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News 5 Cleveland responds to Ohio GOP press release

Posted at 4:59 PM, Oct 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-18 17:42:15-04

In the spirit of transparency, we want to share with you that a press release recently was sent to the media from the Ohio Republican Party calling for an “ethics investigation” into our reporter Morgan Trau in relation to a story done as part of a series on state Supreme Court candidates.

This story looked at three Republican candidates who shared their thoughts on abortion in a survey from a political action committee. That story raised questions from pro-choice advocates and attorneys regarding a lack of impartiality by the judicial candidates. The Ohio GOP claims the story was unfair and biased. The party also took issue with one of the experts used in the story and that expert’s personal political beliefs.

The GOP press release said: “The Ohio Republican Party today called on WCPO, WEWS and the ‘Ohio Capital Journal’ blog to immediately launch an ethics investigation into reporter Morgan Trau for her slanted and false reporting on the campaign for Ohio Supreme Court.” You can read the full press release here.

Our report aired on October 7 and ran online with the headline 3 Ohio judicial candidates accused of breaking ethics code, told PAC abortion isn't Constitutional right.

You can watch it here:

3 Ohio judicial candidates accused of breaking code, sharing abortion opinions

This is the letter News 5 Cleveland News Director Jodie Heisner sent to the Ohio Republican Party’s Dan Lusheck in response:

Hi, Dan,

We wanted to send this back in response to the “call for an ethics investigation” by the Ohio GOP. Feel free to share it with your team.

First and foremost, we want to make it clear that we take our journalistic responsibilities seriously. We have a stringent editorial process at WEWS that includes multiple voices and perspectives and managerial review of all stories. The E.W. Scripps Company has a journalism code of ethics as well as a business ethics code that includes a political involvement policy. (BTW: The story never ran on WCPO or appeared on its website.)

We will have internal discussions about the story, the reporting and the broadcast package, as we do with stories on a daily basis. As a 24/7 news operation, we are always striving to improve.

That said, we stand by the accuracy of the story. Our reporter talked to multiple sources on and off camera. The lede to the story is factual. “Three Republican candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court are being accused by pro-choice advocates and nonpartisan lawyers of lacking impartiality after the candidates shared their thoughts on abortion with a political action committee while campaigning.”  The reporter spoke with a number of lawyers (though not all were comfortable going on camera for the story).

We understand that not every organization or individual is going to like every story -- or quotes or sources. But that does not make them inaccurate or even unfair.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you’d like to discuss this further.