Stripes' acting publisher is asked to resign
ARLINGTON, Va. — Midlevel editors at Stars and Stripes have called on the newspaper’s acting publisher to resign, saying he has refused to release information on the extent of the paper’s relationship with America Supports You.
Tom Skeen, assistant managing editor, Pacific; Sam Amrhein, Europe bureau chief; Joe Giordono, Mideast bureau chief; Marni McEntee, assistant Europe bureau chief; Tim Flack, Korea bureau chief; and Chris Carlson, Japan bureau chief signed the e-mail, sent Tuesday.
Asked to respond, Max Lederer issued the following statement:
“I was appointed the acting Publisher on 1 Oct 2007 after 15 years with Stars and Stripes serving the military community. I believe strongly in the value and need for Stars and Stripes and intend to continue to perform my duties and focus on the mission of Stars and Stripes by providing servicemembers timely and quality independent news and information.”
The Defense Department Inspector General’s Office is looking into Stripes’ expenditures for America Supports You, a Defense Department program that gives publicity to nonprofit groups that support U.S. troops.
A source at Stripes explained that the paper served as a conduit for money that went toward America Supports You, but Stripes did not spend any of its own money.
Stripes has learned that the paper has issued a $499,000 purchase agreement for the public relations firm Susan Davis International to promote America Supports You; and it awarded a $311,650 contract for Semel Media to develop and design Web sites for America Supports You and the Defense Department’s Web site.
The paper’s relationship with America Supports You is expected to end within six months as America Supports You becomes a stand-alone program, officials said.
Both the Defense Department and the business side at Stripes have refused to release information on exactly how much money was channeled through the newspaper for America Supports You.
On Tuesday, midlevel editors sent acting publisher Lederer an e-mail accusing him and other people in Stripes of “stonewalling attempts to find the truth” by not responding to requests for information on exactly how much money was moved through Stripes for America Supports You.
“What message is Stripes’ leadership trying to send to the public by ignoring these requests and failing to turn over the documents?” the e-mail said.
The editors concluded by saying they had lost confidence in Lederer and they asked for him to step down.
Stripes Managing Editor Doug Clawson echoed the editors’ concerns about the need to disclose any involvement between Stripes and DOD public affairs that are outside the newspaper’s core mission of providing editorially independent news to the troops.
“This needs to happen immediately. We’ve asked for this repeatedly. Until we see everything, it’s tough to know what to do next,” Clawson said in an e-mail Tuesday.