Jan 11, 2007

On Freedom of the Press, Carty Finkbeiner, and WSPD

Photo copyright 2007, Toledo Blade

There has been a long-running feud between Toledo mayor Carty Finkbeiner and local radio station WSPD-1370. Yesterday the dispute took an ugly turn, as afternoon talk show hosts Kevin Milliken and Brian Wilson and morning drive-time host Fred LeFebvre attempted to force their way into a news conference held by the mayor.

In the photo Brian Schwartz, Finkbeiner's public information officer, held the door to prevent Milliken from entering while allowing WSPD reporter Nik Rajkovic to attend. The feud, of course, is taking on a tragicomic life of its own, but there are larger constitutional issues at stake here.

Mr. Finkbeiner seems to be arguing that he has the right as mayor to tell media outlets who they can send to cover his news conferences, even going so far as to call Milliken a "stand-up comedian." As a reporter I have known Kevin Milliken for several years, bumping into him many times at events we both covered, and I can say unequivocally that he is a hardworking, conscientious journalist who takes his work seriously.

For Mr. Finkbeiner to claim the right to determine which representatives of the media are "legitimate" is an affront to the First Amendment. This responsibility lies with individual media outlets, not with government officials. At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, this administrative assertion is highly reminiscent of a certain fascist German regime.

While the feud has been marked by unfortunate decisions and comments by people on both sides, I think that WSPD is clearly in the right in this incident in fighting Mr. Finkbeiner's attempts to control the local media. While I would urge both parties to solve the ongoing disputes, I am troubled by the apparent attempts to stifle freedom of the press.


Anonymous said...

Carty, once agin, makes Toledo look like a backwater, and brings shame on this city. We will never move ahead so long as an idiot like Carty Finkbeiner is at the controls.

historymike said...

I'll set aside commentary on placing all blame with Carty, as I know that people on both sides of the debate have said things they probably would like to take back.

I do agree that this does not help Toledo's image.

Anonymous said...

WSPD and Carty should equally be at fault in this snafu. Shame on BOTH of them!

Mark said...

A "public figure" involved in issues of important public interest could recover damages for libel based on showing of highly unreasonable conduct constituting extreme departure from standards of reporting adhered to by responsible publishers. -Curtis Pub Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130 (1967)

Perhaps this should include slander and radio personalities. I'm not sure if the Supreme Court has done so.

It cannot be said that Carty could never try to censor what certain reporters would say about him. It can only be said that he should not be so dangerously illegal as to try to pre-empt any bad thing said about him. If something egregiously wrong is said about him, Carty should take action after the fact, where legal remedies exist.

Honestly, acting this way would make him appear to be a stronger leader, at least in my eyes.

However, as is usual, if no one takes legal action, Carty does whatever he wants. Meanwhile, I wonder why he got back into the mayorship at all. I knew him when he was out of the mayor's office. He seemed more at ease, and rightfully so. Why anyone would want the pressure of being Toledo's mayor is beyond me.

-Sepp said...

I can't say that all parties are "equally" at fault. I have never heard an outright lie or, anyone trying to slant the news at WSPD in order to make Carty look bad. CARTY makes Carty look bad and shouldn't blame news personalities for reporting that. The Blade also reports Carty's gafs and tantrums but, Carty knows the blade is who decides who gets to be mayor and lets their "coverage" slide. I think Carty is tired of LeFevre, Wilson and, Miliken actually asking relevent questions and expecting answers which isn't done by Carty's pets in the local press. I learned as a child that if I don't want to explain the stupid things I'd done, maybe I'd best refrain from doing stupid things. That lesson most of us learned years ago hasn't quite found it's way to Carty yet.

Anonymous said...

Carty is a complete ass, and 60% of Toledo voted for this clown. Shame on US.

liberal_dem said...

I have known Kevin Milliken for several years, bumping into him many times at events we both covered, and I can say unequivocally that he is a hardworking, conscientious journalist who takes his work seriously.

I, too, have bumped into Kevin on different occasions and he was always professional. I cannot say that about Finkbeiner.

Anonymous said...

"Carty" Finkbeiner is a clown. I was raised in Toledo and left at the age of seventeen. It's is entertaining to read the exploits of this addle-brained buffoon. His PIO,Schwartz, is nothing more than a hired thug whos primary responsibility is to fend off and attempt to control the media. He is similar to Heinrich Himmler with a mix of backwoods literacy