The JT has the scoop on the mayor's "10-year plan," and it smacks of the behind-the-scenes agreement we reported last week. Dickert and the newspaper coordinated release of the plan in an "exclusive" package of stories that included an interview with the mayor, a sidebar interviewing two UW-Madison professors who haven't read the mayor's plan (more on that tomorrow), and then a verbatim reprinting of the plan itself. (Read the plan here.)
Oddly missing? Any sense of the heavy criticism Dickert has been taking for months about his overdue plan. Comments on the JT story filled that gap quickly.
The main story begins:
It's Monday afternoon and Mayor John Dickert has a few minutes between meetings to talk over lunch about the future of the city he's been elected to run.
On the menu - a leftover burrito and a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips from the vending machine two floors down from his office in City Hall.
On his mind - the 10-year plan he promised the voters in Racine. It's the plan he said would turn the city around. It's the plan he said would put the city back on top.
The plan, which Dickert released Tuesday night, hasn't seen the light of day, until now.The "news" of the article is buried. Dickert admitted he took too long to release the plan.
As soon as he took office, Dickert set to work and forgot what he'd told the voters while campaigning - that he'd give "the public the opportunity to benchmark me."
"I had told them that I was going to do that. That was the transparency of the campaign and of what I believed in this," Dickert said. "I just forgot about it. I just didn't think about the fact that the public deserves to benchmark me."
In hindsight, Dickert, who has been in office now for 15 months, said he waited too long to deliver the goods. The plan was something he promised. So here it is.It's worth noting the main article contained a significant factual error. Reporter Paul Sloth initially said Dickert had been in office for 9 months, when he's actually going on his 16th month in office. The error has been fixed in the JT's online story.
The Mayor's office answered our records request, filed last week, for a copy of his "10-year plan" at 7:07 p.m., roughly the time the JT article went to print at the special website: http://www.journaltimes.com/10yearplan
This entire production was scripted over a month ago when Dickert met with Journal Times Publisher Mark Lewis. The two agreed on the type of story would be written and when it would run. Both were adamant about the plan not appearing on RacinePost before it runs in the JT.
So, that's our daily newspaper and chief executive. The JT attempts to provide political cover for a mayor's failed campaign promise, and the mayor backs down to a publisher who's been in town for less than a year.
They deserve each other.
(As a side note, why did the JT ever reassign reporter Stephanie Jones off the City Hall beat? She was the reporter who got Dickert to admit his 10-year plan existed in his head. Shortly after, she was covering a new beat. Hard to believe she'd turn in a story about leftover burritos, but then again, maybe that's why she was reassigned.)
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