Nathan Stubbs

BRBR publisher blasts former Independent editor

by Nathan Stubbs

Baton Rouge Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister is using his latest column to take a quick potshot at former Independent Weekly Editor Scott Jordan, who just three weeks ago left the paper for a new job as communications director of the state Democratic Party. Under the headline “Surprise, surprise,” McCollister writes:
I saw where Scott Jordan is the new communications director for the Louisiana Democratic Party. Prior to this announcement, Jordan was the editor of Lafayette’s Independent Weekly newspaper. It is interesting that Jordan has been a constant critic—in print and online—of Gov. Bobby Jindal and other Republican officials. Now it makes sense—he was auditioning these past several months for Democratic Party chairman Chris Whittington. He won the job. [My roles and relationship with Jindal have always been disclosed. Jordan just didn’t let his readers in on his secret until his new job was secure.]

Interesting how some journalists can hammer away on transparency and ethics but fail to see how it applies to them. Oh, well. Jordan won’t need either in his new job.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if The Advocate’s Mark Ballard [have you read his Sunday columns?] was applying for the same job.
For the record, Jordan did not wait to disclose information about his new job. As soon as it was official, he alerted readers in both a blog post and column, recusing himself from all political coverage in his last two weeks with the paper.

McCollister shows a lot of audacity in hurling accusations about conflicts of interest. It also begs the question of whether he’s been harboring some animosity toward Jordan and The Independent since our former editor wrote this column more than two months ago taking Baton Rouge Business Report to task. Jordan was critical of the B.R. paper for an ostensive conflict of interest, pointing out that it’s sometimes hard to view Business Report's political coverage as objective due to its publisher’s close ties to the governor. McCollister was treasurer of Bobby Jindal’s campaign, signed onto the governor’s transition team and then offered to pay an ethics fine on behalf of the governor. McCollister also formed the nonprofit 527 organization Believe in Louisiana, with the mission of promoting the administration’s agenda and touting its accomplishments. Believe in Louisiana recently managed to rile conservative radio talk show host Moon Griffon, who rejected one of its ads, labeling it an “outright lie.” The Advocate published a big story on the blow up, coincidentally written by Mark Ballard.

We called Scott Jordan for a response to McCollister’s salvo. He didn’t pull any punches, e-mailing this riposte:
If Rolfe McCollister had ever taken a break from his blind partisan cheerleading for Jindal and actually read The Independent Weekly during my tenure as editor, he’d see plenty of equal-opportunity criticism of both Republicans and Democrats in the newspaper. Like most of his columns championing Jindal or blasting Jindal critics, McCollister's newest diatribe shows that he never lets the facts get in his way. I had never met, corresponded with or even spoke on the phone to Chairman Chris Whittington for any matter until late June, after the previous LDP communications director left the job. McCollister's smear that I was "auditioning" for anything or keeping a “secret” from readers is 100 percent false. And one of the reasons I relish my new position with the Louisiana Democratic Party is the opportunity to point out the nonsense and complete disregard for the truth of Republican puppets like McCollister.
Jordan also sends along this statement from Democratic state Party Chairman Chris Whittington:
When it comes to Rolfe McCollister, consider the source. Even statewide radio host Moon Griffon recently refused to air a pro-Jindal ad from McCollister’s “Believe in Louisiana” organization, calling it an “outright lie." The Independent Weekly called McCollister for comment this morning but has yet to hear back from him.