Newsroom Shaken by Norcross Campaign Solicitation

Spokesman says solicitation was an accident; reporters worry they're being compromised.

This is what inevitably comes of having a political boss as a newspaper owner, perhaps: The newsrooms of the Inquirer and Daily News are again restless after some reporters received a campaign fund-raising letter from one of the paper’s co-owners, South Jersey political boss George Norcross.

Norcross’s spokesman, Daniel Fee, said the solicitation was inadvertent and wouldn’t happen again. Nonetheless, the Inquirer reports:

Newspaper Guild president Howard Gensler said the invitations on behalf of New Jersey State Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden), a South Jersey congressional candidate, nevertheless raised concerns.

“The Newspaper Guild objects to the use of company e-mail and company mail delivery for any political purposes,” he said. “It puts unfair pressure on our members to get invited to a political fund-raiser by one of our owners.”

Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member and ethicist at the Poynter Institute, a journalism organization, said that whether or not the invitations were sent intentionally, they could be perceived as a conflict for George Norcross, a prominent South Jersey Democratic leader.

“As a boss, you don’t ask your employees to contribute to a cause, because it could be seen as coercive,” she said. “It could also be seen as a not-so-subtle hint to reporters to skew their coverage.”

The hubub occurs, of course, as Norcross battles fellow co-owners Lewis Katz and Gerry Lenfest in court over the paper’s ownership going forward.