Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Failed to Report Important Facts about GE

Former Wauwatosa Mayor Versus Current CEO of GE Healthcare

Last week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a piece written by Lee Bergquist entitled "Candidates for Governor Spar over Job Creation".  In the article, reporter Lee Bergquist summarizes a recent "dust-up" between Theresa Estness and Scott Walker concerning his role in attracting GE Healthcare to the Milwaukee County Research Park in Wauwatosa.  Berquist says,

"One recent dust-up involves Walker's talk of his help in landing GE Healthcare's $85 million headquarters in the Milwaukee County Research Park in Wauwatosa in 2004. But the former mayor of Wauwatosa said Walker's part in the project is overblown. "That's a good piece of revisionist history," said Theresa M. Estness, who was mayor of Wauwatosa from 2000 to 2008."

It's important to note that Bergquist included the criticisms of Theresa Estness in his piece.  Why?  Presumably because the opinion of a former Wauwatosa mayor is relevant to moving GE Headquarters to a site in Wauwatosa.  What is not in Berquist's article is a quote from Joe Hogan, the CEO of GE Healthcare, that describes Scott Walker as a "huge help" in picking the Wauwatosa site.  When it concerns what sort of role Walker played in attracting GE Healthcare to Milwaukee County, there is no greater authority than the CEO of GE Healthcare.  So why wasn't his quote included in Journal Sentinel's artricle?

Interestingly, Theresa Estness (the same mayor who backed down to thug Michael McGee) is described as a neutral and objective observer by Bergquist.  Perhaps this was the reason she was included in the article.  What is clear, however, is that Bergquist made certain the reader knew that Estness was a political independent with no axe to grind agaisnt Walker.  But this is very much in dispute for the simple fact that the more accolades Walker receives for creating 2,000 jobs, the less attention Estness gets for her involvement in the deal. 

Journalistic Standards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Concerning journalistic standards, it's important to ask why the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel excluded Hogan's statement about Walker.  The reason a reporter would include Estness' quote in their piece should be the very same reason to use Hogan's quote as well - it's  called relevance.  Hogan, being the CEO of GE Healthcare, is the preeminent authority on all things GE Healthcare, which includes what sort of role Walker played in helping GE relocate their Headquarters.

Consider this for a moment.  Figuring out what is relevant for a story is the job of a good journalist.  This can present a lot of gray area for journalists, but not in this case since Hogan's commentary was obviously relevant.  But let's assume for the moment that Hogan's remarks were not relevant to the story.  Wouldn't a good journalist include it in the story for the sake of being fair and balanced?  By fair, I mean fair to Walker as a public official and as a candidate. And by balanced, I mean presenting both sides of the argument for the Journal Sentinel's general readership.

The next important question to ask is what on earth is going on over at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel?  The consumer who pays for the print version of this paper is entitled to pertinent information and a balanced perspective, both of which was missing in this story.  What is even more disturbing is that Bergquist admits in his story that the Walker campaign released "a flurry of documents and news stories" showing that Walker was an important player.  More specifically, the Walker camp provided them with information showing what the CEO of GE said about the level of Walker's cooperation with GE.  And yet they still refused to include it in their story!  So is there really an excuse for MJS at this point?

The Role that Scott Walker Played in Getting GE Healthcare into Milwaukee County

Another good question to consider is why Hogan thought Walker played a "huge" role in bringing GE Healthcare to Milwaukee County?  There are two issues at play here.  First, and most importantly, Walker signed off on a $27 million incentive package that paid for GE's parking structure, a second mortgage loan, and the parcel of land that GE currently uses.  According to a former mayor of Wauwatosa (who apparently wants a little more credit for her role with GE), the County's $27 million lending capacity was a bit "overblown".  But the $27 million was a "huge" matter to the CEO Joe Hogan who wanted the benefit of a larger entity guaranteeing nearly $30 million in government bonds.

And second, there are some serious benefits to having a colossal company like GE Healthcare locate its "global" headquarters near a well-managed "international" airport.  And in terms of it being "well managed", there is quite a bit of evidence showing that Walker has done an excellent job managing the airport.

Walker has used the weight of Milwaukee County to invest nearly $200 million into the airport allowing them the ability to charge airline companies less to locate their businesses at the Mitchell Airport.  Charging airlines less has led to cheaper airfares at Mitchell, which then charges less for their airfares - out-beating 75 other airports in the nation.  As an natural outcrop of reduced pricing, Mitchell International Airport continues to break passenger records month after month - even during what we call a "Great Recession".  Not only will passengers benefit from major renovations and cheaper fares, but the global Headquarters of GE Healthcare will benefit greatly as well.  This is what we call a symbiotic relationship.  

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