'Richmond Times-Dispatch' Suspends Two Over Donations

By: Joe Strupp Two newsroom staffers at the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch have been suspended for making political contributions, according to a local weekly, because the donations violated the paper's code of conduct.

The suspensions of statehouse reporter Michael Hardy and copy editor Pam Mastropaolo followed last month's report at MSNBC.com that listed 143 media employees who had given to political campaigns, raising concerns over such donations and their influence on reporting.

Style Weekly, a Richmond alternative paper, reported Wednesday that Hardy was suspended for giving $1,000 in February 2006 to Matt Brown, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Rhode Island who pulled out of the race two months later.

Mastropaolo reportedly gave $1,650 to the Democratic Party of Virginia in February 2007 and $1,165 in February 2006, the paper reported. Both received 30-day suspensions with no pay that began June 27. But the union that represents newsroom employees claimed the punishment was improper and plans to file a grievance this week against Media General, which owns the Times-Dispatch.

Managing Editor Peggy Bellows reportedly stated the paper's objections in a note to Hardy that said staffers "must not be active in politics and should guard against public activities or exhibitions in areas of controversy. Some general examples include not donating money or advice to political campaigns."

The Times-Dispatch published an apology to readers on June 28, but did not mention the employees by name, Style Weekly reported.


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