Columbus Dispatch decides not to participate in GOP’s $75/person panel discussion

This panel discussion was canceled today. The editor explains why.

This morning I received this email from a reader: “I am an Ohio journalist, and this sure looks to me like the Columbus Dispatch is helping raise money for the Franklin County GOP. …It’s also worth noting that Dispatch publisher John Wolfe and his wife are maxed-out donors to Republican Gov. John Kaisch’s re-elect campaign.”

I sent the note to Dispatch editor Ben Marrison and he responded:

As of this morning, we are not participating in the panel.

For context, The Dispatch like most newspapers has a long history of speaking to various organizations in the community as a way of putting our staff in front of various audiences — neighborhood groups, non-profit and philanthropic organizations, educational organizations, etc. Some of those events generate a small amount of money for the host organizations. One of the events editors have spoken to is the Franklin County Republican Party luncheon, which draws about 60 people.

In this case, we were unaware that this was a profit-making luncheon. We didn’t ask enough questions about the net financial benefit until we received and reviewed the flyer late yesterday (it appears there is a small financial benefit to the hosts once expenses are deducted). … Because both we and the party’s leadership were uncomfortable with the appearance of an impropriety, the panel was canceled this morning.