LNP already violated its “Pledge to community”
“Our pledge to community” is an exhibit to “Lancaster Newspapers charting new direction.” , an article appearing September 18 . It only took only four days for an egregious violation of their new standards to occur.
Yesterday subscribers to the Sunday News encountered a twelve page supplement entitled “The Lancaster Club, A Lancaster Tradition” and labeling it “A Publication of the Lancaster Newspapers, Inc.”
(Before going further, our purpose is to be critical of the LNP’s reporting, not necessarily of the Hamilton Club. We are not familiar with the club’s current membership or practices.)
Since the disclaimer “Advertising supplement” was not given, readers are entitled to believe that this was a journalistic effort.
In fact, it was nothing less than a ‘puff piece’, similar to the type of image building advertisement so commonly run by organizations interested in enhancing their public interests. (Think Exxon Mobile and BP.)
One LNP pledge states: “We will seek to tell all sides of a story in an even-handed manner.”
An article in the supplement “Hamilton Club Membership” states: “With a variety of backgrounds, experiences and interests, Club membership includes singles, couples and families of various faiths, racial and ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientation.”
“Includes” can mean a token of one, which was the case of Jewish membership for years, or a significant number. Good journalism would have followed up such an assertion either with a request for membership break down or a quote from club critics.
General Manger Tom Foutch describes the membership as a “progressive community” and then goes on to say “It’s been said for generations that ‘if you want to do business in this town, you have to join the Hamilton Club.’ ” We assume membership still is by nomination and approval by the membership. So what Foutch might better have stated is “If you don’t belong to the Hamilton Club, you can’t do business in this town.”
According to Club Membership Chair Kendra McGuire, “While we value diversity it doesn’t drive our membership efforts. Our breath of membership is simply the result our vibrant club has achieved. People of diverse backgrounds want to be members.” We sure many do. But can they?
In reciting the history of the club, LNP makes no mention of the past rampant discrimination against blacks, Jews, Latinos and other non-establishment groups that existed at least until the past two or three decades. In the 1950s, Eleanor Roosevelt on a visit to Lancaster refused to lunch at the club because they would not accept African-American members.
Harold Wenger, President, states “The Hamilton Club sees its role in the city of Lancaster as one of engagement. To bring together in one location community leaders, businessmen and women, philanthropists, educators and other professionals for the purpose of enriching their lives and our city.”
We hope this is correct. But examining the 20 photos which made up the supplement, we note all where Caucasian. It was like viewing the Board of Trustees at Lancaster General Health.
Here are other pledges which LNP violated in producing this supplement:
“We will publish comprehensive local news stories in our newspaper…
“In print or online, our journalists will report as truthfully and objectively as possible, using trusted sources, multiple sources and verification of facts whenever possible. We will seek to tell all sides of a story in an even-handed manner.
“We will confine personal opinion columns to editorial pages. They will not appear on news pages.
“We will maintain our role as a community watchdog, monitoring the use of power by those in elected office or in positions of influence over the lives of county residents. We will investigate abuses of power or position.”
Again, we are not criticizing the Hamilton Club, a private organization. We wish them well on their 100th anniversary. Nor do we mean to be ‘holier than they.’ We have little doubt that their values have evolved as have ours and the rest of the nation over the past half century.
We do maintain that LNP should have accurately designated the supplement as advertisement, or the articles should have been written in accordance with their above stated pledges.