itself (with the help of its national office) – an outfit so consumed by a fight that it lost sight of first purposes, the respect it must have to encourage an improved climate for business in the state.50

The Columbus Dispatch relied on signed columns to relay information on the credibility of the advertising, and almost all of that information was attributed to others, such as campaign aides and political figures.51 Nearly a month after the election, a columnist seemed at last to offer his own view of the advertising, but it was still attributed to anonymous others.52

The Cincinnati Enquirer left it up to its political writers – instead of its editorial writers-to offer opinions on the nature of the advertising. One article discussed the credibility of the claims,53 while another awarded the sponsors “the Joe McCarthy Lifetime Achievement Award,”a reference to the U.S. Senator who in the early 1950s attacked individuals in government and the entertainment industry by making unsubstantiated charges that they were members of the Communist Party.54

The Cincinnati Post, which endorsed O’Donnell, nevertheless described the TV ads against his opponent as “sleazy” and said it was “grossly offensive” for the ads to suggest that Justice Resnick had tailored her decisions to suit contributors to her campaign.55 A Cincinnati Post columnist later described the ads as “character assassination” and observed: “The First Amendment affords us all the right to express our opinions, no matter how unpopular or misguided. But it’s still sad that our jurists – and the independence they must represent -now are being sullied in gutters awash with attack-ad politics.”56

The Toledo Blade offered the most strongly worded criticism of the advertising campaign. In a pre-election editorial, the newspaper referred to “the reprehensible soft-money campaigns being waged by shadowy special interests” in both the Ohio Supreme Court race and a local legislative campaign. The editorial writer concluded:

These campaigns represent a headlong descent into a lawless political vortex in which people can say anything about anybody without having to stand and account for themselves. This is not freedom of speech but a pernicious form of anarchy.57

Readers of two of the larger papers, the Youngstown Vindicator and Lake County News Herald, had to wait until after the election to hear criticism of the ads.58

RQ5: To what extent did the dailies discuss the unprecedented cost of the campaign and the need for various forms of campaign reform?

While some opinion articles mentioned cost figures for the campaign, a relative few, 16 in the 102, actually characterized those costs as “high.” A few more, 21 (or 20.6 percent), mentioned proposals for campaign finance reform that have been touted as solutions to the costs, such as limits on raising or spending money, or public identification of contributors.59 The Lake County News Herald spoke out most about high cost, mentioning it in three of its seven editorials. The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon Journal each mentioned reform proposals in three articles.

RQ6: To what extent did the dailies discuss alternatives to the popular election of state Supreme Court justices?

Proposals for merit selection of judges were discussed in 12 (11.8 percent) of the editorials, but it was Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer, and not the state’s opinion writers, who set the agenda on reform. On Nov. 9, two days after the election, Moyer called at a bench-bar conference for a change from popular election of judges to a process of merit selection.60 Ten of the 21 daily newspaper articles mentioning reform proposals were published after that date and most of those contained references to Moyer’s views.61

Discussion

The context of opinions in a newspaper includes the objective reporting on other pages. A study like this that looks only at editorial and opinion columns risks making an assumption that the editorials stand alone in tackling the responsibility of informing the readers of newspapers about the issues and controversy of a campaign. If the reading of Ohio voters were limited to the editorial page and opinion columns, they might have been disappointed in the performance of the papers during the 2000 campaign for the Ohio Supreme Court. A glance at the file of news story clippings from the campaign shows, however, that many of the papers provided a wealth of information-attributed to others-about the advertising, the views driving its sponsors and other issues in the Resnick-O’Donnell race.62 The thoroughness and objectivity of that reporting is a study for another day, but it offers a perspective that news and commentary go hand in hand in informing voters and clarifying election campaign information.

The depth and vigor with which the opinion writers discuss an issue may make a difference in readers’ perceptions. Merely mentioning the attack advertising-as did 64.7 percent of our sample-without discussing the content of those advertisements or the nature of that aspect of the campaign would be a dereliction of editorial writing duty. As noted in the findings for RQ4,48 percent of the articles offered readers more understanding of the advertising’s significance by going into detail on content and offering perspectives on its fairness. As for vigor, a standout was the Oct. 24, 2000, editorial in the Toledo Blade, with its reference to “a headlong descent into a lawless political vortex” (quoted more fully above in the findings for RQ4).63 Editorial writers who express themselves with passion and accuracy are likely to have a greater impact on their readers. The Dayton Daily News observed in one editorial that “the ad campaign insults the voters.”64 Six days later, the newspaper editorialized again, calling for an investigation of the campaign and noting, “The non-partisan Ohio State Bar Association considers the ads so defamatory that it publicly denounced them Friday as ‘an attack on the integrity of the Supreme Court and our entire justice system.'”65

Editorials that make recommendations for change in public policy help satisfy a newspaper’s obligation to clarify issues for readers. The editorials and commentaries that discussed solutions to the attack advertising specifically mentioned campaign finance reporting reform and merit selection of judges. Shortly after the first advertising appeared, the Cincinnati Enquirer discussed the anonymous nature of the sponsors.

Now, the state ought to re-examine judicial campaign finance rules that have taken spending-and the campaign message – out of the candidates’ control and into the deep pockets of entrenched interests with their own agendas.66

And the Toledo Blade said:

It underscores why state law needs to be updated to outlaw soft money by requiring the public reporting of who gives and who gets in every campaign. No exceptions.67

The Zanesville Times Recorder said Moyer’s proposal for a non-elected judiciary ought to be considered, but the paper also offered other solutions:

To protect the court’s integrity, we believe Ohio must study: making court races completely non-partisan, making the terms longer and providing equal public funding to judicial candidates in place of private contributions.66

It would be up to the Ohio Legislature to make such changes, of course. In the meantime, the media should expect no reaction from the target of those attacks. A Lake County News Herald editorial discussing the advertising noted:

Resnick maintains that she would defend any group’s free speech rights in an election – even, apparently, if the group is trying to do her in.69

Finally, calls for investigation of the campaign tactics drew this response from The Lorain Morning Journal:

We say don’t bother. Those who are fooled by such campaign material are probably not well informed on the issues in the first place. Ana the effort to expose those who finance groups such as ‘Citizens for a Strong Ohio’ will simply run smack dab into the First Amendment.70

Conclusion

A conclusion about how well the opinion writers at Ohio newspapers performed is, of course, relative to the researchers’ expectations. We expected to find opinions about candidates’ qualifications and their views on restraint or activism by courts. We hoped to find perspectives on the attack advertising. It is a healthy sign that 48 percent of the 102 opinion pieces went into some detail on the content of the advertising, that each of the top 10 Ohio newspapers carried multiple references to that advertising, and that most of those top dailies discussed the fairness of the campaign more than once. The question most relevant to the purpose of this research paper is RQ4, whether the newspapers attempted to correct impressions created by unfair characterizations of either candidate in advertisements or attacks by opponents. The findings contain ample evidence that Ohio’s papers did provide such information. While we could hope for a greater focus on solutions-only 20.8 percent of the items discussed campaign reform measures and just 11.8 percent reacted to the idea of merit selection-we can conclude that newspaper opinion writers did, indeed, perform the clarifying or correcting function expected of them in the 2000 election for the Ohio Supreme Court.

Notes

1. The people who paid for those advertisements were never named, but as the campaign went on newspapers began reporting that they were business interests acting through the Ohio and U.S. chambers of commerce.

2. In State ex. rel. Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers v. Steward, 86 Ohio St.3d 451, 715 N.E. 2d 1062 (Ohio, 1999) the court ruled 4-3 that a 1966 Ohio tort reform law was unconstitutional.

3. DeRolph v. Ohio, 78 Ohio St. 3d 193; 1997 Ohio 84; 677 N.E.2d 733 (1997), tested the equity and adequacy of state financial support for public primary, elementary and secondary schools.

4. “Citizens for a Strong Ohio” was registered with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit educational organization, according to an “AdWatch” report by Doug Opliiiger in the Akron Beacon Journal, 14 October 2000, sec. B, p. 3. Reports of the amount the group spent on the campaign varied. The $5 million figure is from a story by T.C. Brown, “Court ads mislead, experts contend,” in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2 November 2000, sec. B, p. 1. A more conservative estimate of $4 million was used by Mike Wagner in “Despite negative ads, Resnick retains seat,” in the Dayton Daily News, 8 November 2000, sec. A, p. 1. Wagner attributed the amount to unnamed “media consultants.”

5. Ohio Revised Code sec. 3517.20 (B) (1) requires the chairperson, treasurer or secretary of a group sponsoring televised political ads be named, but there is no requirement to identify all who paid for the ads. Furthermore, the sponsors contended these were not political ads, according to the Akron Beacon Journal’s Oplinger (14 October 2000, sec. B, p. 3), because the words “election” and “campaign” were never used. Later, an ad sponsored by the Ohio Democratic Party did name four businessmen said to be leaders of “Citizens for a Strong Ohio,” according to another “AdWatch” report by Oplinger (Akron Beacon Journal, 25 October 2000, sec. B, p. 3).

6. Many of the newspapers called attention to the nature of the advertising and the secrecy surrounding the donors. An example was an editorial in the Lake County News Herald, which said the ads “are definitely presented in an attack mode,” and added: “The problem with them is that the sources of the money behind their sponsors, ‘Citizens for a Strong Ohio,’ are shrouded in secrecy,” (“Who’s paying for ‘Justice for Sale’ ads?” 27 October 2000, sec. A, p. 6)

7. Oplinger, 14 October 2000, sec. B, p. 3.

8. Episcopal Retirement Homes v. Ohio Department of Industrial Relations, 61 Ohio St. 3d 366, 575 N.B. 2d 134 (1991).

9. Oplinger, 14 October 2000, sec. B, p. 3.

10. The incumbent received more than 56 percent of the vote, according to news reports the day after the election. (Mike Wagner, “Despite negative ads, Resnick retains seat; Cook also to remain on Ohio’s high court,” Dayton Daily News, 8 November 2000, sec. A, p. 1.) Seth Anderson of the Elmo B. Hunter Citizens Center for Judicial Selection at the American Judicature Society attributed the outcome to the power of incumbency. (Katherine Rizzo of the Associated Press, “Chamber ads fail in Ohio,” Chillicothc Gazette, 9 November 2000, sec. B, p. 5.)

11. Daniel J. Foley, “A case for Better Media Coverage of Judicial Elections,” Newspaper Research Journal 16, no. 3 (summer 1995), 114.

12. Kara Baker, “Comment: Is Justice for Sale in Ohio? An Examination of Ohio Judicial Elections and Suggestions for Reform Focusing on the 2000 Race for the Ohio Supreme Court,” Akron Law Review 35, no. 1 (2001), 182.

13. Jim Provance, “Forum Mulls Judicial Election Reforms,” Toledo Blade, 7 March 2003, sec. A, p. 7.

14. Republican Party of Minnesota v. Wlnte, 536 U.S. 765,122 S.Ct. 2528 (2002).

15. Leo W. Jeffres, Connie Cutietta, Jae-won Lee and Leslie Sekerka, “Differences of Community Newspaper Goals and Functions in Large Urban Areas,” Newspaper Research Journal 20, no. 3 (summer 1999), 86-87.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Ernest Hynds and Erika Archibald, “Improving Editorial Pages Can Help Papers, Communities,” Newspaper Research Journal 17, no. 1-2 (winter-spring 1996), 14.

19. Juan Williams, “The Editorial Writer (T),” Gnnnert Center Journal 3, no. 2 (Spring 1989), 26.

20. Rosemary Yardley, “The Editorial Writer (2),” Gannett Center Journal 3, no. 2 (Spring 1989), 43.

21. A. Gayle Waldrop, Editor and Editorial Writer, 3rd ed., (Dubuque, IA: William C. Brown Company, 1967), 3.

22. M. LyIe Spencer, Editorial Writing: Ethics, Policy, Practice (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1924), 158.

23. Ibid., 17.

24. Ernest C. Hynds, “Editors at Most U.S. Dailies see Vital Roles for Editorial Pages,” Journalism Quarterly 71, no. 4 (autumn 1994), 574.

25. Harry W. Stonecipher, Editorial and Persuasive Writing: Opinion Functions of the News Media, 2nd ed. (Mamaroneck, NY: Communication Arts Books, 1990), 23.

26. W. David Sloan, Pulitzer Prize Editorials: America’s Best Editorial Writing, 1917-1979 (Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1980), ix.

27. Conrad C. Fink, Writing Opinion for Impact (Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1999), 6.

28. Dennis Hale, “State Supreme Court Justices’ Views on Free Expression,” Newspaper Research Journal 22, no. 1 (winter 2001), 33-34.

29. Hynds and Archibald, 19-20.

30. Yardley, 41.

31. Daniel J. Foley, 113.

32. Ibid., 121.

33. Stephen Lacy, Frederick G. Fico and Daniel Riffe, Qualitative Content Analysis (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998), 2.

34. Ibid., 6.

35. The firm is Ohio News Service, Cleveland. Lilly Medved, office manager, said the order from the court asks for clippings from: “Everything we’re aware of that publishes in Ohio, dailies, weeklies, monthlies.” (Telephone conversation with author, 20 May 2003.)

36. Seventy-four editorials and 37 columns were examined, but as a result of the coding process six editorials and three columns were deemed inappropriate as to subject matter or focus and were removed from the database.

37. Statistics are based on circulation listed in the 2001 edition of Bacon’s Newspaper Directory, 19th ed., Chicago: Bacon’s Directories, Inc., 2000, 663-702.

38. Opinion columns in the data were those of authors appearing in the publication with some regularity.

39. Dates were based on notations by the clipping service, verified by review of actual newspaper pages.

40. Language must indicate unambiguous, explicit support for the candidate. Criticism of one candidate did not by itself indicate support for the other candidate.

41. Emphasis was on the reason for supporting the endorsed candidate and not the reason for rejecting the other candidate. Reasons were: negative ads, judicial activism or flexibility shown by judge, ethical lapse or reported conflict of interest, judicial restraint, school funding case position, high integrity, contributes tobalance on the court, experience, represents divisiveness, intellectually interesting, or position on tort reform.

42. The article must refer to the unsigned, anonymous or unidentified sponsorship of the ads.

43. Mere mention of the costs was not sufficient.

44. SPSS for Windows, ReI. 11.0.1 (Chicago: SPSS Inc., 2001).

45. In order of largest to smallest, the top 10 are The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Toledo Blade, Dayton Daily News, Akron Beacon Journal, Youngstown Vindicator, Canton Repository, Cincinnati Post and Lake County Neivs Herald. The list of newspapers was taken from the web site of the Ohio Newspaper Association. Available: http://www.ohionews.org/ members.html (3 March 2003). As noted earlier, circulation figures are from the 2001 edition of Bacon’s Newspaper Directory (see note 29).

46. “Supreme Court,” Cleveland Plain Denier, 29 October 2000, sec. G, p. 2.

47. “Worth another try,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12 November 2000, sec. G, p. 2.

48. “Anti-Resnick ads cry for full review,” Dayton Daily News, 23 October 2000, sec. A, p. 6.

49. “Court races: The ugly and the good,” Dayton Daily News, 1 November 2000, sec. A, p. 6.

50. “Which Bob Taft,” Akron Beacon Journal, 6 November 2000, sec. A, p. 10. The editorial concluded with criticism of Ohio Gov. Bob Taft for helping raise funds for the Chamber’s campaign.

51. For example, Lee Leonard, Dispatch statehouse reporter, quotes Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson in “Sideswiping political ads ought to be ruled out of bounds,” Columbus Dispatch, 23 October 2000, sec. A, p. 9, and James Bradshaw, also a statehouse reporter, quotes Resnick campaign consultant Bill Burgess and Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David J. Leland, among others, in “Ad signals tough fight for Ohio Supreme Court seat,” Columbus Dispatch, 16 October 2000, sec. C, p. 6.

52. Joe Hallett, “Attacks erode public trust in the judiciary,” Columbus Dispatch, 3 December 2000, sec. A, p. 1. Hallett said “… (L)egal scholars are expressing alarm about an unprecedented level of dirty tactics and hot rhetoric used in the 2000 campaign to defeat judges and besmirch the integrity of the courts.”

53. Spencer Hunt, “TV ads help mold Supreme Court race: Advocacy groups’ role debated,” Cincinnati Enquirer, 22 October 2000, sec. B, p. 1.

54. Howard Wilkinson, “Election antics worthy of prizes,” Cincinnati Enquirer, 5 November 2000, sec. B, p. 2. For a more detailed description of the tactics of Sen. McCarthy, see Hoyt Purvis, Media, Politics and Government (Fort Worth: Harcourt, 2001), 32-34.

55. “A corrosive brand of politics,” Cincinnati Post, 23 October 2000, sec. A, p. 14.

56. Randy Ludlow, “Resnick ad is ugly,” Cincinnati Post, 21 October 2000, sec. A, p. 10.

57. “Hiding behind ‘soft’ money,” Toledo Blade, 24 October 2000, sec. A, p. 12.

58. The Vindicator, which endorsed Resnick, waited more than a month, and even then directed its criticism not at the ad sponsors but at Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, for failing to speak up about the ads before the election. “Chief justice can set the tone in elections,” 14 December 2000, sec. A, p. 4. The News Herald called the anti-Resnick advertising campaign “one of the filthiest attempts at character assassination ever attempted in Ohio.” “Judicial races debunk ‘conventional wisdom’,” 10 November 2000, sec. A, p. 8.

59. The Lake County News Herald spoke out most about high cost, mentioning it in 3 of its 7 editorials. The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon Journal each mentioned reform proposals in 3 articles

60. The conference theme was “An Independent Judiciary: The Foundation of Our system of Justice and Democracy.”

61. A reviewer has suggested a seventh research question, asking to what extent the unsigned editorials and signed columns differ in their attention to the advertising. While there were some particular columns that emphasized characterization of the ads, overall the differences were negligible. Forty-nine percent of the editorials and 43 percent of the columns characterized the advertisements as unfair to Resnick. Just one editorial and none of the columns mentioned unfairness to O’Donnell. Thirty-seven percent of the editorials and 34 percent of the columns discussed the content of the television advertisements.

62. The files include 121 news articles that appeared before Election Day, including 25 that reported on an Ohio Elections Commission review of the anti-Resnick television advertising.

63. “Hiding behind ‘soft’ money,” Toledo Blade, 24 October 2000, sec. A, p. 12.

64. “No justice in ad attack on Resnick,” Dayton Daily News, 17 October 2000, sec. A, p. 6.

65. “Anti-Resnick ads cry for full review,” Dayton Daily News, 23 October 2000, sec. A, p. 6.

66. “Cash goes underground,” Cincinnati Enquirer, 28 September 2000, sec. A, p. 14.

67. “Anonymous deception,” Toledo Blade, 11 October 2000, sec. A, p. 8.

68. “Ohio Supreme Court election rules need overhaul,” Zanesville Times Recorder, 13 November 2000, sec. A, p. 4.

69 “Role of money in judge races troubling,” Lake County News Herald, 26 September 2000, sec. A, p. 6.

70. “Assessing the truth in political messages,” Lorain Morning journal, 30 October 2000, sec. A, p. 4. The editorial was written by one of the authors of this research paper, Richard D. Hendrickson, who at the time was editorial page editor of the newspaper.

Hendrickson is an assistant professor in the Department of Communications at John Carroll University, and Hale is a professor in the Department of Journalism at Bowling Green State University.

Copyright Newspaper Research Journal, Department of Journalism, University of Memphis Summer 2004

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