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Asheville Citizen-Times posts ‘clarification,’ apology for political insert in Wednesday newspaper

| November 27, 2013 | Comments (43)

the_raleigh_digest_2013A 48-page tab-sized insert titled The Raleigh Digest, inserted in the Wednesday edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times, has some readers upset about the political content of the publication. The newspaper offered the following clarification and apology in response:

The “Raleigh Digest” in the Wednesday, Nov. 27, print edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times is a PAID ADVERTISING insert. It was NOT clearly labeled PAID ADVERTISEMENT. We at the Citizen-Times apologize for any confusion this has created.

The expressed views and entire content were not produced by the newspaper, and have no affiliation to the Asheville Citizen-Times, or Gannett Co.

Our paid and political advertising policies, as well as internal controls, are under immediate review. To ensure this does not happen in the future, we will update and enhance these policies for advertiser compliance and internal enforcement.the_raleigh_digest_2_2013

The Raleigh Digest includes articles on everything from controversial issues such as changes to the state’s election system, tax reform and gun rights to the Rev. Billy Graham, who was honored by the N.C. General Assembly this year. The stories present the action taken by the Republican-controlled General Assembly all in a positive light. It lists its website as theraleighdigest.com, which is a site that offers a pdf of the publication. A blurb on the inside front page lists the publication’s editor as James Smith of InTouchNC LLC at 1854 Hendersonville Road. That’s a company owned by Republican N.C. Rep. Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County, according to Mountain Xpress.

Comments like this, from a reader named Kevin, were flying Wednesday morning:

Reminiscent of cheer leading from political appointees at the Cultural Resources office recently. No indication of who was publishing…I left it at the diner table with the ad inserts. As I paid my bill, I noticed the guy at the other table pick it up to read. I should have trashed it. I suppose this may be what we can look forward to from ACT, restaurant press releases, sensationalized weather, Billy Graham Idolatry and Wing Nut political inserts. I have tried to cancel my subscription to the ACT but it keeps on coming. I am conflicted, I have always enjoyed a paper in the morning, why does it have to be so insulting to my intelligence and sense of fairness. ACT and the publishers of this insert have no concept of a larger social contract that would prevent them from ever considering such BULL SHIT! Call the ACT publisher and complain Gordon; I will. Even on our Montford list serve you have to sign your posts, oh yeah but we are commies.

And this from Beth:

You should print this retraction on the front page tomorrow if you have a shred of integrity as journalists and news leaders. Shameful that you would do Moffitt’s bidding for him.

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Category: Asheville News, Asheville politics

About Jason Sandford: Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville. View author profile.

Comments (43)

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  1. [...] Citizen-Times published an apology, noting that the insert was not properly labeled as paid advertisement. But in his letter, West [...]

  2. Davyne Dial says:

    Funny how the obvious politically biased “reporting” that supports the local power structure slips by with not a word of protestation. Just sayin.

  3. George Greene says:

    YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!
    If they object to the paper “doing Moffitt’s bidding for him” then LET THEM RAISE SOME MONEY and pay the paper TO RUN A REBUTTAL INSERT!

    The only problem (of course) will be that the liberal response will be clearly & loudly PRE-LABELED as “political” and may therefore get trashed by a lot more people, while the conservative one ALREADY *SNUCK* by as NOT so clearly labeled. Double-standard as usual.

    They can afford to own the media organs. We can’t.

  4. Pete Kaliner says:

    … full of sound and fury, signifying nothing…

    The simplest (and most obvious) explanation is exactly what the AC-T said: It was an oversight in labeling it as a paid political advertisement. As Jason notes, this is made more likely by the separate remote operations.

    It appears the AC-T didn’t even print the insert. Did they just put it inside the paper and deliver it?

    I can see how easily a “Paid Advertisement” label would get overlooked.

    The newspaper realizes no benefit by failing to put the disclaimer on the insert. If anything, they suffer more by NOT doing it. Look at the current public reaction.

    But to conspiracy theorists, everything is evidence of the conspiracy – even a lack of evidence.

    I suspect what is really at the core of the accusation is a belief that the average reader of the AC-T is stupid and won’t recognize a GOP hagiography unless it bears the disclaimer.

    In many of the complaints over this I keep hearing, essentially: “Someone must tell the readers that everything in the Raleigh Digest is a lie!”

    And I guess the disclaimer is supposed to do that.

    Because, honestly, some folks are in massive hysterics over a very small matter.

    The AC-T did what was necessary after it realized the omission. It apologized, examined its process, and corrected the record.

    Heck, maybe the AC-T omitted the disclaimer ON PURPOSE so as to draw more attention to the nefarious publication’s authorship?

    How’s that for a conspiracy theory?

    Dun dun DUUUUNNNN!!!

    • Nate says:

      I’d say that any “conspiracy theorizing” about this matter has more to do with where the money really came from, and whether or not Moffitt’s company is doing anything that violates campaign financing regulations, than it does with the action of the ACT itself. Pretty much everyone recognizes that the ACT is an understaffed, financially desperate organization and I think most people would accept that this was an oversight on their part rather than a deliberate attempt to deceive.

      What do you think of Tim Moffitt’s assertion that this is *not* paid political advertising, but actually “a new competitor in the news market”? Given that statement, I wonder if the ACT is having any second thoughts about distributing it now . . .

      • Pete Kaliner says:

        Nate,
        You wrote:
        “I’d say that any “conspiracy theorizing” about this matter has more to do with where the money really came from, and whether or not Moffitt’s company is doing anything that violates campaign financing regulations, than it does with the action of the ACT itself.”

        I’m not clear on what you’re talking about. Moffitt told WLOS that “he doesn’t write the articles, but he does pay the bills.” (Read More at: http://www.wlos.com/shared/news/features/top-stories/stories/wlos_newspaper-controversy-14199.shtml)
        Are you saying he shouldn’t be allowed to pay for advertising? Or are you saying that he should be allowed to pay for this advertising as long as it is clearly labeled as such? The latter argument I already addressed.

        ==============
        You wrote:
        “What do you think of Tim Moffitt’s assertion that this is *not* paid political advertising, but actually “a new competitor in the news market”? Given that statement, I wonder if the ACT is having any second thoughts about distributing it now . . .”

        I disagree with Moffitt’s characterization that it’s not a paid advertisement because that’s exactly how the AC-T describes it. If AC-T has a distribution deal with the RD, however, then that would be different (much like the Tribune Papers distribute the Carolina Journal).
        Still, we don’t know the contractual terms between the two entities.

        • Nate says:

          Tim Moffitt should absolutely be allowed to pay for advertising, but wouldn’t you say it’s a little bit unclear what exactly he’s advertising for here? How is printing and widely distributing a political newsletter that doesn’t have his name on it “advertising” in any traditional sense of the word? What makes me curious is how a small, for-profit business justifies spending tens of thousands of dollars (a guess, but not an outrageous one) on a project that doesn’t bring in any actual income. I’m taking it as a given that he’s too smart to use campaign or constituent-outreach funds on something like this . . .

      • “I’d say that any “conspiracy theorizing” about this matter has more to do with where the money really came from…”

        It comes from other GOP reps:

        “Rep. Tim Moffitt of Asheville recently started a new business, and Patrick Gannon of The Insider reports that his customers so far are fellow House Republicans spending campaign funds.”

        http://www.mountainx.com/article/49498/Moffitts-new-business-popular-with-GOP-colleagues-critics-question-ethics-legality

        • Nate says:

          Those reps were paying Moffitt to design web sites or newsletter or other actual products to use to communicate with their constituents. He may be using the proceeds from their business to fund this other venture, but I’m guessing that using actual campaign funds would require a lot more labeling and reporting.

          • It’s my understanding that state reps can use their campaign funds to pay for expenses related to being in office, like monthly fees to maintain constituent websites, and that this is the revenue stream that Moffitt has used to fund the Raleigh Digest. I expect that someone is looking into whether any of this violates the rules in any way, but that’s as much as I know about it.

    • Pete you’re avoiding the point. This isn’t about AC-T’s behavior, it’s Representative Moffitt claiming that he & his GOP donor-funded media shop should be accorded the status of a credible, objective news source (without attribution).

      “First, this is not paid political advertising, this is a new competitor in the news market.”

      http://www.wlos.com/shared/news/features/top-stories/stories/wlos_newspaper-controversy-14199.shtml

      Calling your re-election campaign literature “news” is pretty skeevy. Even you have to admit that.

      He snuck this one into his constituents homes on the AC-T’s access, violating the trust on both sides. How will he camouflage the propaganda next?

      • Pete Kaliner says:

        Barry,

        You wrote:
        “Pete you’re avoiding the point. This isn’t about AC-T’s behavior, it’s Representative Moffitt claiming that he & his GOP donor-funded media shop should be accorded the status of a credible, objective news source (without attribution).”

        I’ve actually addressed the point. The anger I’ve seen is over the fact that the RD wasn’t labeled as a paid advertisement. That’s the core issue. Had it been labeled as such, no one could say it’s masquerading as a “real news” publication.
        But NOT labeling it as such means people believed it to be (as you state) a “credible, objective news source.”
        Essentially, the RD derived whatever credibility you attach to the AC-T by being delivered as an insert AND not being labeled as a paid advertisement.

        As a stand-alone publication, the RD deserves whatever credibility you give it on it’s own merits. If you disagree with the content & analysis, then you don’t think it’s credible. This is true for virtually all publications about politics.

        Again, you seem to be angry that the AC-T didn’t point out in advance that the RD is not credible. And this is the labeling issue… which I addressed in my original post.

        ===================
        You wrote:
        “First, this is not paid political advertising, this is a new competitor in the news market.”
        http://www.wlos.com/shared/news/features/top-stories/stories/wlos_newspaper-controversy-14199.shtml
        Calling your re-election campaign literature “news” is pretty skeevy. Even you have to admit that.
        He snuck this one into his constituents homes on the AC-T’s access, violating the trust on both sides. How will he camouflage the propaganda next?”

        As I stated to Nate above, I disagree with the characterization of the insert because it is not described as such by the AC-T.
        I view the publication as nothing more or less than a newsletter.
        I’ve seen them from candidates, organizations, and campaigns for decades. This is not new.
        Indeed, it’s very similar to an elected official contributing and operating a blog.
        As for your characterization that Moffitt “snuck” it into the AC-T, I’d say that’s a tad hysterical. The paper itself admits it failed to apply the correct label. It doesn’t appear it got “snuck” past anyone. Now, if the paper offers some new details on what happened, I’d be happy to change my opinion.
        But, as I stated before, I suspect the simplest explanation is the one given by the AC-T… and that doesn’t fit your “snuck in” narrative.

        • “The anger I’ve seen is over the fact that the RD wasn’t labeled as a paid advertisement.”

          That was the first round of anger. Now, Rep. Moffitt doubles down & asserts that, from his perspective, this wasn’t an accident or a mistake – his RD isn’t a “paid advertisement”, it’s “news”.

          “I view the publication as nothing more or less than a newsletter.
          I’ve seen them from candidates, organizations, and campaigns for decades. This is not new.”

          Except in those instances, I’ll bet the candidate’s name or the fact that it was clearly coming from a biased perspective was right up front. This thing doesn’t have Tim Moffitt’s name or the fact that it was paid for with GOP political contributions anywhere on it. He’s unapologetic about that. We will see more well-funded attempts to mislead the voters – count on it.

  5. “First, this is not paid political advertising, this is a new competitor in the news market.” Tim Moffitt

    http://www.wlos.com/shared/news/features/top-stories/stories/wlos_newspaper-controversy-14199.shtml

    Rep. Moffitt is actually holding himself up as an impartial, objective news source. He’s an elected official, preparing to run for re-election, and he wants to disseminate publications that “look” like news, but are actually partisan spin intended to advance his political viewpoint, all without having his name anywhere on them.

    There’s a word for a system where government officials exercise direct control of the news, and it ain’t pretty.

    • Scott says:

      “There’s a word for a system where government officials exercise direct control of the news, and it ain’t pretty”.

      Man, you are right about that. We’re seeing it first hand with the main stream media being nothing more than an extension of the Obama administration. They’ve sold this country right down the river.

      • Thomas Helms says:

        You seriously believe the main stream media, all owned by billionaires is an extension of this administration? Fox, WSJ, Washington Times, GE? Even the Washington Post and NYT are only liberal on the editorial pages. I really do find the “liberal media” line to be very humorous..and silly. There is no liberal media only liberal writers that are sprinkled into the conservative, billionaire owned press.

        • Scott says:

          “You seriously believe the main stream media, all owned by billionaires is an extension of this administration?”

          Absolutely! ABC, NBC, & CBS never even vetted this president. They covered his ass and got him elected. Why? Because we needed to have a black president. Let’s not forget that the top 1% in the country do well under big government. It’s the middle and lower classes that get the shaft. And we’re riding the big one now.

    • George Greene says:

      It absolutely WAS paid political advertising in the context of its appearance in the Asheville Citizen-Times. They would NOT have inserted it IF he had not PAID them.

  6. Dave says:

    cmnonnn, nobody reads the paper anymore

  7. yep says:

    Just when you thought the AC-T couldn’t get any worse…the only upside is that no one cares enough about their publication to take them, or the insert, seriously. Not surprised if Mountain Xpress fails to report on it. Do they even do journalism anymore? I thought they were simply a weekly ad supplement for local businesses.

  8. Jonathan Wainscott says:

    Oh please. The Citizen Times did plenty for Gordon and Cecil. It’s not a left or right wing rag. It’s dying rentap tool of the status quo. Mark Barrett is in Cecil’s pocket.

  9. Stewart says:

    Was this really an oversight, or was it part of the deal? Maybe the ever so sleazy RepubliKKKlan party leaders insisted that this be couched as news and the AC-T took the money and ran?

  10. Puma says:

    If it was a liberal insert I wonder how many complaints there would have been…like zero, maybe.

    • NFB says:

      There would have been quite a few complaints from teabaggers and other flat earthers about the “liberal bias” of the ACT. An absurd charge this incident should put to rest.

  11. Dmitri Raveninoff says:

    Gotta say I’m super disappointed regarding the media coverage of this.

    The Citizen-Times published a retraction, but no mention that the ad, parading as journalism, was paid for & created by Tim Moffitt.

    Jake Frankel from the MX said today that they won’t be covering the matter. Even though there is a (thinly) veiled threat from Moffitt within his little manifesto. Check out the sidebar graphic on page 44. Coincidence that the Asheville City Hall is pictured? https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/108366839/threat.JPG

    Thanks to Ashvegas & Blog Asheville for getting the word out about this. Local media is dying folks. I’m hoping someone has the cojones to fill the void.

  12. The fact that it’s in the same font and design layout as Tim’s website, and the whole damn thing is featured on HIS front page might have been a clue.

    http://www.nchouse116.com

    And Chuck’s

    http://www.nchouse117.com

    And Nathan’s

    http://www.nchouse115.com

    Gee, it almost looks like their outreach to their constituents is created and controlled by Tim Moffitt.

  13. Tim Peck says:

    “Moffit’s company gets a contract to print materials”

    Tell us more about that contract.

    And that vague and shady nonprofit. Is this the one:

    http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/04/13/2822974/dome-rep-tim-moffitts-new-venture.html

    • Nate says:

      So what you’re saying is that this publication was just put out by Moffit’s for-profit business, with a fake price tag on the front that no one will ever charge or pay, without any funding from outside sources? Doesn’t sound like a very good business plan to me!

      If, like the web sites and newsletters described in the article you linked, this publication was paid for by campaign funds or otherwise by sitting legislators or candidates, the fact that it is not labeled as such in any way would probably be a criminal violation. I accept it as given that Moffit is too smart for that, and therefore I’m assuming that the money to print this came from one of the vague, ideological slush funds that now underwrites this kind of activity. If you have any better information, please feel free to share it, but pointing out the fact that Moffitt makes a profit off of printing these materials doesn’t seem to address the issue even a little bit.

    • luther blissett says:

      “Tell us more about that contract.”

      Why don’t you tell us, Peck, given that it’s your gob that does the moving whenever Moffitt wants to speak?

  14. Murphy says:

    1854 Hendersonville Road is a UPS Store with rentable mailboxes …

  15. orlovsky says:

    No one will see it. Print is dead.

  16. Jennifer S. says:

    Just not convinced that there were no red flags from the publisher or ad department to publish this insert with no mention of it being a paid ad. Better to take the money and run the apology?

    • Jennifer, I agree, although I can see how this could have fallen through the cracks with all the printing and inserting work done now in Greenville, S.C.

    • Robert says:

      I agree also. They saw that slick publication stinking of big bucks (Art Pope’s?) and thought “My Gawd, this crummy newspaper hasn’t seen this kind of money in a long time!” As part of their “retraction” the ACT should reveal just how much money they made off this charade. Better still if they are really contrite, give it to Manna Foodbank or some other organization trying to help the people the state Republicans are trying to starve to death.

  17. Tim Peck says:

    Hmm. A very informative publication I like it.

  18. Nate says:

    Gotta love that wingnut welfare machine . . . Moffit’s company gets a contract to print materials from a vague and shady non-profit that supporting the exact same agenda items that Moffit is promoting in the Legislature. Why is a sitting legislator getting paid to promote political speech not an ethics violation, exactly?

    • Murphy says:

      Who says he “got a contract” … according to his smug, shit eating grinned, comments on WLOS he is entirely responsible for the “publication”.

      In one sentence he claims that he “doesn’t write the articles” (notice the tense), but “does pay the bills” … and in the next, claims “it’s a straight-forward explanation of what he believes are the facts behind laws passed by the GOP controlled legislature.”

      http://www.wlos.com/shared/news/features/top-stories/stories/wlos_newspaper-controversy-14199.shtml

      • Nate says:

        Okay, I heard him say it, but I’m still not sure I believe it. InTouchNC is a *business*. How exactly does one make a profit by printing and giving away a newspaper that includes no advertising? Are they going to claim that this is just a sample issue, and they’ll be charging for subscriptions in the future? If that’s the case, why wasn’t there any information about how to receive future issues?

  19. Murphy says:

    It wasn’t in the papers delivered in my neck of the woods…

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