UNCA mass comm prof: Asheville Citizen-Times should cover its own journalistic failure with ‘Raleigh Digest’


In an open letter posted to Asheville’s Mountain Area Information Network website, UNC Asheville mass communications professor Mark West calls upon the Asheville Citizen-Times to fully cover its own journalistic failure to properly label a paid political advertisement.

Last week, the Citizen-Times published a 48-page insert titled The Raleigh Digest on Nov. 27. The publication includes articles on everything from controversial issues such as changes to the state’s election system, tax reform and gun rights to the Rev. Billy Graham, who was honored by the N.C. General Assembly this year, all action led by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. It lists its website as theraleighdigest.com, which is a site that offers a pdf of the publication. A blurb on the inside front page lists the publication’s editor as James Smith of InTouchNC LLC at 1854 Hendersonville Road. That’s a company owned by Republican N.C. Rep. Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County, according to Mountain Xpress.

The Citizen-Times published an apology, noting that the insert was not properly labeled as paid advertisement. But in his letter, West writes that the Citizen-Times apology fell short. The newspaper should have gone further in explaining what happened, West writes:

The statement in the newspaper says that the Citizen “apologizes for any confusion [the failure to label the insert as advertising] may have created.” That’s akin to saying “I’m sorry calling you a name offended you;” it’s an apology that does not really admit to wrongdoing.

The Citizen-Times should cover this major failure of journalistic ethics like any other news story. They should report on who did what, when, and how.

Read West’s full letter here.