Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This is Front-Page News? Really?

Granted, it's the Metro section, but still, does this really warrant a front-page story?

The Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW) obtained Mark Marotta's flight schedule through a public records request. The schedule shows that a state plane from Madison took Marotta from Milwaukee (his home city) to various spots in Wisconsin for official state business on nine occasions in the three years that Marotta was DOA secretary.

The RPW proceeds to give this flight schedule to the Journal-Sentinel.

At this point, I can understand why the JS would want to follow-up on the lead. After all, that's what any respectable journalist should do when getting a tip.

But when following-up leads to comments from both the state Employment Relations director and the counsel for the state Ethics Board that the flights were entirely proper, wouldn't you think that would, at the very least, demote the story off the front page?

In the end, the only criticism of the flights comes from the RPW. That's it. Yet evidently that's enough to get an entire sub-section of the article titled "Flights Criticized."

It's true that Doyle made use of state planes an issue in 2002. But here's the thing, Doyle's criticism stemmed from incidents like Scott McCallum using a state plane to travel to Colorado to watch his son's soccer game -- not a department secretary being transported within the state to meetings about state business.

And here's the real kicker. In the time since Doyle took office, the use of state planes has dropped off the table.

According to the JS article, "State records show that the use of state planes has diminished significantly since Doyle took office in 2003. State planes flew slightly more than 29,000 miles in the most recent fiscal year, compared with more than 100,000 miles annually for many of the years before Doyle took office."

Unfortunately that important admission comes in the fourth to last paragraph of the article, and after the continuation on page 5.

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