Wade Petite, a reporter for The Creole online newspaper, covers the city council in Gonzales, Louisiana.
“I strive to be objective in all things, but especially in my work,” he writes.
But Petite discloses that he signed petitions to recall two of the councilmen that he covers. “I felt that my duty as a citizen of Gonzales outweighed my obligation as a reporter,” he writes. (He’s covered the recall effort.)
The journalist from Louisiana who tipped me off to this writes:
I think he’s totally blown any objectivity. How can he possibly cover future Gonzales City Council meetings objectively?
He further states in the column he tried to address the council on the matter during the April 28 meeting but Mayor Barney Arceneaux prevented him from doing so. His role as reporter is to sit there and cover the meeting, not be a part of the meeting.
I invited Petite and Creole editor Charlotte Guedry to comment. The reporter hasn’t responded, but his boss tells Romenesko readers:
We absolutely support Wade’s right to his Opinion, and the piece he wrote was an Opinion piece. If at any time we feel that his opinion outweighs his ability to be objective, we would, of course, remove him from covering those meetings. Presently, we do not feel that is the case.
Also, reporters are 100% entitled to speak up and ask questions during meetings. In fact, in most meetings, there are always questions asked so as to gain clarification.
Wade’s signing of the petition was done as a citizen of the city limits, not as a reporter for The Creole. He is, in fact, the only employee who lives within those limits, so The Creole would have no say so in the matter.
If he were not entitled to his opinion, that would be the same as saying he should be unable to vote, as his vote could be seen as biased. That, however, would be ludicrous as freedom of speech and his right to cote are completely valid. We wouldn’t restrict that, so we wouldn’t restrict anything that is clearly labeled as an Opinion piece.