(Vincent LoVoi, chairperson of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s board of directors and a managing partner of a private investment group, has responded to a post published on Okie Funk and Blue Oklahoma last weekend. Okie Funk and Blue Oklahoma were critical of OK Policy for driving traffic to CapitolBeatOK.com, a site which I believe is right-wing and misrepresents itself. David Blatt, director of OK Policy, and his colleague, Gene Perry, have also responded critically to the post on their Facebook accounts. You can also find comments about the post on my Facebook account.-Kurt Hochenauer.)
Patrick B. McGuigan, the senior editor of The City Sentinel, a small newspaper primarily serving midtown and downtown Oklahoma City, publishes political stories in it that also appear on his CapitolBeatOK.com site, which is “contracted” by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), the state’s main conservative think tank.
Are OCPA and McGuigan trying to turn the Oklahoma City district, known as one of the most liberal politically in the state, into adherents of the “conservative bastion” McGuigan set out to create when from 1990 to 2002 he was editorial page editor of the Daily Oklahoman, which is one of the most conservative newspapers in the nation? Could it happen? In his former job at what’s now called The Oklahoman, McGuigan promoted right-wing views that reflected the sometimes eccentric and archaic vision of its owner, the late Edward L. Gaylord.
As I posted earlier, McGuigan has billed his CapitolBeatOK.com site as “independent” and “nonpartisan” when, I argue, it often slants state Capitol coverage to the right and is supported by OCPA. Here’s how OCPA describes itself on its website:
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) was founded in 1993 as a public policy research organization focused primarily on state-level issues. OCPA has been part of an emerging, national trend of conservative, state-based think tanks. The founders, led by Dr. David Brown, envisioned an organization that was capable of affecting the state’s public policy similar to national level think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation.
So are midtown and downtown Oklahoma City residents essentially getting conservative Heritage Foundation-like “reporting” in what’s masquerading as a small, community newspaper that supposedly doesn’t have a political agenda? Think again before you pick up a copy of the newspaper or frequent the businesses of its advertisers. If you’re an elected Democratic politician in the newspaper’s area, I urge you to be careful how you deal with McGuigan. If people don’t know about McGuigan’s background, here’s the information.
An April 21 story in The City Sentinel–which probably is just a press release published verbatim-about an OCPA student essay writing contest is representative. The contest, the newspaper reported, asked students to write over this question: “How can limited government and free markets boost Oklahoma’s economy, both in urban and rural areas?” No bias there, right? The article then described OCPA as “nonpartisan,” which is preposterous. OCPA itself proudly claims its conservative tradition, and that’s fine
But is this the type of news coverage midtown Oklahoma City residents want? Do they want to read about how great the OCPA is and how it’s supporting a conservative worldview among students by paying them money? I live in the newspaper’s readership area, and I know no one personally in this area who wouldn’t see through a story like the OCPA essay story.
Here’s the simple argument: OCPA, McGuigan, CapitolBeatOK.com and The City Sentinel have a conservative agenda. Again, they’re free to advance their ideas, but McGuigan should not pretend otherwise, and people in the newspaper’s readership area should be informed of its conservative slant.
The City Sentinel recently published McGuigan’s two articles (here and here) on April 28 that appeared in CapitolBeatOK.com, which essentially present the right-wing slant on the retirement benefits of state workers and teachers. The right-wing here is trying to reduce retirement benefits for public employees even though the vast majority of state employee and teacher retirees don’t get a lot of money from their pensions.
In what appears be an advertisement in the newspaper’s April 21 issue, under the heading “Marlin Oil Corporation/Thinking about liberty . . ./and pension reform this year,” the text notes how McGuigan “of CapitolBeatOK has written several dozen articles on the state’s pension crisis.” It also points out an editorial in The Oklahoman and an article in an OCPA publication about the state pensions. It uses this material to try to support the idea that the “first steps should be to structure more rational and limited benefits.” This should especially concern state employees and teachers. Keep this in mind: This is what McGuigan, OCPA, The Oklahoman, Marlin Oil Corporation and conservative politicians want: “limited benefits” for teachers.
In the April 28 issue under the heading “Marlin Oil Corporation/Thinking about liberty . . ./federal debt, and pension debt” another advertisement cites McGuigan’s recent CapitolBeatOK.com post on retirement benefits for some retired politicians as a reason “for real pension reform in Oklahoma.” The advertisement also makes a point about cutting the federal debt.
In other words, the newspaper is running conservative political ads sponsored by an oil company that promote the OCPA-backed CapitolBeatOK.com site, The City Sentinel and the push for limiting retirement benefits for state employees and teachers. Who is writing the copy for these ads? Is it McGuigan? The newspaper’s advertising people? Someone from Marlin Oil Corporation?
The president of Marlin is Ralph Harvey, who has ties to OCPA and Oklahoma Christian University. Here’s a bio, which indicates he has been an OCPA trustee since 1999.
The City Sentinel, formerly the MidCity Advocate, has presented itself as a sort of folksy, small-town newspaper in the middle of a big city. Its motto is: “News for the heart of the city.” There’s nothing wrong with covering the smaller stuff that larger publications don’t cover. I have no problem with that. The problem is McGuigan has a clear track record as an ultra-conservative editorial writer and is currently connected with OCPA, but he’s trying to present himself as nonpartisan. And he’s writing longer conservative-slanted stories about state government for The City Sentinel.
So the even larger question is whether there are indirect or direct financial connections between OCPA, McGuigan and The City Sentinel. I think it’s fair to argue that because McGuigan is “contracted” by OCPA for his CapitolBeatOK.com site and because stories he either initially writes for that site or for The City Sentinel appear in both publications there’s at least an appearance that all are connected to some degree.
The Marlin Oil Coporation ads just reveal the connection even more. I’ve asked McGuigan about his financial arrangement, if any, with OPCA, but he won’t get back to me. If there’s no money involved, then he can just confirm that. No big deal. He can explain what “contracted” means.
The City Sentinel states that it’s “published every Wednesday by Frost Entertainment, LLC . . .” The Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office has two references to Frost Entertainment, LLC here and here. One lists the status of a company by the same name as “cancelled.” One lists the status of a company by the same name as “inactive.” Harry Meister is listed as the owner of the former MidCity Advocate in a Linkedin profile, but it’s unclear to me whether he still owns the paper. I don’t think it’s the case. I tried to find contact information for Meister but was unsuccessful. Of course, you might think it would be easy to determine who now currently owns a legal newspaper, but McGuigan will not respond to my questions. Here’s one of the recent emails I sent him:
Hi Patrick. I hope all goes well. I’ve now noted the connection and sharing of stories between your OCPA-contracted site, CapitolBeatOK.com and the Sentinel. I live in your newspaper’s readership area, but I’ve never really read it until now. I’m working on a piece that will discuss the connection between OCPA, the state’s right-wing think tank, CapitolBeatOK.com and the Sentinel. My question is this: Who currently owns the Sentinel? The Sentinel’s publishing information says it is published by Frost Entertainment, LLC. Does Frost Entertainment, LLC, own the newspaper? Who are the specific people who own and operate Frost Entertainment and/or the Sentinel? The Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office on its website shows the incorporation of a Frost Entertainment, LLC, has expired. Is it the same company? I owned a newspaper once in Oklahoma in the 1980s so I’m pretty sure a legal newspaper has to provide basic ownership information, and I also think that in the spirit of transparent journalism, a newspaper should feel obligated to provide this information immediately and without reservation. I only mention this because you didn’t respond to my previous email. I would appreciate it greatly if you would provide this information. I would also appreciate it if would respond to my previous email. Thanks.
I’ll be the first to admit that knowing or not knowing the ownership of Oklahoma City’s The City Sentinel is probably not a pressing world issue, but can you imagine an editor not responding to a simple question about the ownership of the legal newspaper for which he/she works? As I wrote in my last post about McGuigan’s work, I will gladly publish his answers to my questions if he ever provides them.
Again, if McGuigan believes the factual information-the information about Frost Entertainment, LLC, for example-I’ve presented about the newspaper is erroneous or outdated or if he disagrees with my opinions he can always contact me and clear the record. I will gladly and quickly correct any factual errors, and I will gladly debate him on the merits of my arguments. That’s how transparent journalism works, and that’s what “the heart of Oklahoma City” really needs.