An Oklahoma Publishing Co. memo last week encouraged the newspaper's employees to earn paid volunteer leave to campaign in favor of voting for MAPS 3 prior to the Dec. 8 vote.
"The Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce is looking for volunteers to walk key precincts and neighborhoods "¦ to encourage people to vote for MAPS 3," said the memo sent Dec. 2 to Oklahoman staffers with a "Volunteer Leave opportunity" subject line.
"Shifts will begin at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Volunteers will meet at the YES for MAPS office at 119 N. Robinson, Suite 120, at the corner of Robinson and Park in downtown OKC and will be walking in teams of 2 or more."
The memo appeared at Poynter.org's Romenesko blog Dec. 3 under the headline "Oklahoman staffers get paid to campaign for publisher's pet project."
Journalist Jim Romenesko noted that Oklahoman Publisher David Thompson is chair of the chamber, which pushed for passage of the $777 million MAPS 3 initiative.
"As we have said all along, OPUBCO employees should feel free to vote as they please "¦ but if you are in favor of MAPS 3 and would like an opportunity to earn paid Volunteer Leave to support this initiative, this is a worthy opportunity for you!" the memo said.
Yvette Walker, the News & Information Center's director of presentation, features and custom publishing at The Oke, posted a response at the Romenesko site.
"The news and information center received a follow-up directive from Kelly Dyer Fry, VP of news and information, that the NIC would not participate," Walker wrote.
Meanwhile, a Dec. 2 e-mail from Fry was posted regarding the OPUBCO memo.
"Please disregard this opportunity," Fry wrote. "We in the NIC will not participate. It is against our political policy."
Thompson e-mailed the following statement to Oklahoma Gazette on Dec. 4:
"Our policy does not allow newsroom employees to engage in political activity, but as good corporate citizens we have many non-newsroom employees who may wish to volunteer," he wrote.