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An award-winning Indiana jobs group report JobsOhio won't see from Columbus

In "Breaking the News,"James Fallows' spectacular 1996 book on how the media undermine American democracy, he writes, "Americans believe that the news media have become too arrogant, cynical, scandal-minded, and destructive."

The same family that owns WTHR in Indianapolis, which won an award for its investigative report on Indiana's job creation group, won't do the same report on JobsOhio.
The same family that owns WTHR in Indianapolis, which won an award for its investigative report on Indiana's job creation group, won't do the same report on JobsOhio.
The award-winning Indiana jobs group report that took on secrecy at Indiana's Economic Development Corporation is a report JobsOhio won't see from Columbus.

He argues further that "deep forces in America's political, social, and economic structures account for most of the frustration of today's politics, but the media's attitudes have played a surprisingly important and destructive role."

And so it is that while one media business that owns operations in Ohio and Indiana, where it wins awards for drilling down on the Hoosier State's job creation group, the same media conglomerate would never consider drilling down on JobsOhio in the same way its investigative reporters in Indianapolis did for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

And why would that be?

The Columbus Dispatch, owned by the Wolfe Family that owns newspapers, TV and radio stations in both states, has shown itself to be full square in the tank for incumbent Republican Gov. John R. Kasich, a hometown politician it supported through his 18 years in Congress, endorsed in 2010 and has already endorsed this year through continued positive coverage, despite potentially explosive story lines other Buckeye media establishments are left to sort out in their own way, if they ever do so, before voters go to the polls this November.

In Indiana, the Wolfe Family owns NBC-affiliate WTHR-TV (Channel 13), the station which was one of 39 national recipients of the 70th annual Peabody Awards, announced by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. As the oldest honor in electronic media, the 70th annual Peabody Awards recognized distinguished achievement and meritorious public service by stations, networks, producing organizations and individuals.

WTHR was honored for "Reality Check: Where are the Jobs?" 13 Investigates' on-going series exposing how state leaders inflated Indiana job statistics through a quasi-state agency shrouded in secrecy. "Reality check: Where are the jobs?" revealed empty cornfields and abandoned factories where the Indiana Economic Development Corporation claimed there were thousands of new jobs, the station said on its website.

In "Breaking the News," Fallows, a winner of the National Book Award who formerly was the Washington editor for The Atlantic Monthly, says, "Like teachers, soldiers, nurses, or parents, journalist perform a job whose full value is not represented in their pay. When they do their jobs well, many people benefit. When they do their jobs poorly, when they are irresponsible about their power, the damage spreads further than they can see."

And so it is that WTHR-TV wins awards by drilling below the framed facade of a jobs groups that is a forerunner of JobsOhio, Gov. Kasich's signature job creation group that is secret and non-transparent and full of controversy because its claims of performance cannot be checked or verified other than to take the word of the group at face value. But in Ohio, where job creation is the number one issue for Buckeyes, as Quinnipiac University confirmed again last week in its most recent poll on the governor's race, of whom there are still over 400,000 who want to work but can't find a job to work at, JobsOhio is off limits to The Columbus Dispatch, which dubs itself "Ohio's Greatest Home Newspaper."

"WTHR found tens of thousands of promised Indiana jobs never showed up. Now 13 Investigates has discovered more inflated job numbers, secretive contracts and conflicting stories that help explain why tens of thousands of unemployed Hoosiers are skeptical and downright angry," the station's investigative team wrote on the report that pulled the hide off a group Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a kindred spirit to Gov. Kasich in party affiliation and ideological bent, said would work wonders.

"When IEDC does provide records to 13 Investigates, the agency crosses out job and salary information it doesn't want the public to see. While those same details are made public in many other states, IEDC says it is required to redact the information due to a state law that classifies it as confidential," Bob Segall of 13 Investigates wrote.

Back in Ohio, JobsOhio remains a mystery. Thanks to legislation delivered by a friendly GOP legislature to its go-go, CEO-style governor that exempted it from public eyes peering into its inner workings, JobsOhio operates in near total secrecy.

In his fourth State of the State Address delivered Monday from Medina, southwest of Cleveland, Gov. Kasich said JobsOhio is working despite a platoon of vocal critics who say it isn't.

Gov. Kasich defended JobsOhio in his address, saying "we ... have to keep working with job creators the right way, and that's what JobsOhio is—this new organization that's beginning to hit its stride ... The nation's business leaders are realizing that our new approach to economic development is something that—it sets us apart."

For Kasich, who won office in 2010 with the help of Tea Party activists who have since turned against him on several issues, the biggest of which is his end-run around the legislature on expanding Medicaid through an administrative committee, "treating job creators with respect by giving them peers, business experts, and specialists in their fields to work with and we work at their speed, which is the speed of business, not the speed of bureaucracy and government," his calling is to privatize what had always been public. "It's working," he said of JobsOhio, adding, "We believe in an open economy and a free market, not a closed economy controlled by bureaucrats, and they understand it."

While Gov. Kasich says he believes in an open economy and a free market, he has defended the secrecy and unaccountability of JobsOhio at every turn. About a year ago, reports surfaced that six of the nine JobsOhio board members have serious conflict of interest issues, Board Chairman James Boland admitted to the Columbus Dispatch that JobsOhio is seen as a "self-dealing, secretive and unaccountable" organization by the public. For the record, Boland was one of the six listed with potential conflicts.

He denied there was any problem at JobsOhio, saying, "We have nothing to hide here" and said he didn’t have any plans to provide more transparency or public oversight of his organization to help change the image.

The State Auditor’s Office, run by Republican David Yost who once tried to see the inner workings of JobsOhio until the legislature accommodated Gov. Kasich by changing what he could do, released audit reports for JobsOhio and for Ohio’s Development Services Agency about 13 months ago. In Yost's report was a finding that JobsOhio couldn't account for over one million dollars in undocumented spending. Yost subsequently dropped the scent of the missing one million.

Taking a different tact from its sibling news station in Indiana, the Columbus Dispatch actually editorialized for secrecy at JobsOhio. In August of 2013, Dispatch editorial writers wrote in response to an attempt by Gov. Kasich's likely Democratic challenger to ask the Ohio Ethics Commission to plumb the depths at JobsOhio, "Plenty of legitimate debate over Ohio’s future direction and current leadership will take place over the next 15 months leading up to the gubernatorial election, but these baseless, manufactured controversies waste time and insult the public’s intelligence."

"Under JobsOhio — Gov. John Kasich’s inventive team of sharp, connected business recruiters — Ohio has regained 162,000 private-sector jobs," the Dispatch proclaimed. Even though the Dispatch called on the legislature to "strengthen this promising venture and immunize it from controversy and litigation by making it transparent and accountable," it has attacked anyone who dares pry into the secret operations of the group Gov. Kasich once claimed he would chair until the Ohio Constitution stopped him from doing that.

Meanwhile, a case on whether or not plaintiffs have standing to sue JobsOhio over its constitutionality awaits a decision by the nearly unanimous Republican Ohio Supreme Court.

Previously, the high court said JobsOhio does not have to turn over emails and other records documenting private donors to a lawyer who asked for them, ruling that Gov. John Kasich’s privatized development agency is exempted from much of Ohio’s public records law.

If the justices say JobsOhio can be sued, as a sitting legislator and a progressive advocacy group wants to do, such a ruling could jeopardize its past business arrangements and poison the well on future deals.

A big question is whether the justices will make a call before the election in November, so voters can be informed on this issue before they decide whether to rehire Gov. Kasich. Or they could release their decision after the election, which would deny voters information they could have in making their decision to rehire a politician who removed the pubic from a private group he says is working but others say is not.

The JobsOhio litigation, which has been going on since 2011, reached an important point the justices allowed oral arguments.

Now that Ohio's Big Eight newspapers are relying more and more on reports from its members in order to keep the Associated Press, a long-time content provider whose rates charged to newspaper for their content are always on the rise, at bay, it's out of the question that any of them would take the Dispatch to task for its politically slanted,hands-off approach to Kasich's JobsOhio.

Fallows writes, "Today's journalists can choose: Do they want merely to entertain the public or engage it? If they want to entertain, they will keep doing what they have done for the last generation. Concentrating on conflict and spectacle, building up celebrities and tearing them down, presenting a crisis or issue with the volume turned all the way up, only to drop that issue and turn to the next emergency. And while they do these things, they will become constantly more hated and constantly less useful to the public whose attention they are trying to attract. Public life will become more sour and embittered, and American democracy will be even less successful in addressing the nation's economic, social, and moral concerns."

So when the same business interest wins awards in one state for doing something it should do but won't do in another, because it's in the tank for a politician who can count on them not peeling the rind off of a group whose credibility can never be taken seriously since the only verification that it's doing a good job comes anecdotally or from people who no longer are subject to public processes that have worked before but have since been suspended, citizens must resort to new, independent news sources that don't have the conflicts of interest the Columbus Dispatch obviously has with the current administration.

The Dispatch Broadcast Group includes WBNS-TV, WBNS-AM/FM, and Radio Sound Network in Columbus, Ohio; WTHR-TV and WALV-TV in Indianapolis, Indiana; Dispatch Interactive Television in Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana.

The news article An award-winning Indiana jobs group report JobsOhio won't see from Columbus appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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