Journalism Ethics Ethos: The Rolfe McCollister, Bob Mann conflict
  // Tuesday, 28 April 2015 12:45 //

rolfe-mannby Tom Aswell, Publisher of Louisiana Voice

You have to love Rolfe McCollister, Jr. The man has done the following:


  • Was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor-president of Baton Rouge;
  • Contributed $17,000 to the campaign of Bobby Jindal in 2003, 2006, and 2008;
  • Served as treasurer for Jindal’s 2007 gubernatorial campaign;
  • Served as chairman of Jindal’s transition team following Jindal’s 2007 election;
  • Served as a director of Jindal’s first fundraising organization Believe in Louisiana;
  • Currently serves as treasurer of Jindal’s super PAC Believe Again;
  • Been appointed by Jindal as a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors.

Moreover, McCollister’s Louisiana Business, Inc. partner, Julio Melara has:


  • Contributed $7,500 to Jindal’s campaigns in 2007, 2010, and 2011 (his wife also contributed $1,000 in 2007);
  • Been appointed to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome Board).

At the same time, McCollister, apparently with a straight face, attempts to pass himself off as an objective news executive as Publisher of the Baton Rouge Business Report, even publishing a story by his staff today (Monday, April 27) on the long-running court battle by real news organizations to obtain the names of 35 candidates for the LSU presidency.https://www.businessreport.com/business/along-alexander-lsu-board-considered-candidates-texas-alabama-east-carolina-presidential-search-2012

Before the finger-pointing begins, let’s set the record straight. While McCollister carries the water for Jindal on such issues as protecting what should obviously be public records, firing an LSU president (thus, making the new hire necessary) and giving away LSU hospitals to a foundation run by a fellow LSU board member, he also purports to be an objective chronicler of political news.

We at LouisianaVoice, on the other hand, make no pretense at objectivity. We are opinionated and we freely express those opinions—and invite readers to do the same, both pro and con. We spent a quarter-century working for the so-called objective publications. But a political blog is very much like an op-ed opinion piece. McCollister should be familiar with those; he’s certainly seen enough of them from Jindal in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.

Louisiana Business, Inc., led by McCollister and Melara, is the parent company of the Business Report, so both men are in the news business but nevertheless have continued to curry favor from the man they apparently believe will one day occupy the big house at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C.

What is so particularly galling about Monday’s story about the release of the documents by the LSU board attorney is that a reader unfamiliar with the story would have no way of knowing that the publisher was complicit not in attempting to shine the light of transparency on a secretive board, but in participating in the board’s harboring of the information. Nowhere was a single word devoted to revealing that the piece’s publisher was a party to attempting to hide information from the public—an effort, by the way, that cost the state tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars in legal costs and fines.

As if that were not enough, McCollister, in his ever-diligent vigil to defend the public’s right to know, turned his guns on an LSU faculty member who was bold enough to criticize the LSU board in print over its efforts to keep its business away from the public’s prying eyes.

On April 1, McCollister, in a column titled The Two Hats of Bob, attacked LSU journalism professor Bob Mann who also writes a political blog called Something Like the Truth, which is also published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Man is one to take full advantage of free speech and faculty tenure as he pontificates in his columns on all that’s evil,” McCollister sniffed.https://www.businessreport.com/politics/rolfe-mccollister-survey-reveals-contradictions-confusion

He was writing about Mann’s blog and the accompanying column that ran in the Times-Picayune in which Mann said the LSU Board was more loyal to Jindal than to the students at LSU and that the entire board needed to resign or be fired. In that column, Mann quoted from another McCollister essay in which McCollister “chided those in the news media who ‘sound like Chicken Little. Let me predict here and now, the world will not end for Louisiana or higher education during the upcoming session. Solutions will be found.’ What those magic solutions are, McCollister does not say,” Mann wrote.

“I asked a former seasoned journalist about the ethics of a faculty member who has a second job as a journalist and (who) writes about his university,” the publisher continued in that April 1 column. “He said, ‘Every good journalist knows that you cannot ethically cover the institution that pays your salary and the people who supervise the work you do for that salary.”

Oh, really? And just who was that “former seasoned journalist”? And was he a former journalist or just formerly seasoned?

As for ethically covering “the institution that pays your salary” (or in this case, appointed you and your business partner to two of the more prestigious boards in state government), doesn’t McCollister provide Jindal glowing press coverage at every opportunity? (Of course, whether that can accurately be called real “coverage” is still open to debate. There’s another word for it in the reporting business. It’s called fluff.)

“The ethical equation doesn’t change if a reporter vilifies those people (for whom he works),” McCollister continued. “Who is to say the reporter’s self-interest isn’t involved. When journalists don’t recognize this fundamental aspect of journalism, everything they write, on any topic, lacks credibility.”

Wait. We’re confused. Is McCollister still talking about Mann—or about himself? It’s really impossible to tell, considering all the self-interest and conflicts of interests involved in everything McCollister writes about Jindal.

But let’s review. McCollister, it seems, was also a member of the LSU Board back in 1992 when the state was in the throes of another financial crisis and cutting budgets. At that time, McCollister, indignant over the cuts to LSU, called for the arrest of the governor.

The governor? Edwin Edwards. http://www.nola.com/opinions/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2015/03/higher_education_budget_cuts_l.html

Mann responded to McCollister, of course. Anyone would. But rather than delve into their “he said, she said” exchange, let’s look at what others are saying.

The Hayride blog, which is somewhere off to the right of Rush Limbaugh, trumpeted its headline: “Bob Mann goes after Rolfe McCollister, but doesn’t have the numbers on his side.”


Repeating the Chicken Little quote by McCollister, it added a quote by him which it accused Mann of omitting: “Business is strong in Louisiana and getting even better. I hear from many company CEOs who had a record year and look to grow and expand in 2015.”

(Perhaps that’s why Louisiana continues to rank third in the nation in our poverty rate and why Louisiana’s colleges and universities are looking seriously at declaring financial exigency.)

We’ll get back to The Hayride momentarily.

Red Shtick, a Baton Rouge publication that specializes in parody, took its turn at lampooning McCollister for his obvious double standard.http://theredshtick.com/2015/04/03/jindal-crony-who-pens-pro-jindal-editorials-accuses-professor-of-unethical-journalism/

Likewise, the Independent of Lafayette, one of the state’s better political publications, noted with some irony that McCollister found it necessary to reach out “to an anonymous source” to obtain an opinion about journalistic ethics—after all, “hasn’t he run a newspaper for more than 25 years?” the Independent asked somewhat rhetorically, adding, “I’m sure that untenured, junior faculty at LSU will take note that one of the governor’s best friends, who serves on the LSU Board, has this opinion of academic freedom. http://theind.com/article-20612-rolfe-mccollister-faculty-who-criticize-lsu-in-print-are-unethical.html

“Did McCollister threaten my LSU job? The Independent quoted Mann as asking. “Not really. He just finds some gutless anonymous source to call me unethical for criticizing a group of public officials.”

As promised, we now return to The Hayride and one of its regular columnists who seems to fit comfortably in Jindal’s back pocket and who slings darts and arrows at anyone who dares criticize his governor.

We’re talking, of course, about one Jeff Sadow who works as…(ahem), ah…well, as a full time political science professor at LSU-Shreveport. Correction. Make that associate professor. And one who has (gasp!) a political blog.

Rather than go into a lot of Sadow’s qualifications to speak his opinion in a blog as opposed to those who would censure Mann, we’ll let yet another blogger lay it out for us.


But at the end of the day (to borrow a phrase from Bobby Jindal), we still believe in tolerance and we will defend with our last breath the First Amendment rights of McCollister, Sadow, and Mann. They have every right to voice their opinions, though two of those three do not appear to agree.

To sum it all up, it appears we have an LSU Board member who is a Jindal operative in every sense of the word and who just happens to own a news publication. But that board member/journalist steadfastly refuses to advocate for openness on the board (as would just about any member of the Fourth Estate), who votes to fire an LSU president only because the governor wants him to, who votes in favor of giving away teaching hospitals to a fellow board member, and who calls for the censuring of free speech by a journalism professor and newspaper columnist. And, coincidentally, we have an associate professor who does the same thing as Mann, but who gets a free pass because his opinions happen to dovetail nicely with those of  McCollister, Jindal, et al.

Okay, as long as we understand the ground rules.

But, Chicken Little, it appears the sky really is falling. And as for those solutions McCollister promised “will be found,” they now appear more distant than ever.

And meanwhile, he calls Bob Mann unethical.


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