A reporter for the Beaver County Times has expedited his resignation from the paper following an investigative report published on Friday by the Beaver Countian that raised questions as to whether he was secretly planning a candidacy for state representative next year.
The Beaver Countian’s investigation examined an accusation by State Representative Aaron Bernstine that Beaver County Times Reporter Ryan O’Shea had pretended to be covering Bernstine as a subject of his reporting, but was instead actually gathering opposition research for his own future political campaign against the incumbent.
Such conduct would be considered a severe breach of journalism ethics.
Ryan O’Shea acknowledged he had not been acting on behalf of The Times when recording Bernstine’s various town hall events, but said he did not intend to give anyone the impression he was acting in his capacity as a reporter. O’Shea also insisted he had no plans to run for political office.
As part of its report, Beaver County Democratic Committee Chairman Stephen Dupree told the Beaver Countian that O’Shea had repeatedly spoken to party officials about running a campaign and participated in a prospective candidate training class in Harrisburg.
Beaver County Times Executive Editor Lisa Micco told her paper that O’Shea failed to disclose his activities to editors, “We have an obligation to be ethical and serve the public. The fact (his discussion with political leaders) wasn’t disclosed (by O’Shea) puts us in a situation that compromises our integrity and damages our credibility, and I don’t want that to ever be a reflection on anyone else at The Times.”
O’Shea had originally put in his two weeks notice on July 18th, telling his editors he was leaving the paper to concentrate on a startup company, but his resignation from the paper became effective on Monday instead.
State Representative Aaron Bernstine gave a statement to The Times lauding the paper’s commitment to maintaining high ethical standards, “Obviously, the Beaver County Times took action after Mr. O’Shea’s inappropriate behavior and I commend them for doing so. Their ethics are beyond reproach and this is an example of them proving that.”
According to The Times, Ryan O’Shea had only been employed by their paper since January of this year. He was a general assignment reporter primarily responsible for producing a daily Times Today video.
O’Shea told The Times that others had a more solidified view of his future plans than he did, “If in my mind a potential run for office was as formulated and definitive […] as it seems to be in Aaron Bernstine’s mind, in Steve Dupree’s mind, in anyone else’s mind, I would’ve left my employment at The Times long before […] I think people are more sure than I am.”
Following his expedited resignation from the paper, O’Shea released a statement via his Facebook page, saying in part, “While the opportunity to make a difference through elected office is intriguing, I am not a candidate for any position at this time. I will continue to gauge the best way to serve my community, and look forward to doing whatever that may be.”