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©_2002_Authorized and_paid_for_by_the Committee_to_Elect Vivian_Houghton Attorney_General, 800_N_West_St., Wilmington_DE_19801



DATE: June 24. 2002


  • Vivian Houghton, Delaware Attorney General Candidate, Green Party 
    Phone - (302) 658-0158 or 652-0670 
    Cell - (302) 521-6110 
    Email - Houghton@delanet.com 

  • Robert Bohm, Coordinator
    Committee to Elect Vivian Houghton Attorney General 
    Phone - (302) 239-2572
    Fax - (302) 239-7391 
    Email - RebSalerno@msn.com 

Attorney General Campaign Accuses Delaware’s Largest Newspaper of Unethical Reporting 

The Vivian Houghton Campaign for Attorney General today accused Delaware’s largest newspaper of distorted reporting in a story published on Sunday, June 23, 2002. The story, which purported to summarize part of a diversity dispute among the candidates that began during a televised interview on June 16, was labeled by Houghton, the Green Party candidate, as an example of “journalists and editors acting as if they aren’t news reporters but news controllers.”

“Unfortunately,” Houghton added, “The News Journal’s methods of generating news are drawn not from the wealth of free-expression ideas that supposedly provide the foundation for the nation’s press, but rather from public relations manuals on how to “invent” reality as opposed to writing about it as it actually is.”

The source of Houghton’s frustration was an article, “Brady’s Minority Hire Record Taken to Task” which appeared in Sunday News Journal’s “Campaign Notes” section. In the article, journalist Molly Murray reported that “Attorney General Jane Brady and her Democratic challenger, Carl Schnee, are in the middle of a dispute over whether minority hiring has significantly improved within Brady’s tenure . . . It (the debate) started during a joint appearance on a community cable talk show.” Murray’s description of both the nature of the “diversity” discussion that arose during the debate and her implication that the debate focused entirely on the minority hiring issue was wrong on a number of accounts.

First, the cable show debate, which was hosted by Wilmington City Councilperson Norman Oliver, was not merely a joint appearance between Brady and Schnee. Vivian Houghton also participated in the debate as the Green Party candidate for attorney general. Not only did she participate but, judging from the number of unsolicited responses the campaign received afterwards, it was clear that many observers were enthused by a debate in which a third party candidate performed at least as well as, and maybe better, than the Republican and Democrat candidates and, in doing so, dictated much of the debate’s tone.

Second, regarding the diversity part of the debate, although Schnee mentioned the issue of hiring minorities, the discussion of that issue immediately moved in another direction when Houghton challenged Schnee about his hesitation to apply his so-called diversity thinking to issues beyond hiring. She pointed out that the race relations question is not merely a matter of implementing racially fair hiring practices, although that is certainly important, but is also a matter, especially for an Attorney General, of looking at how racism impacts on the criminal justice system’s decisions about who to arrest, try, imprison, and give the harshest sentences to.

Houghton gave two examples of race-related behavior within the criminal justice system: (1) the fact that the majority of persons on death row in Delaware are people of color in spite of the fact that they make up only a fragment of the population and (2) a comparison between the Grossberg-Peterson and Caliboso-Ocampo cases, both of which entailed the young parents of newborns killing those newborns. As most people in the state know, in the Grossberg-Peterson case the white couple received 2.5 and 2 years respectively whereas in the Caliboso-Ocampo case the Filipino couple received 5 year sentences in spite of the fact that they were more helpful to the police that were the two white New Jersey youths. As Houghton told Schnee, “That at least raises the question of racism” within the system. When later in the show Schnee responded to Houghton’s remarks about the death penalty, he agreed there were problems with how capital punishment was applied, but then whitewashed those problems by praising the status quo. “I think Delaware is unique,” he said. “We have good judges, great judges, a great public defenders system, as good as humans can make it.”

Such a comment is a nice bit of home team rah-rah, but the truth is that Schnee danced around the issue. The issue isn’t whether individual judges are decent people or public defenders work hard. The issue is this: that the majority of death-row inmates in Delaware are people of color. Not surprisingly, this fact is related to another fact: that for every white person arrested in Delaware, more than 9 African-Americans are arrested. The state is playing with fire by refusing to correct such problems, yet neither Schnee nor Brady possess the will to tackle them.

The News Journal’s reporter chose to act as if none of this happened. But it all did happen, and it was all newsworthy. Yet rather than covering the depth and breadth of the debate regarding racism within the criminal justice system, The News Journal instead chose to “play down” the fullness of the discussion and mislead its readers into thinking that (1) the debate was merely one about hiring practices and (2) that the debate occurred only between two candidates, where as in reality three candidates participated. Not only did three candidates participate, but Houghton’s participation aroused at least as much interest as the participation of the other two candidates. So, why did The News Journal choose to act as if Ms. Houghton was not there?

The Houghton Campaign hopes that for the remainder of the Attorney General’s race The News Journal’s reporters start prioritizing professionalism over their dismissiveness of ideas and campaigns against which they apparently have biases. When a monopoly like The News Journal misrepresents a political story in order to shape the news, this is a problem for all of us, whether we are politically “left” or “right” or “center” or “independent.”  The News Journal, in acting as if it is more important than the population it supposedly serves, sets itself up as justified in under-reporting or outright ignoring people’s causes and interests whenever it chooses to so. This is news control, not news delivery. For all our sakes, this type of reporting must end.