Critics are calling out Newsday for failing to disclose its ties to former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi in the paper’s coverage and endorsement of him in the Democratic primary as he runs for his old job.
Cablevision Systems Corp., which owns Long Island’s lone daily newspaper, has donated through its PAC and owners in this campaign cycle at least $200,000 to Suozzi, who Cablevision hired as a consultant to their MSG Varsity television channels shortly after he was unseated in 2009—facts Newsday omitted, sparking questions about the paper’s conflict of interest in reporting on the topic.
“It just looks creepy and it smells bad not to disclose,” says Ruth Hochberger, an editor in residence at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and New York University who teaches media ethics. “It raises suspicions unnecessarily about the purity of their endorsement or their coverage. I’m not saying it’s impure. It just doesn’t look good.”
Newsday’s ethics were also questioned last month when it failed to disclose Cablevision’s political donations while reporting on the same practices of their parent company’s owners’ rivals in their multi-million-dollar bid to rebuild Nassau Coliseum. The paper also failed to mention another nearly $200,000 of campaign donations their parent company made to Suozzi’s political aspirations since 2006.
Taking Newsday to task for not disclosing their Suozzi ties in an editorial of her own Monday was Jaci Clement, executive director of the nonprofit Fair Media Council, a local media watchdog.
“What is net result of Newsday‘s heavy handedness?” she wrote. “The reader is now forced to question the validity of the race as a whole, and is left to wonder if the candidates’ accomplishments—all of the candidates, not just Suozzi’s—reported and editorialized by Newsday are fair, just and in the best interest of the public.”
Adam Haber, a Roslyn school board member who challenged Suozzi to the Democratic primary Tuesday, says the relationship Suozzi has with LI’s largest newspaper is indicative of the machine politics he’s trying to break as an outsider.
“During the closing statement he reads the endorsement from the same people who hired him and gave him money,” he tells the Press between last-minute campaigning. “That’s like my mother endorsing me…of course it’s going to be glowing!”
Suozzi’s campaign spokesman declined to comment, but the ex-county exec touted the endorsement three times when he debated Haber last week on News12 Long Island, which is also owned by Cablevision and hasn’t disclosed their parent company’s ties to Suozzi, either.
Newsday spokesman Paul Fleishman also declined to comment.