WAMU news decisions not influenced by p.d.’s relationships, Mathes says

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In a statement issued yesterday, WAMU General Manager Caryn Mathes responded to the perceived conflicts of interested cited as examples of questionable journalistic ethics in Tuesday’s Washington Post.

The Post pointed to personal and business relationships of Program Director Mark McDonald, who is married to Melinda Wittstock of Capitol News Connection, a D.C.-based news bureau that produces news segments airing on WAMU. He also operates Pundit Media Consulting, a media training service. McDonald disclosed the conflicts of interest in accordance with WAMU policy and is recused from all editorial and business decisions regarding Capitol News Connection, and his consulting practice is separate business from Pundit Productions, the parent company of CNC that Wittstock owns, Mathes said in the statement.

Post media reporter Paul Farhi also pointed to WAMU commentaries by Brooks Rainwater, director of local relations for the American Institute of Architects, who received media training from McDonald’s consultancy. Rainwater “independently” pitched his commentaries to WAMU News Director Asendio, Mathes said. “The audition was successful, and three commentaries from Mr. Brooks Rainwater were used. WAMU 88.5 editorial decisions are made independently.”

“WAMU 88.5 management states unequivocally that neither Mr. McDonald’s marital relationship nor his personal business have influenced or impacted station coverage,” Mathes said.