The Only Video of Kasich and FitzGerald Debating Isn't Online Anymore. What Happened?

ideastream file photo by Nick Castele
ideastream file photo by Nick Castele
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A bit more than a week ago, Republican Gov. John Kasich, Democrat Ed FitzGerald and Green Party candidate Anita Rios sat down with the Plain Dealer editorial board.

They answered questions for nearly two hours, as a camera on the other side of the table taped their responses. The Plain Dealer endorsed Kasich, and the video appeared at Cleveland.com.

(In this archived Cleveland.com post, see where the videos would have been.)

It showed Kasich, without a tie, sometimes slouching, not acknowledging opponent FitzGerald. In contrast, FitzGerald addressed the governor directly several times. Democrats took Kasich’s behavior as a sign of disrespect.

A few days later, the video was taken down.

Jay Rosen is a professor at New York University. He’s one of several media critics who think it was an unusual decision by the Plain Dealer and Northeast Ohio Media Group.

“It’s one of the strangest media stories that I’ve written about in the 11 years since I started blogging,” Rosen said.

Rosen said it cuts to the core of the trust news outlets strive to maintain.

“The trust between a news organization and its audience is based on a very simple idea that nothing will be withheld that would help you understand the world,” he said. “Or in this case, make up your mind about your vote.

Making this especially odd, media critics say, is that the news outlet hasn’t explained why it took down the video. Northeast Ohio Media Group Vice President of Content Chris Quinn declined to comment at length for this story.

But in an interview on 90.3 this September, Quinn did say the sessions would be recorded.

“Sometimes it’s on video,” Quinn said at the time. “And the plan would be to do that with the governor’s candidates. They both say they’re coming in.”

Kent State University journalism professor Jan Leach said what makes the disappearance of this video more significant is that there haven’t been any other debates.

“We are talking about public officials running for the highest office in the state, and there have been no other meetings,” Leach said. “So this is the only opportunity anyone would ever have to see these three candidates interact with each other and with reporters.”

The audio of the conversation is still available online. But Leach said hearing the candidates and seeing them aren’t the same.

“Printing a transcript of an interview is different than hearing the interview, which is different than seeing the interview,” she said. “Your words could say one thing. Your body language could say something else.”

Al Tompkins at the Poynter Institute said taking down the video just doesn’t make sense for a news organization that now relies on online viewership.

“I don’t understand from a business point of view why you would take it down,” Tompkins said. “I would think it would be an online hit. They would get a lot of pageviews and a lot of engagement.”

Spokespeople for the FitzGerald and Kasich campaigns said they did not ask for the video to be taken down.

But FitzGerald’s campaign spokesperson also said the candidate didn’t know he would be videotaped until he walked into the interview and saw people setting up a camera.

Kasich’s campaign spokesperson maintained they expected they wouldn’t be taped.

Tompkins said if there was confusion over whether people agreed to be videotaped, the paper should say so.

“Just explain that,” he said. “We wouldn’t necessarily be happy with the explanation, but at least you’d understand what the deal is.”

The danger of not explaining, he said, is that in the vacuum of information, everyone else can come up with their own version of what happened.

With additional reporting by Tony Ganzer.

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