Fox News in print

by | Jul 13, 2015 | Editor's Blog, News | 12 comments

Earlier this month, the Wilmington Star-News ran an editorial praising the tax cuts that the General Assembly enacted. The editorial cited an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal by a writer for the conservative Heritage Foundation. Having read the Star-News for years, I was a little surprised by the editorial because the WSJ piece was pretty weak and the Star-News editorials were rarely that partisan.

I was going to point out that the original WSJ article and the op-ed both praise policies without looking at the actual impact on families or businesses in North Carolina. As I was looking for the editorial, I found the same piece in the the Shelby Star, New Bern Sun Times, Burlington Times-News and Jacksonville Daily News. Either these newspapers have a serious plagiarism problem or they’re shilling for somebody.

Some of the editorials, like the one in the Wilmington Star-News, use data tailored to the region. The New Bern Sun-Journal at least states, “A version of this editorial first appeared in the Jacksonville Daily News, a Halifax Media Group newspaper.” The Wilmington Star-News, though, claims authorship and that’s the implication of the other papers as well. It was published in the Shelby Star two days before it appeared in the Star-News so I doubt the Star-News editor wrote it.

The editorial also shows up on GOP legislative web sites across the state. Representatives Jeff Collins, Carl Ford, Rena Turner, Dean Arp, Michele Presnell, and Susan Martin all have websites that are virtually identical except for the number of the district they represent. All have links to the Shelby Star article.

The Halifax Media Group of Daytona Beach, FL, owns all of the newspapers. The editorial reads like it was written by a GOP operative or somebody from one of their allied interest groups. Maybe a suit from the Halifax Media Group wrote it, but it’s clearly partisan.

Today, most newspapers are owned by groups but they keep independent editorial boards. The state’s largest papers, the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer, are both owned by McClatchy. Both have their own editorial staff and occasionally disagree. If that’s not true for the Halifax Media Group papers, they should make that clear to their readers. Unsigned editorials are widely acknowledged to be the voice of the paper, not somebody else.

In small towns, editorials historically have reflected the values of the community. In this case, the editorials have no connection to the audience the papers serve. Instead, they’re just tools to spread propaganda either from a GOP front group or corporate shills from Florida. Somebody obviously coordinated their publication intending to deceive the readers. It’s sad to watch once proud newspapers become little more than Fox News in print.


  1. Russell Scott Day

    Small town papers were and are no better about crafting the news so as to perpetuate outright lies that benefit either their publishers or the advertisers. “Client” Lockouts are called strikes. Polluters in the small towns get a pass if they are advertisers. Sure there is Freedom of the Press, but you pay for your honesty. Editor gets fired or transferred when they offend the big money. Writer will never get another job. They will run you out of town. Writers are most vulnerable since they rarely get paid that much to begin with. It is better when as in Chicago there was the Sun-Times and the Tribune in competition. Mike Royko looked up from the street to see his apartment spout flames. It was a hell of a bomb. Ben Franklin even got Poor Richard to speak for him whenever there was truth to be told. Read between the lines. Now there are no lines even to read. Instead of paying writers to write lies they just pay them to shut up in advance.

  2. Sandy Hoyle

    The thing is, all of those papers – the Wilmington Star News, New Bern Sun Journal, Shelby Star, Burlington Times-News and Jacksonville Daily News – are owned by New Media Investment Group (NYSE:NEWM), which is the parent company of Gatehouse Media LLC, which no doubt owns the rights to content produced by all employees. Under the new ownership structure of “local” newspapers, we can’t assume a piece that first ran in Jacksonville was written by a staffer there, or that the copy editors who proofed the Star News did so in Wilmington. “Local” doesn’t mean what it once did.

  3. Andria

    Sandy Hoyle is exactly right. In regard to the legislative websites, those were created and run by Tim Moffitt’s business, if memory serves me right, and legislators pay his firm for content. Still, New Media Investment Group might have issues with their editorials being run in full on those sites – it’s a copyright issue. NMIG may be sharing editorials across their chain, but unless they have a business relationship with Moffitt (which would be news), then the legislative sites should not be running NMIG editorials in full.

  4. Vicki Boyer

    Good reporting.

  5. Fred

    Love liberals complaining about editorial pages.

  6. Lex

    Jacksonville, New Bern, Burlington, and Shelby all used to be owned by the Freedom chain, along with Gastonia and Kinston. (Wilmington used to be owned by The New York Times.) The Freedom papers, for two of whom I once worked, often shared editorials without attribution until they got called out on it. I see that the bad habits continue under different ownership.

    Guys, I understand that you might not have the bodies available to fill your editorial columns with your own, locally written stuff seven days a week. I get that. But if you’re going to use someone else’s stuff, attribute it. If a reporter had done what you did, he/she would be fired, and rightly so.

  7. Sandy Hoyle

    The Star-News hasn’t been locally owned since at least the 1970s when the NY Times bought it. In 2012, Halifax Media Group bought out the NY Times Regional Media Group. In January of this year (2015), New Media Investment Group Inc. (NYSE: NEWM) bought Halifax for $280 million, and in March, editorial page editor Tricia Vance was among the Star-News layoff casualties. New Media Investment Group Inc appears to be the new face of what was once considered “local news.” Read and weep:

    • Steve Roberts

      Sandy Hoyle. I’d like to follow up with you. Can you get me some contact into? Thanks, Steve

  8. Steve Roberts

    Thank you. What a terrible Our View that was Sunday before last. A sham of journalism. I have been further shocked to have not read a single letter to the editor remarking on that pathetic view from the Star News editorial board. No mention of education or the environment. False and superficial claims in regard to tax “reduction ” and “reduced” unemployment as the two measures of GOP success. An outrage. The Star News should apologize if it has any self respect. This reeked of the type of thing you have since researched and found out to be the case.

  9. Kirk House

    Did you mean to say, in your first paragraph, that you were *a* little surprised, rather than “little” surprised? Different meanings, of course; but the context indicates you meant to use the former. Just clarifying… thanks,

    • Thomas Mills

      Will fix it. Thanks.

  10. bmcguire2

    Great reporting on your part to uncover this. Scary!

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