In January a controversy exploded when a Wisconsin newspaper reporter and his managing editor signed recall petitions against the incumbent state senator representing the area of the paper’s circulation. Ryan Whisner regularly covers politics and elected officials for the Ft. Atkinson Daily Union, and before it became apparent that he signed a recall petition, he was found on Facebook personally cheering on the efforts of Lori Compas, the woman who was leading the charge to recall incumbent state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald. Whisner’s editor was among the first to sign the recall petitions targeting Fitzgerald for recall.
After Media Trackers, a state-based conservative media watchdog, and talk radio hosts in southern Wisconsin brought the political activities of the reporter and editor to light, the newspaper’s publisher attempted to do damage control by issuing a statement saying that the paper would reassign particular stories to prevent any appearance of bias or conflict of interest. Just how serious the newspaper was in promising to remove any perception is now in doubt since Whisner is still writing about the recall race.