Patriot-News M.E. says column about Romney vote was ‘a hard sell’

Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News Managing Editor Mike Feeley tells Poynter in an email that political writer Robert Vickers “wanted readers to see how someone was deliberating this important decision” when he wrote a column explaining why he’d decided to vote for Mitt Romney.

“Robert’s immediate editor supported his decision but told Robert he knew it would be a hard sell,” Feeley writes. “Together, they discussed and worked on the column over several weeks. Robert himself went back and forth.”

Our initial response was no. Our opinion remained that way for some time. Eventually, we supported his decision.

We demand transparency on how public officials do their job and spend taxpayer money. And I like the idea of reflecting that same kind of transparency and accountability in such an important national debate.

Vickers is “primarily a columnist,” Feeley writes, and the paper’s management doesn’t “anticipate problems” from his disclosure in terms of how he’ll be deployed in the future. “If conflicts come up, we will weigh them case by case,” Feeley writes.

In an online chat today, Vickers said he would be staying on at the paper after it reduces print frequency and staff next year. He also said he felt “the journalistic/political landscape has changed and I reckon this is a step toward existing in that landscape.”

“In the end, it’s about wanting to have an honest, out-in-the-open conversation with our readers. We applaud his daring initiative,” Feeley writes in the email.

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