Staff

Veteran journalist Rowland joins Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity

By
Monday, March 26th, 2018

Veteran editor and journalist Brett Rowland has joined Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity to serve as editor of its Illinois-based news operation.

Rowland most recently served as the top editor of the Northwest Herald, a daily newspaper in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. Before that, he served as news editor of the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb and editor of the Northwest Herald’s daily business section and quarterly business journal.

Rowland will oversee statehouse coverage for Illinois News Network (ILNews.org) and Illinois Radio Network.

“Brett is a sharp, thoughtful and hard-working contemporary editor who has demonstrated over the years that he makes the journalists on his teams better,” Franklin Center President Chris Krug said. “He’s a great fit for our Watchdog.org project and our media properties in Illinois. We’re excited to have him aboard, and look forward to what he and his team will accomplish long into the future.”

Rowland will report to Dan McCaleb, editor of Watchdog.org, INN’s parent news organization. Franklin Center’s Watchdog.org project is a non-profit, non-partisan journalism initiative to improve the accuracy, balance and quality of statehouse news reporting across the United States.

“We’re excited to have Brett join our talented team of professional journalists who are focused on keeping government officials honest, particularly when it comes to spending taxpayer money,” McCaleb said. “Brett’s 10-plus years experience in legacy media adds depth to our already strong team. He will help our Illinois-based reporters remain laser-focused on the very serious issues being worked on at the capitol and across the state.”

INN delivered statehouse coverage to 139 media partners across Illinois in 2017. ILNews.org published nearly 1,600 news stories in 2017.

“I’m excited to join a great team focused on covering issues that matter to taxpayers throughout the Illinois,” Rowland said.

Rowland lives in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago with his wife and their two sons.

Michael Demkovich, Director of Digital Strategy

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Michael Demkovich is the Director of Digital Strategy at the Franklin Center. In this capacity, he develops and executes a digital marketing plan for Franklin and oversees publication, dissemination and measurement of paid and owned digital media.

Danielle Behler, Director of Development

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Danielle Behler is the Director of Development for the Franklin Center. In this leadership role, Danielle helps individuals achieve their philanthropic goals of creating non-partisan journalism focused on restoring oversight of state governments and holding politicians and bureaucrats at all levels accountable for their handling of taxpayer dollars.

She brings over 10 years of non-profit, public-policy fundraising experience to the Franklin Center. She has built development programs from the ground up, as well as taken established organizations to the next level. Some of these groups include the Goldwater Institute, Young America’s Foundation, and most recently, FreedomWorks.

Prior to beginning her development career, a native of Alabama, Danielle served in the office of former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions for nearly four years. She received her B.S. in Political Science from Auburn University.

Danielle resides in Alexandria, Virginia where she enjoys traveling, cooking, wine tasting and spinning on her Peloton.

Dan McCaleb, News Director

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Dan McCaleb is a veteran editor and has worked in journalism for more than 25 years. Most recently, McCaleb served as editorial director of Shaw Media and the top editor of the award-winning Northwest Herald in suburban McHenry County.

Chris Krug, President

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Chris Krug brings more than 25 years of award-winning media experience to INN. He is the former publisher of the suburban Chicago Pioneer Press newspaper chain, and was also vice president for Shaw Suburban Media and a deputy editor at the Denver Post.

Opinion: Trump hunt begs question: What is the media’s business?

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

by Chris Krug, president of Franklin Center and publisher of Watchdog.org

Supporters said all along that President Donald Trump would be good for American business.

But many didn’t anticipate that the American media business stood to benefit from his presidency.

Currently the greatest love-hate relationship in U.S. politics, the mainstream and legacy media revels in Trump’s “fake news” claims. While they denounce his behavior publicly, reporters draw strength from Trump’s insults and use it as fuel to power their self-righteous crusade to shame the president.

They wear each hostile tweet as a badge of honor and consider it confirmation they are doing God’s work.

Trump has worked the media masterfully. He didn’t need the legacy media’s support or endorsement when he campaigned for president, and he doesn’t need them now. They are a distraction, and Trump is working them.

Historically, American media have pursued a noble mission to serve the public and keep the government in check. But that mission falls on deaf ears when the watchdogs become attack dogs. We have reached that point.

When does pursuing a story become crafting a narrative with an obvious political agenda? It starts with basic editorial decision-making. And according to the Media Research Center’s recent study, network news has decided that Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election outweighs other critical issues such as health care, tax reform, and jobs. It feels almost as if it was pulled from a season of Netflix’s “House of Cards” – only not as clever.

And then there’s CNN, the cable news network that continues to beat the Russia drum even after there is no new evidence or information to report. Their desperation to find the smoking gun resulted in the retraction of a Russia-related story and the resignation of three staffers last week.

The driver? Not truth. No, it was red meat for the left; creation of controversy. We’ll wait for the next public opinion poll, but I think it’s safe to say that the Russia investigation is not at the top of everyday Americans’ priority list.

The videos released by conservative journalist James O’Keefe, known for undercover sting operations, show CNN producers admitting that the Trump-Russia investigation is overhyped for enhanced ratings. They need something they can own to differentiate themselves from other cable-news channels. And so the love-hate cycle continues.

Although this epic rivalry can be comical at times, it’s sad to look behind the curtain and realize that Big Media has its interests too – and it doesn’t always include the American public.

For media to be credible – truly credible – it must report independently verified facts. It must seek the truth, and report with integrity. It must distill facts and straight news from opinions and insights gleaned from perceptions of original reporting.

The criteria for whether a story is good to air or publish should be somewhat higher than a corporate lawyer’s opinion on the likelihood that it opens up the organization to a lawsuit.

The lone criteria should be truth and public interest. Often, it’s not.

Television news, in particular that which appears on 24-hour cable cycle, is rife with opinion. Understandably so: There simply are not enough resources on any network or cable channel to fulfill a mission of 365-day news content that would be interesting enough to hold an audience’s attention. Without commentary, every network would resort to the C-SPAN model of airing raw footage of endless committee meetings.

Opinion is less expensive than actual reporting, and is in endless supply. It is far more economical to bring in a person from a studio in Washington, D.C., than it would be to send a correspondent and crew to Moscow. That’s a business decision that saves media brands money and costs taxpayers in reliable information.

So what is passed off as straight news often is a new take of an opinion. And with each passing “hot take,” the message is pushed further and further away from the truth.

Why does it matter? Can’t people have an opinion on the news?

Certainly. This is America, and our speech is protected constitutionally. But it matters that the continuous news cycle rarely differentiates between straight news and opinion. The content is often indistinguishable. Context is rarely offered. Oftentimes, the crawl beneath the commentary is in clear conflict. The opinion often overwhelms the core of the story.

The result is that the news itself – the facts, the verification, the story, and the truth – has been discarded in favor of a take on the news.

A controversial or salacious quote often makes a better headline than the old journalism standby of who, what, where, when, and why. Just look at the mainstream media’s obsession with President Trump’s recent tweet about Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, or the video he posted of an old WWE appearance where Trump punches out a man with a CNN logo superimposed on his face. The exaggerated response gives President Trump an even greater villain to demonize and justification for controversial actions such as banning cameras from the White House press briefings. Veering from the facts lowers the public perception and credibility of media as a whole. It threatens our democracy.

So much so that it must be next to impossible for Americans to understand the media’s job, or what business we’re in anymore.

  • Chris Krug is president of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.
  • Also posted on Watchdog.org here.

Spencer Schwartz, Outreach and Communications Intern

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Spencer HeadshotIn his last semester of law school, Spencer has joined the Franklin Center as an intern working closely with the communications and marketing teams.  A native Memphian who has studied and worked in a number of states, he is now perched in Washington D.C. to help the Franklin Center in its mission to keep a watchful gaze on government activity.

Spencer has been active in politics most of his life and has yet to find a political job he disliked.  During his time at Florida State University, he created student organizations that not only educated students through a lecture series but also engaged them through activism.  After receiving his political science degree, Spencer spent time in the field as an organizer and later returned to school in Mississippi to earn his law degree–and start more student organizations.

Though Spencer’s time as an intern at the Franklin Center is brief, our newest intern hopes to leave the organization with a lasting contribution to its mission.

Mary Ellen Beatty, Chief of Staff

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

_DSC5794Mary Ellen Beatty is Chief of Staff at the Franklin Center, responsible for making sure that our departments work together seamlessly to raise support, engage in watchdog journalism, and share our stories with America. She has experience in strategic communication and project management, previously working for non-profit organizations focused on grassroots education and citizen engagement.

She is an alumna of the Institute on Political Journalism, where she received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, and attended Marquette University where she majored in journalism and received the George Reedy Scholarship for Ethical Journalism.

Mary Ellen resides in Orlando, FL and can be reached at [email protected].

Josh Kaib, Marketing and Communication Manager

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

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Hailing from Pittsburgh, PA, Josh Kaib joined the Franklin Center team in September 2012 and currently serves as Marketing and Communication Manager. In his role, Josh assists with media outreach, manages media tracking and analytics, tracks organizational successes, helps with messaging and content creation, and recruits and supervises interns.

Josh developed an interest in politics and government at an early age, leading him to Washington, DC, where he graduated from American University with a double major in public relations and marketing.

While in high school, he started his first blog. After a few failed attempts at blogging, Josh found success with his college blog, Unamerican University, which profiled academic and administrative bias. He also wrote for the College Fix and had a piece featured on National Review Online.

Since then Josh has been published on FoxNews.com, Townhall, and the Daily Signal. Josh may be reached by email at: Josh.Kaib [at] FranklinCenterHQ.org.

Becky Wessels, Director of Operations

Friday, May 9th, 2014

_DSC5698Becky manages Franklin Center’s inventory, negotiates contracts with vendors, monitors systems for simplicity and compliance, and coordinates with human resources, technology, and financial consultants. Before joining Franklin Center in 2012, she coordinated events for a private fundraising firm and worked in accounting for a mental health clinic.

Becky lives with her husband and two sons in Michigan.

Becky may be reached by email at: Becky.Wessels [at] FranklinCenterHQ.org