As most of you know by now, one of our favorite North Carolina political reporters, Laura Leslie (known as Radiogirl around these parts), is leaving WUNC-FM to be the "multimedia statehouse reporter" for WRAL-TV. From the discussion on her Facebook page, it's a great opportunity for her, and potentially for North Carolina as well.
Laura is one member of the Capital Press Corps who gets what life online is all about. She is also one of the few journalists who has dared to report on the full reach of Art Pope's Puppetshow and its toxic impact on democracy in North Carolina. In fact, she covered it so well last November, that Mr. Pope himself couldn't take the heat.
The report was a straightforward one about the role of money in politics. You can find the transcript here, but you'll want to pay special attention to the content that has been stricken and replaced about two-thirds of the way through the story.
It's unusual to see a story edited like this, with the original content still in place. And it's even more unusual when that original content is entirely and completely accurate. A simple search of the 990 report for the Civitas Institute alone (PDF, free registration required) shows that organization's budget exceed $1.1 million, all of which was spent "educating" North Carolina about the wisdom of electing Republicans. Add in three million in Pope funding for the John Schlock Foundation, and Laura's original report of "more than $2 million this year backing conservative groups" is shown to be a charitable underestimate of Mr. Pope's actual influence.
But even that isn't good enough for the Man Who Would Be King. According to Brent Wolfe of WUNC-FM:
Art Pope did contact us after the broadcast of the campaign finance story on November 1, 2010. He disputed that he had spent more than $2 million supporting the conservative groups listed in the story. After reviewing the campaign finance information available at the time, we clarified the web version of the story as indicated in the italicized text.
In other words, Art Pope got his knickers in a knot because a reporter dared to tell the truth about his toxic influence, so he threw his considerable weight around the WUNC newsroom. As a result, someone at the station changed a perfectly accurate story to accommodate his wishes.
Last year when I made a donation to WUNC-FM, I went out of my way to tell the station that that my contribution was specifically dedicated to the good work of Laura Leslie. She had the nerve and the knowledge to cover a small sliver of the corporate takeover of North Carolina democracy by Art Pope. Now that she's gone, so am I.
BlueNC is dedicated to making North Carolina a more progressive and prosperous state. If your intention is to disrupt this effort, please find somewhere else to express your opinions.