Does the Strib think Republicans have a thing for hookers?

I usually don’t get too involved in the usual braying over the alleged political leaning of the Star Tribune, but I make an exception in the story about the arrest of Tim Droogsma, a former press secretary to a U.S. senator and a Minnesota governor, in a prostitution sting on St. Paul’s East side yesterday.

Journalistically speaking, this sentence is legit:

Droogsma was a spokesman for Sen. Rudy Boschwitz in the late 1980s and Gov. Arne Carlson in the early 1990s.

But the next sentence — or continuation of the above — violates every ethical principle in the book.

Recently, he publicly supported a candidate seeking to replace state Rep. Steve Sviggum. All three elected officials were Republicans.

For the record, the Strib is talking about Steve Drazkowski, who was not arrested yesterday, does not appear to have employed Droogsma and I’m guessing doesn’t buy into the fact that Republicans are more inclined to solicit hookers. And let’s face it, that’s what the Strib was trying to say here.

Frankly, I’m kind of surprised the usual suspects in the anti-Strib coalition let it pass without comment.

  • elmer benson

    I’m pretty sure they won’t be passing on it now.

  • http://www.trailblz.com brian hanf

    While, when I read the story, I also thought the “Recently, he publicly supported a candidate seeking to replace state Rep. Steve Sviggum. ” was a weird sentence. The fact that earlier in the paragraph they did not identify the party of the 3: Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, Gov. Arne Carlson, Rep. Steve Sviggum.

    The only reason this was a story is because he worked for 2 elected officials, high profile elected officials.

    They should have just gone with the standard – Sen. Rudy Boschwitz-R, Gov. Arne Carlson-R, Rep. Steve Sviggum-R.

    In my non-DFL non-GOP view it was sloppy editing, not anti-republican editing.

  • http://norwegianity.com Mark Gisleson

    So is Jim Romenesko in your doghouse too?

  • Bill Prendergast

    I don’t think the Strib thinks that Republicans have a thing for hookers. But people might be forgiven for getting that impression.

    When I’m down in New Orleans, I am represented by Senator Vitter, a GOP conservative who has a thing for hookers in diapers. This year in Florida, John McCain’s co-campaign chair in Florida was busted for offering twenty dollars to perform oral sex on a male prostitute in a public park at night. The “male prostitute” turned out to be an undercover cop, and the rest is history.

    The reason that the “anti-Strib coalition” let it go is probably that they don’t want to draw more attention to a juicy sex scandal right now. Very wise. It would be wrong if the Strib was singling out Republicans, but Republicans seem to be the ones “volunteering” for this kind of coverage these days. As for mentioning Mr. Drazkowski by name; the Strib did not (probably intentionally)–Polinaut did that, and I don’t think they should have.

  • Bob Collins

    Romenesko? No. Why should he be? Did he make a connection between a political party and his arrest on soliciting charges. I didn’t see it in his column. It clearly was in the Strib’s column.

    My beef isn’t that they did the story. My beef isn’t that they mentioned he worked for two Republicans in the past.

    My beef is they took the next step of noting his support for a candidate running for the Legislature (as opposed to working for one) and then pointed out that “all three were Republicans” in order to establish a causal relationship between the party and the arrest.

    If there is one, they should have done more work to establish it.

  • Bob Collins

    Interesting point. Whatever Droogsma — if he’s guilty — brought on in terms of coverage, he brought on himself and invited the attention — as does the party — by telling other people how they should run their lives. Again, IF the charges are true, the hypocrisy cannot be ignored.

    The question, I guess, is whether it’s the hypocrisy of the party or the hypocrisy of the individuals in the party.

    Unless you have evidence as a journalist that Drazkowski uses hookers too, going to the extreme of establishing a relationship between Drazkowski and Droogsma is inappropriate, for it appears to suggest that all Republicans are hypocrites who leave their families to go pick up hookers.

    As much as I’m sure the DFLers wouldn’t mind that conclusion, it should require something in the way significant evidence to assert it.

  • http://www.shotinthedark.info Mitch Berg

    Whatever Droogsma — if he’s guilty — brought on in terms of coverage, he brought on himself and invited the attention — as does the party — by telling other people how they should run their lives. Again, IF the charges are true, the hypocrisy cannot be ignored.

    Are you SURE you want to make “if anyone in the party doesn’t live up to the party’s policy standards and beliefs, it invalidates the party and renders everyone a hypocrite” the standard, Bob?

    Is John Edwards (or was Paul Wellstone) a hypocrite because they went on “poverty tours” but were themselves quite well-off, favored high taxation, and didn’t seem to have donated their entire surplus wealth to the poor? Does this fact undercut either of their integrity? The Democrat party’s integrity?

    Is every divorced person who claims to be “pro-family” a hypocrite? Or just a person whose life’s circumstances don’t quite match what they want, work for (most of the time, their frailties and imperfections aside) and believe in? And does this mismatch necessarily undercut the person’s beliefs (to say nothing of any institution that serves those beliefs?)

    That people don’t live up to their larger groups’ standards – those of their church, political party, whatever – makes them human; imperfect, contradictory, sometimes perversely so. Unless you can show that there’s a “hookers for we (in the inner circle), but not for ye” initiative in the GOP, it really isn’t kosher to try to pin this sort of individual miscreancy on the party.

    Should the fact that you’d even suggest it’s a matter of “hypocrisy of the party” tell us something, Bob?

    Followup question: Why are the GOP’s stances on abortion and gay marriage “telling people how they should live their lives”, but the DFL/Democrat efforts at campaign finance “reform”, the drive to reinstitute the “Fairness Doctrine”, campus speech codes, political correctness, institutionalized multiculturalism, the radicalization of the “separation of church and state” and PC not every bit as much so?

  • http://www.shotinthedark.info Mitch Berg

    The reason that the “anti-Strib coalition” let it go is probably that they don’t want to draw more attention to a juicy sex scandal right now. Very wise.

    Also utterly fiction, Bill.

    Holding the Strib’s feet in the fire over bias is a full-time job. It’s the entire raison-d’etre for quite a number of center-right bloggers – and we STILL miss some of it. There is that much.

    Leave the big diagnoses to those of us who are qualified, Mr. Prendergast.

  • Bob Collins

    Mitch;

    No I have no intention of making “if anyone in the party doesn’t live up to the party’s policy standards and beliefs, it invalidates the party and renders everyone a hypocrite” , but then again I’m not aware that’s what I said.

    What I think I said is that if an individual vocally endorses a particular point of view, especially — in my opinion — on the issue of morality, and then is immoral — that is hypocrisy that cannot be ignored.

    What I think I said is that if that individual is then a hypocrite, it does not make all members of a group hypocrites.

    //should the fact that you’d even suggest it’s a matter of “hypocrisy of the party” tell us something, Bob?

    I don’t think so, but it should tell us that you didn’t read it quite right. (g) I believe the assertion has previously been made — by someone — that this shows the hypocrisy of the party. I ask whether it shows the hypocrisy of the party OR the hypocrisy of the individual.

    I believe I then made the point that in the scenario that I feel it shows the hypocrisy of an individual (because of a discoirdance with his own statements), rather than the hypocrisy of a party.

    In this matter, I do not believe the Republican Party as a party is part of the story.

    Apologies if that wasn’t more clear.

  • Jeff

    Isn’t it interesting that three recently-departed Strib political reporters — Dane Smith, Erik Black and Conrad diFiebre — all now work for liberal/DFL front groups.

    I found this recent piece by deFiebre (http://www.startribune.com/commentary/story/1360501.html) particularly enlightening. I’m sure the very obvious contempt he has for Republicans never slipped into any of the political stories he wrote over the years for the Star Tribune. Give me a break.

  • Bob Collins

    The answer to your other questions — and again, this is my opinion — is “yes” (except that a Wellstone/Edwards poverty tour is only hypocritical if one advocates not being rich and then is). To use your analogy, if Wellstone advocated giving away one’s riches, and then didn’t, that to me is a classic definition of hypocrite.

    But, yes, I personally believe that someone who gets a divorce is not “pro family.” One cannot be in favor of a family by splitting it. It’s illogical, in my opinion.

    None of this, of course, is intended to ignore that people are infallible or not human. One can be human and be a hypocrite at the same time.

    // PC not every bit as much so?

    Who said it isn’t? Paul Wellstone’s PAC promises are, again, a classic definition of hypocrisy.

    But that is also an irrelevant fact in the context of the post, which cites a specific reference in a specific story to a specific individual.

  • Bob Collins

    Don’t get me started, Jeff. One need only go back to the Post “Why I don’t vote.” We don’t demand objectivity or fairness from journalists, we demand the “appearance” of objectivity or fairness.

    In other words, the entire effort is to prevent you from knowing the voting habits of someone, not to assure you they don’t have an affinity for one political candidate over another.

    And yet, if I suggest that journalists shouldn’t vote…well, you can read it for yourself, it’s in the archives somewhere.

    Journalists shouldn’t vote. Or, if they do, they should be required to tell you HOW they voted. One is either for transparency or not.

  • http://www.shotinthedark.info MBerg

    Bob,

    The question “to whom is the hypocrisy assigned” wasn’t entirely clear, at least not to me.

    As re: Edwards: amassing immense wealth while scolding and punishing the (moderately) wealthy in his proposed tax structure is, I think, intensely hypocritical.

    Your take on divorce is rather myopic, as well; sometimes divorce comes to you, not the other way around.

    However, you’re right – the Strib’s story was an abomination.

    Jeff,

    I’m sure the very obvious contempt he has for Republicans never slipped into any of the political stories he wrote over the years for the Star Tribune. Give me a break.

    While DeFiebre may or may not have felt contempt for Republicans (and his post-Strib career would seem to be a confirmation of this), I always felt that he went the extra mile in covering highly-partisan stories fairly. He was the first reporter I can recall in the TCMSM, for example, to make any effort to include both sides in the Concealed Carry debate, as far back as 1998-99. It was that notable.

  • Jeff

    I like the idea of journalists telling us who they voted for. I’m guessing it would make all journalists go back and re-read their stories with a critical eye before publishing/broadcasting them.

    Unfortunately, it will never happen.

  • Bob Collins

    Mitch:

    True enough, sometimes divorce comes to you. As someone who divorce came to, however, I have to admit that the notion that it’s a one-party affair (pun semi intended) and/or responsibility doesn’t do much for me. To me it’s like all the folks in prison being innocent.

    And, of course, there’s an element of generalization in my belief, but it’s *my* belief that the number of “one party had nothing to do with it” divorces are relatively small.

    My first marriage lasted 2 1/2 years and ended when she ran off with the town insurance agent. Of course we weren’t a “family”. We were just two kids. Could I have been a better husband. Honestly? I think probably so. Would *I* have had an affair? No. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t two in that marriage.

    Of course it worked out well. In October I celebrate 25 years of marriage, a reflection, perhaps, more of my wife than me. But this time there were kids involved and that was a good reason to work through the few tough times.

    See, I think that psychobabble in the ’70s about divorce being “good” for kids because they’d know their parents were unhappy if they stayed together, was utter nonsense designed to feel better about their decisions to divorce.

    In the process, we taught a generation that fathers — in particular — weren’t really necessary. In fact, we taught America’s sons how NOT to be fathers. And, son of a gun, many grew up to prove they learned the lesson.

    But, again, that’s just me. If someone wants to proclaim themselves “pro family” while not doing everything possible to keep one together, that’s their problem. Just because I think they’re hypocrites doesn’t mean they are. It just means I think they are.

    I acknowledge I’m very conservative on this point. Which, by the way, also “informs” my disdain for “labels.” One can be conservative on some things and “liberal” on others. There’s a lot of folks living in the “gray,” rather than the black and white of life.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    Dear MPR: People in glass houses, and all that. Your sucky “reportage” on nearly everything disqualifies you from commenting on other media. Take your trust fund and your money worship and just write more about “minnesota nice.”

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    Here’s a piece we wrote for the Trib about the vaunted news operation at MPR, which the Trib refused to run:

    Managed Coverage

    by Rob Levine and Mike Tronnes

    When Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch announced in late-March (2001) that he was suing Allina Health System, he handed the Twin Cities news media a potentially great gift: the opportunity to provide a public service by advancing a complicated story that’s of paramount importance to its audience.

    As part of his ongoing investigation of the state’s largest health-care provider, Hatch charged that Allina had misspent tens of millions of dollars Minnesotans had paid it in health insurance premiums. The federal government was also alleging that through billing fraud Allina had cheated it out of at least $19 million.

    According to Hatch, Allina was acting more like an out-of-control corporate behemoth than the tax-exempt charity it is. He promised to get to the bottom of the situation, intimating that there was much more to be known about Allina. Having laid out such an inviting scenario, Hatch might have assumed that the media, another traditional watchdog institution, would pick-up where his investigation had left off.

    But instead of joining the fray, our local media left the heavy lifting to Hatch, reporting his news rather than digging up much of its own. On the days that he made news, it was prominently featured, appearing above the fold and leading most evening newscasts. The reporting though, was mostly just news about Hatch’s news. The investigative resources necessary to support, refute or advance his claims were not forthcoming.

    Then, on July 11, Hatch again sued Allina, claiming that it was withholding documents needed for his investigation. But this time the story wasn’t just about Hatch and Allina, it was also about the media, and a $300,000 bet by Allina that high-priced “crisis” consultants could help the company gain control of the story and spin its way off the front page.

    Hatch was suing for communications between Allina and Bloomington-based GCI Tunheim, the public relations firm it had hired in late March to do damage control. Allina was trying to keep these documents from Hatch by claiming attorney/client privilege, a transparent legal charade executed when Allina’s attorney, Doug Kelly, informed GCI Tunheim on June 21 that it would now be working for him, instead of Allina.

    But even without these “protected” documents, Hatch had already amassed enough material to fill a pair of three-ring binders, containing hundreds of pages that revealed the nuts and bolts of a major-league spin campaign — a 90-day “war room” effort with week-by-week itineraries of purported news themes, and reporters to target them with. Its goal was to cast Allina in the most positive light leading up to the attorney general’s final report, due out in August.

    All of this was reported with great emphasis on July 11 and 12, but once again the local media failed to make any news of its own, refusing even to defend itself against a direct challenge to its honor and integrity. Instead of reporting on, or editorializing about the relationship between public relations and journalism, the Pioneer Press published only a follow-up article on the growth in crisis management, while the Star Tribune gave six PR professionals, including GCI Tunheim President, Kathryn Tunheim, — who was “unavailable for comment” when the story first broke — a chance to defend crisis counseling. The predictable headline? “Consultant and PR industry defend Allina work.”

    In muzzling itself on this important issue, one that hits close to home, the local media passed on an opportunity to address a lingering public perception — that it’s bought and paid for by corporate sponsors, with whom it works closely to create content. In a 1999 survey of journalists conducted by the Pew Research Center of the People and the Press 54 percent cited “lack of credibility” as a reason for declining audiences, second only to “information overload.”

    While Allina’s strategy didn’t work this time around, the success of corporate PR campaigns is evidenced by Tunheim’s ability to command up to $450 per hour for its expertise in advancing clients’ messages via sophisticated media strategies.

    Even Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), usually the most reliable of conversation starters, passed on discussing the role that corporate public relations plays in shaping the news. In fact, from mid-March to mid-July, MPR’s civic-minded voice was all but silent on Hatch’s investigation, providing markedly less coverage than its competitors.

    In that time, MPR produced only one significant news feature on Hatch’s inquiry — a late-March report that included Cathy Wurzer interviewing Hatch and Allina CEO Gordon Sprenger. Even more incredibly, MPR ran 80 Midmorning and Midday shows during this period — 320 hours of programming — without devoting one segment of one show to Hatch’s investigation.

    Because MPR is the local news organization most closely tied to Allina, one might assume that it would have bent over backwards to provide adequate and balanced coverage of this story. After all, Allina Chief Operating Officer David Strand chairs MPR’s board of trustees, which includes Thomas R. McBurney (chairman of the Allina Foundation board) and Addison (Tad) Piper (a member of Allina’s board of directors). Add in Allina’s and the Allina Foundation’s sponsorship arrangements with MPR, and the connection between these two non-profits exceeds anything to be found in local commercial broadcasting.

    KSTP-TV ‘s alliance with Allina, while less tangled, is more public. They co-sponsor a weekly show that KSTP also airs. Health Matters is hosted by Kalley Yanta, who was Kalley King when she worked as the station’s lead news anchor. Like MPR, KSTP downplayed Hatch’s investigation, ignoring breaking stories on its 10 p.m. newscast in both late-March and again in early-July. Each time, failing even to mention developments that were headlined in the newspapers and featured on WCCO’s and KARE’s 10 p.m. newscasts.

    Whether these news judgments were driven by corporate cronyism, or some less obvious consideration, the evidence shows that on the Allina story, MPR and KSTP brought up the rear of a slow-moving pack. And as two of only three major locally-owned and/or operated media outlets — TPT-TV being the other — KSTP and MPR stumbled badly on a story about a local company that they do business with.

    Fortunately the attorney general seems to be aware of the local media’s distaste for this story of malfeasance by their corporate brother. Just prior to Allina’s decision to split-off Medica, Hatch announced that he will be releasing the results of his investigation in a series of “five or six” reports. Shrewd guy that Mike Hatch.

    __________________________________________________________

  • Bob Collins

    Thanks Rob.

  • Joel Rosenberg

    I am, not particularly unusually, with Mitch on this one. I’ve known Conrad, slightly, for years, and watched his coverage of gun issues closely, for obvious reasons. It’s clear to me, from some one-on-one conversations, which side he’s on, personally — and it’s not mine. It’s also manifestly clear, both from what’s been in the Strib and what’s gone on in the newsroom, what the agenda is there, and it’s contrary to mine.

    But I think Conrad’s own reporting on the issue has been notable for being, well, fair and balanced, and I think that’s very much to his professional and personal credit.

    He’s a citizen — he’s not merely entitled to have his own opinions, but to express them. As a reporter, on the issues where I’ve followed him, I think it’s hard to accuse him of being very far from fair, usually. (I’ve got a few quibbles; I’ll save them for another day.)

    It’s not surprising to me that a Strib reporter would be a political liberal. Nor, for that matter, would it be a surprise to me when a spokesman for the Republican party turns out to be a conservative. But I do think that shots at Conrad’s professionalism as a reporter should be based on, well, his reporting, not his political opinions by themselves, not his political opinion pieces.

    For those who want to go after him for his reporting — go at it. You won’t find it perfect, by any means; but be fair: go after his reporting based on the content of his reporting.

    Fair is fair.

  • Bob Collins

    I’ve now lost complete track of what people think. I’m not sure how Conrad came up in the discussion since he didn’t write the article in question.

    But as I understand it, the bottom line in the comments here seems to be that the Strib was justified in linking the new state rep and the man charged with picking up hookers?

    Or did we just stop taking about that for the convenience of an old debate?

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    >

    ???

    If you liked that, try “Money Public Radio”:

    http://www.citypages.com/databank/23/1107/article10161.asp?page=4

  • Bob Collins

    I remember that article. In my next life I’m going to come back as a writer working for a publication that doesn’t feel the need for attribution. It sure would make life easier being able to present supposition as fact.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    “doesn’t feel the need for attribution”

    I don’t know what you mean by that. My article was drawn almost entirely from public documents, most from MPR itself.

  • Bob Collins

    Rob:

    I was referring to City Pages, although I couldn’t help but notice you didn’t seem much interested in your article in talking to any of the media that you leveled accusations against. Since you’re an expert on journalism, I would think at some point it would have occurred to you to run your theories — not to mention check your facts (for example, where did you get the data on the number of stories MPR ran on Allina? Hopefully not from the Web site since this was a period in which MPR was just getting its regional news site off the ground and only a handful of stories made it to the Web site in the first place) — past those you against who you level some charges.

    The second to last paragraph raises a question and then, without having it answered, appears to reach a conclusion.

    Do you think journalists should endeavor to get the other side of the story by talking to someone, or should they just grab a bunch of anecdotal evidence and reach a conclusion that satisfies them?

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    Interesting that you should ask those questions. I in fact repeatedly called Bill Buzenburg (sp?) to show me the reporting. He wouldn’t give me the time of day. Which reporters should I have asked if their supposed reporting was unfindable, and the head of news refused to answer any questions? I think the story shows how MPR is intertwined with Allina (or was, at least). I would think that a quality news organization would want to lay these suspicions to rest with proof. Instead, MPR treated me with contempt for asking uncomfortable questions.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    BTW – the lineups for Midday and Midmorning were all archived when I did the story – I made a database of the shows. Does that satisfy your need for documentation? Aren’t you the least concerned about MPR’s burying this story, and their protecting of Allina? You seem more concerned with trying to bury me than get to the bottom of a serious conflict.

  • Bob Collins

    //Interesting that you should ask those questions. I in fact repeatedly called Bill Buzenburg (sp?) to show me the reporting. He wouldn’t give me the time of day.

    Your story didn’t make reference to that.

    //Which reporters should I have asked if their supposed reporting was unfindable, and the head of news refused to answer any questions?

    That’s an odd question to ask years later.

    //I think the story shows how MPR is intertwined with Allina (or was, at least).

    Actually, that’s your analysis based on anecdotal evidence which may or may not have been accurate.

    //I would think that a quality news organization would want to lay these suspicions to rest with proof.

    So what you’re saying is your story wasn’t about facts, then, it was about suspicions? But the way the story reads, it’s presented as fact.

    That’s what I mean when I say writing stories is a lot easier when you don’t have to check facts and attribute.

    Journalism is not writing what you think truth is and then demanding your subjects prove you wrong. Otherwise, to get back to the original post, the STrib would be justified making the connections between being a Republican and having a desire for hookers.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    “Your story didn’t make reference to that.”

    It had to be kept to like 700 words; it was written for the Trib.

    “Actually, that’s your analysis based on anecdotal evidence which may or may not have been accurate.”

    You call articles of incorporation, annual reports, and IRS 990s “anecdotal information”?? What would qualify as good info to you?

    “So what you’re saying is your story wasn’t about facts, then, it was about suspicions? But the way the story reads, it’s presented as fact.”

    I was saying, given what we know, and what we tried hard to know, this is what we think. That’s what journalists do. I tried very hard to get MPR’s point of view, but the top journalist there refused to answer any questions.

    There were *strong* institutional connections involving cross pollination of boards and even financial transactions.

    The story was factual; just facts that you apparently don’t want to believe.

  • Bill Prendergast

    It’s Monday, why is this still at the top of the page?

    This is the most extended debate I’ve seen in a Polinaut thread in about a year, and it’s got practically nothing to do with the topic Bob Collins set for discussion.

    Did anyone have anything to say on the topic how the Strib should handle “Republicans after hookers” storie in the future? Does anybody have any evidence to show that they are suppressing or mishandling “DFL/Independence Party hooker stories?”

    Bob, why aren’t you exercising your vast powers of moderation to keep this thread on topic? This almost makes me nostalgic for the days you banned me outright for criticizing MPR news coverage.

    The last thing anyone needs is an extended, 26 post marathon GOP/conservative bitch and moan session about the media, designed to take the discussion off GOP hooker stories.

    And where is today’s Daily Digest?

  • Bill Prendergast

    It’s Monday, why is this still at the top of the page?

    This is the most extended debate I’ve seen in a Polinaut thread in about a year, and it’s got practically nothing to do with the topic Bob Collins set for discussion.

    Did anyone have anything to say on the topic how the Strib should handle “Republicans after hookers” storie in the future? Does anybody have any evidence to show that they are suppressing or mishandling “DFL/Independence Party hooker stories?”

    Bob, why aren’t you exercising your vast powers of moderation to keep this thread on topic? This almost makes me nostalgic for the days you banned me outright for criticizing MPR news coverage.

    The last thing anyone needs is an extended, 26 post marathon GOP/conservative bitch and moan session about the media, designed to take the discussion off GOP hooker stories.

    And where is today’s Daily Digest?

  • Bob Collins

    In your story, you said:

    “MPR produced only one significant news feature in Hatch’s inquiry — a late-March report that included Cathy Wurzer interviewing Hatch and Allina CEO Gordon Sprenger. ”

    You may well be right. I don’t know. But I’m asking you what the source is for your figure. Was it the Web site? Did you monitor all the broadcasts. Did you review all the scripts? Your story doesn’t indicate, it only presents as fact that one “significant” news feature was presented. You also don’t define what you mine by “significant.”

    And what was the purpose of confining the survey period to three months

    As I said, you may well be right in your conclusions. I’m not an apologist for MPR. I do believe in journalistic standards, however, and I like to think that commentators who position themselves as arbiters of good journalism would practice them.

    Instead, you didn’t get a phone call returned from one guy, so you stopped trying to get the other side of the story, preferring instead not to ruin your version of the facts based on what may well have been incomplete data.

    In fact, as near as I can tell, you didn’t talk to a single person at a single media outlet in the Twin Cities.

    Why?

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    BTW –

    “Journalism is not writing what you think truth is and then demanding your subjects prove you wrong. ”

    That is quite insulting, given the fact that our piece was based on public documents. What part of document based reporting don’t you get? For some reason you don’t think that kind of reporting is good journalism. That says a lot about the quality of reporting at MPR.

  • Bob Collins

    Apparently you’re spending too much time reading this thread and not enough time reading the last Daily Digest, Bill.

    //There will not be a digest on Friday or Monday. I’m taking some time off. Have a nice weekend.

  • Bob Collins

    //You call articles of incorporation, annual reports, and IRS 990s “anecdotal information”?? What would qualify as good info to you?

    Two sides of a story. An accurate accounting of stories when used as the basis for a conclusion.

    //I was saying, given what we know, and what we tried hard to know, this is what we think. That’s what journalists do.

    It isssssssss? If you don’t have two sides of a story, if you don’t have all of the facts, if you can’t get critical questions answered, if one guy hangs up on you, you get to just write what you THINK? Who taught you THAT?

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Aren’t you the guy who got his Web site publicity by running off to places where reporters were doing live standups on TV, and you’d hold up a sign with the Web site URL? Maybe even run back and forth in and out of camera range?

    That must’ve taken a lot of time and energy. And yet, on this story in which you challenged the ethics of a number of news outlets in the Twin Cities, you exhibited no such energy, except that which you could expend sitting in front of your computer searching stuff. Then yo had your “aha” moment, decided what the story is and wrote it.

    If your “top journalist” didn’t return your phone calls, why not stake out his house? Why not phone someone else? (Or maybe you did, if so, who?) Who did you try at KSTP?

    To answer your question of some hours ago, THIS is what I’m talking about when I talk about how easy it must be to do stories when you don’t have to put a lot of work into it. You can just write what you think. You can just tell other journalists how “sucky” they are.

    Maybe the reason the Strib wouldn’t run your “story,” is because they noticed something too.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    “In fact, as near as I can tell, you didn’t talk to a single person at a single media outlet in the Twin Cities.”

    Wrong – I talked to Buzenburg – he just wouldn’t help. Is there some media czar who would have set me straight?

    BTW – where did we get the info on what was run on MPR? 1) I listened when I could; 2) I made a database of show topics of Midday and Midmorning; 3) I searched the MPR website. 4) I tried REPEATEDLY to contact the head of news, who refused to comment.

    Health Care by all accounts is in the top two or three issues voters are concerned about. A public news source that dominates radio in the state didn’t report on a huge scandal that touched on people on their very board. Then, they refused to even discuss the matter.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    “what was the purpose of confining the survey period to three months”

    If you’d read the story you’d know – that was the period between when the scandal broke and when Hatch made a deal to reform Allina, i.e. when NEWS REPORTING WOULD HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE.

  • Bob Collins

    //BTW – where did we get the info on what was run on MPR? 1) I listened when I could; 2) I made a database of show topics of Midday and Midmorning; 3) I searched the MPR website. 4) I tried REPEATEDLY to contact the head of news, who refused to comment.

    So, in other words, when you write a declarative sentence that says MPR did only one story of significance, that was actually a best guess because you didn’t know at the time, because you didn’t ask or fact check, that it’s entirely possible that assertion is false. You assumed every story ended up on the Web site and your story — or at least that sentence — may well have been incorrect because of that assumption.

    //didn’t report on a huge scandal that touched on people on their very board. Then, they refused to even discuss the matter.

    So now that you know that your assumption may well be incorrect, your still making the assertion as fact. Why?

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    “…on this story in which you challenged the ethics of a number of news outlets in the Twin Cities, you exhibited no such energy, except that which you could expend sitting in front of your computer searching stuff. Then yo had your “aha” moment, decided what the story is and wrote it.”

    That is total baloney. How would you know? In fact, I went personally to the secretary of state’s office, and other places to collect physical documents. We spent weeks investigating and writing that story. We have the documents to prove it.

    Why wasn’t the story discussed on Midday or Midmorning? We know for sure it wasn’t. You obviously don’t care about journalism or the integrity of MPR -you just want to discredit me with bull because I pointed out unethical conduct where you work. It is your own lack of integrity and careerism that doesn’t let you see this – but others do.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    BTW – It’s not that MPR didn’t report on Allina during the period – there were dozens of stories we found at the MPR website. They just didn’t report on the scandal.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    BTW – it must just be some great coincidence that we could find lots of Allina stories on MPR’s website but none about the scandal (during the studied period). I’m sure you’ve got a good explanation for this.

  • Bob Collins

    //That is total baloney. How would you know? I

    Because you just said it, Rob. You said you wrote what you think based on what you knew at the time. But you obviously didn’t put much effort into fact checking your documents or seeking context once one person in media in the TC hung up on you.

    I don’t doubt you put the work into getting the documents, but for some reason you couldn’t be bothered, for example, confirming whether what you THINK regarding only one story “of significance” being done was true. I’ve asked “why” several times but for some reason you don’t want to answer that question.

    You also didn’t describe what “of significance” means. For example, you cited Wurzer’s interview on 3/21, but not Bill Catlin’s. Why?

    You didn’t cite 5 stories that were done between July and September. Now, perhaps your article was written before August (you didn’t say), and yet you still cling to this assumption:

    //you just want to discredit me with bull because I pointed out unethical conduct where you work. It is your own lack of integrity and careerism that doesn’t let you see this – but others do.

    So, again, you’re assuming that conduct is unethical. You don’t let stories you didn’t count speak for themselves, you don’t even mention their existence. Why? Because maybe those other people you refer to would realize that your numbers are incorrect.

    http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/200103/22_catlinb_allina/

    http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/200107/20_catlinb_allina/

    http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/200109/24_mccalluml_allina/

    http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/200108/27_scheckt_allinaaudit/

    http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/200108/10_scheckt_allina/

    http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/200108/03_mccalluml_allina/

    Now, perhaps you didn’t know about these stories when you wrote your think piece, but you do now, and yet you don’t adjust your previous view that there was a lack of integrity in covering the story.

    Far from trying to discredit you, Rob, I’m merely taking you back to your original post about “throwing stones.” You have, but a look at your methodology, a look at your journalism shows it is bereft of context and devoid of the kind of fact checking that good journalism requires.

    So if one were to take your initial advice, do you still think you have the right to judge the journalism of others?

    Personally, I think you do. I think I do too.

  • Bob Collins
  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    I rest my case. Between the end of March and the end of July there was ONE story – which we said there was. That was the period we were talking about. You are self-discrediting.

    “you couldn’t be bothered, for example, confirming whether what you THINK regarding only one story “of significance” being done was true.”

    Couldn’t be bothered? I guess contacting Buzenburg was just for fun. We did everything in our power to try to prove ourselves wrong.

    Do we have the right to judge others? Yes. Do others have the right to judge us? Absolutely, but when you are biased by financial and corporate connections and then refuse to ever own up to it, you should get a lot of crap. Especially if you’re using government money. And MPR didn’t get any crap for its terrible behavior. Your own postings on this thread prove that nothing has changed there.

    You keep trying to play “gotcha” with me, but provide no evidence except illogical attacks on my methodology, which was sound in every sense.

  • Bob Collins

    I guess I have to spell it out for you. The proper words that should accompany your assertion “there was ONE story” would be “posted on the MPR Web site” (and I don’t, for the record, know that that’s true, I put about 30 seconds of work into entering terms in the search box; pretty much what you did).

    //Couldn’t be bothered? I guess contacting Buzenburg was just for fun. We did everything in our power to try to prove ourselves wrong.

    Did you try anyone besides Buzenberg? No. Did you try Kling? No? Anyone on the board of directors (you are making an assertion against the organization)? No. Did you try anyone at any other outlet you criticized? Not so I can tell. Did you contact any of the reporters who covered Hatch? Nope.

    So when you say, Rob, you did everything in your power to prove yourselves wrong, you’re really asking us to suspend disbelief, aren’t you? Because it looks like you made one phone call.

    Your methodology to reach a conclusion appeared to be sound. Your checking of facts and willingness to be balanced were weak and your lack of precision — or lack of it — on such things as the number of stories MPR did was poor journalism.

    I’m sorry you think I’m playing “gotcha,” but you invited the scrutiny upstream.

    Hey, but don’t worry about it. You got your URL out there and you didn’t have to go out in the rain, running in the background of some TV person’s live shot carrying a stupid sign.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    Let’s see: You tried to prove me wrong by posting links to stories which were outside the time frame we wrote about, claiming I was a poor journalist for not mentioning them. What does that make you?

    You accuse me of somehow having a “lack of precision.” I think you’re totally off base, but, whatever. What of MPR’s culpability in this episode? Do you just get off scott free? Who do you answer to? It’s not your listeners – because you don’t really need them. You have plenty of money.

    MPR is not to be trusted – on anything, but especially on matters relating to money and health care. You have too many conflicts of interest, which you will do anything to deny.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    BTW – The PR flacks at MPR wouldn’t LET me talk to anyone else – only Marcia Appel or whatever her name is. They put me to Buzenburg, who wouldn’t talk. So don’t tell me about trying to talk to others at MPR – the stalinists who run the joint won’t allow anyone to talk.

  • Bob Collins

    You took “no” for an answer? I bet City Pages wouldn’t. (g)

  • Bill Prendergast

    So–nobody has anything more on the Republicans and the hookers?

    Forty six posts. And no one even suggested that the GOP ban candidates who employ hookers, to cut off these ugly stories at the source. It’s the death of common sense.

    Anyway–I’m sorry to hear that the Daily Digest is not going to be around Monday and Friday. Even Congress has gone to a five day work week. I don’t see why we should suffer because Scheck wants to golf.

  • Bob Collins

    //It’s the death of common sense.

    Maybe. Quite possibly it’s because a primarily liberal audience (I’m guessing but I think it’s safe to say conservatives don’t flock to MPR) don’t have the same problem with a journalistic attack on Republicans as they would if it had been DFLers. Perhaps not the death of common sense as much as cosmic proof of the existence of a double standard.

    Oh, and I think Scheck is only taking last Friday and today off.

    Too bad it’s raining. I was sure yesterday would’ve been the day I broke 100 for the first time.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    Just for the record: I DO believe in trying to get the point of view of people and institutions I write about. I tried hard to talk to people at MPR for BOTH stories I wrote about the organization. I even tried to talk to Bill Kling about the VPU’s he got in the Rivertown deal. I wanted to know how the so-called VPUs compared to real world stock options, and the fact that MPR’s articles of incorporation stipulate that there shall be no stock. For some reason, he wouldn’t talk to me about it, despite repeated attempts to contact him.

  • Joel Rosenberg

    FWIW — probably not much — both Bob Collins and Rob Levine have persuaded me: Collins, that Levine’s story should have been longer and with more named MPR sources refusing to return phone calls or comment; Levine, that MPR bobbled a scandal that involved an organization with which MPR has major, documented entanglements.

    Meanwhile, how about them hookers, eh?

  • Bill Prendergast

    Yeah, how about them hookers?

    I mean–that was the topic of the thread. But Bob and Rob decided to go off on this tangent. So we didn’t learn what we set out to learn here: does the Strib think that GOP members, especially, have a thing for hookers?

    In light of all these hooker stories about GOP members that are emerging nationally and now locally. I think Bob is right to the extent that he is arguing “if the GOP has been promoting “family values”/”traditional values” they should expect news coverage when the media catches their boys with prosties.

    I also think Bob is right in that GOP politicians who weren’t directly involved with the hookers/pimps/madames shouldn’t be alluded to in the body of the news story. That’s smear-y.

    This is news, because I hardly ever think Bob is right. And what’s more: if this is the sort of political climate that the right has manufactured for us, the media had better start asking all political candidates questions about their personal lives that were hitherto considered off-limits–“candidate, have you ever employed prostitutes, used illegal recreational drugs, committed adultery, stolen… etc.”

    People would love to read the answers to those questionnaires. It would sell like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, and could be offered as evidence when they’re actually caught.

  • Bob Collins

    As near as I can tell, the fact that Rob and I were engaged in a “tangent” didn’t prevent anyone else from responding to the original thread message. That they didn’t choose to probably meant they didn’t WANT to more than they couldn’t. Why that is is open to interpretation.

    However, I think you’ve misquoted me here:

    //I think Bob is right to the extent that he is arguing “if the GOP has been promoting “family values”/”traditional values” they should expect news coverage when the media catches their boys with prosties.//

    Again your juxtaposing the party as a whole with the people in that party who may have committed a crime. My point is exactly the opposite. To make a connection between the party and a crime (as charged) isn’t really fair, in my opinion.

    I believe that’s what the Strib was trying to do; it just was pretty sloppy at it.

    To repeat… what was fair was to point out was that Droogsma worked for two Republicans. The value of having voted for a third one seems a dubious distinction.

    But they’re the party of family values, you might say. Of course, I think the DFLers are for family values too, just with different definitions. Who doesn’t like families?

    Moreover, who believes in prostitution? I don’t think the Democrats do. So if one of THEIR folks is caught soliciting, is it then fair to make a connection between a crime and the party to which the suspect belonged?

    Boy, I sure don’t see how.

    If a reporter and editor wanted to go that route, however, they should just flat out do that story, rather than trying to tuck the inference in the middle of the story.

  • http://www.trailblz.com Brian Hanf

    Hey I’m just going to add another post to see the word Hooker in a post again.

    (Collins interjects: Hasn’t been so fun since Mike Hatch allowed us all to say “Republican whore” on the radio).

    BTW I think everyone is very happy the Bob is posting here again. 55-56 posts on a topic, I have not seen anything like it in age’s.

    BTW – Rob Levine – The company I work for has money ties to MPR, it it evil also then? (J/K)

    For disclosure – See Banner ad’s on side of Polinaut main page (most of the time they are for the company i work for Trail Blazer Campaign Services)

  • Bob Collins

    Rob, I’ve asked you before — I think — and you didn’t respond, but what date did you write the article. I ask because you dismiss the fact that MPR *did* do stories that you criticize it for *not* doing by saying they didn’t do them in your *survey period.*

    In other words, if a story was done on August 1, you dismiss it in order to maintain your conclusion, because you only “surveyed” up until July 31.

    In fact, you are *still* making the same contention that MPR didn’t do any “substantive” (a term which I’ve asked you to define which you have so far refused to do) stories on the issue, even though time (an extra day or so beyond your “survey period”) has shown that your conclusion is probably not entirely accurate, since you limited the survey period.

    IN other words, if your conclusion is accurate, those other stories *past* the survey period shouldn’t exist at all. And yet they do.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    //what date did you write the article

    Not sure exactly – looks like the end of July. The time period was chosen based on when the scandal broke, and when Hatch made an agreement with Allina. That was the time when public input and journalistic effort would have made a difference. Once a deal was done the story was basically over. As I wrote above, during that period MPR did only one story on the scandal, and that was at the very beginning, and very friendly to Allina. What don’t you get about that? Where was MPR on the story from April to August, while it was brewing? Why wouldn’t Bill Buzenberg talk to us about it? It’s very stinky for MPR.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    //IN other words, if your conclusion is accurate, those other stories *past* the survey period shouldn’t exist at all. And yet they do.

    Wrong. The story was basically over – Hatch had made a deal with Allina at the end of July. MPR gave Allina a pass on a story that made them look VERY bad, until the punishment had been decided. The public that judges Allina and MPR had NOTHING from MPR during the period that the story mattered.

    You answer a question: Did MPR do nothing wrong here, or was the reporting good and complete during the time of the scandal? Does nothing smell fishy to you here?

    (Collins: Personally? Having had the luxury of seeing Hatch’s investigation, I would have liked to have seen MPR have it before Hatch released it. That said, I don’t know what resources MPR put it into the story to try to do that. I don’t know what editorial direction they were given. I *do* know that nobody in the newsroom to my knowledge was ordered off the story. If they had been — I think anyone who’s ever been in a newsroom can attest — it would have swept through this place like a wildfire. I know you think that’s what happened, but as far as I know that’s supposition that you presented. I would depend on your reporting to unearth that fact, if it exists, because I’m unaware of it.

    Personally, I’d like to see the investigative unit, which became American RadioWorks, recreated on a regional basis. So would a lot of people here. I doubt that’ll ever happen because newsrooms don’t fund investigative units anymore. If they pay someone, they want stories on a regular basis now (I would refer you to IRE for a dissertation on this).

    I haven’t been in a newsroom yet — in 32 years of doing this — that couldn’t be better today than it was yesterday. Your work is important in helping that so we actually share goals. Personally, I feel your assertions of unethical behavior is inappropriate, not because I work here, or because I’m overpaid (I tried to turn all the riches MPR is bestowing on me down, but they simply wouldn’t hear of it), but because I have no evidence to make that conclusion. I can’t simply say “Midday didn’t do a show, therefore the newsroom is a cesspool of people taking direction from David Strand” because I’ve spent a life in the business and I know I need to answer the most important question here, “how do you know?” and all the other questions that come after that without getting to the frustrating point of stamping feet and shrieking, “because it is, that’s why.?”

    Personally, I think you smelled smoke. Good for you. I’m not sure you ever made it to the fire, but at this point that’s for other people to decide. Those who weigh facts will weigh facts and decide for themselves; those who are predisposed to reach a conclusion based on whether they “like” or “dislike” MPR, the people who run it, or the people who work there, I imagine, will have a considerably shorter route to follow.)

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    BTW – Why was there no discussion of the Allina scandal on Midmorning or Midday? Surely there was an hour or two available in all those months?

    (Collins: I think that’s a good question and one you should have asked 6 years ago before you concluded for yourself what the answer is. But you never called the producer of the program (it’s not hard, really, you call the number and ask for Sara Meyer). THAT';s the problem I have with your work, Rob. You say you did everything possible to answer that question, except ask it.)

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    Let me sum up your reactions to my story. First, you said it wasn’t true that MPR didn’t report on the story during the given period. I proved you false. Then you said I should’ve talked to more people at MPR, but then I showed you how I tried but no one there would talk to me. Now you say that MPR coverage AFTER the Hatch/Allina settlement makes it all okay.

    (Collins: This is what concerns me about the underpinnings of your story. The fact is, MPR did report on it during hte period — I already asked you why you ignored Bill Catlin’s article on the smae day you cited Wurz’s interview nad you chose not to ask the question. You come up with weird qualifiers like “substantial” (which you don’t define) and some arbitrary cutoff of when the scandal “began” and when the scandal “ended”, ignoring that which doesn’t suit your obviously previously formed conclusion, and then continue make these blanket statements. Then you feel a need to “recap” in order to change the facts yet again. How is it we’re too consider you a believable source for journalistic integrity when you commit such flagrant abuse of ethics in the production and defense of this story?)

    You really don’t care about journalistic integrity, do you? It’s all about protecting your institution. What, are you grossly overpaid or something?

    Why the undeserved loyalty? MPR really screwed up here, on a primary issue to citizens. You’re just trying to cover it up, which makes my point even better than my story.

    Collins: I’ve already mentioned that I’m not an apologist for MPR. I’m loyal, however, to the concept of journalism and it bothers me, frankly, that people have such a low opinion of it and the people who practice it. I believe having people scrutinize our work is a VERY valid exercise. All journalism should be scrutinized in an intelligent and responsible and calm way. But so should yours, Rob, and when someone who fashions himself a “wordsmith” and ends up with conclusions like “sucky” and has fits of pique that lead an otherwise reasonable conversation to lead to “what are are you overpaid or something?” I think one has to examine what the mindset is being the argument.

    You put your work out there for all to see. That’s good. How much you’re paid to do it is entirely irrelevant to a scholarly examination of it.

    C’mon, Rob, if you’ve done your job properly, you don’t need to throw the pies.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    //throwing pies

    Huh? You’ve done a fine job of obfuscating the misbehavior of MPR here. Congratulations. You should be in a for a raise.

    (Collins: I don’t know what else to tell you Rob. I’ve told you what I know and, more important, what I don’t know. I’m a guy who writes stuff at MPR about what he knows and tells you what he doesn’t know. I’ve said before you may be right, you maybe wrong. I simply don’t know. I do know that when you make these allegations, anyone with an ounce of interest in your scholarly endeavor and your knowledge is going to poke at it a bit to find out whether you really do have something behind your assertions or if you’re just another person with an axe to grind. I simply don’t know.

    I don’t know what your background in journalism is. I don’t know if you practice it, if you teach it, or what. But dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s is a pretty normal part of the endeavor, as I’m sure you’re aware. So I’m a little confused about your obvious frustration when someone checks whether you have crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s. It sounds like you didn’t expect it.

    Personally, as an editor, I think you have more work to do on what may be a hell of a story. It doesn’t look like you’ve done any work on it, though, in the 6 years since you originally stated your allegations other than continue to repeat it.

    Did you ever ask the Strib WHY they refused to print it?

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    //I can’t simply say “Midday didn’t do a show, therefore the newsroom is a cesspool of people taking direction from David Strand” …

    Duh! Who said that? I didn’t say a word about how or why MPR did no coverage – just that they didn’t and wouldn’t talk about it. Top-down control is very subtle. People may not even realize they are self-censoring.

    Does it make a difference WHY Midday and Midmorning didn’t cover the scandal? Probably. But it doesn’t change the FACT that they didn’t cover it.

    What – do YOU think the newsroom is a “cesspool”? You’re projecting here.

    (Collins: Obviously I don’t. By the way, have you ever been in this one? )

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    //Did you ever ask the Strib WHY they refused to print it?

    They wouldn’t say.

  • http://cursor.org Rob Levine

    Not to beat a dead horse – I hope to wrap up this thread – but it seems to me the Allina scandal provided an *opportunity* to MPR to look its critics in the eye and prove them wrong.

    Sure – there are strong institutional connections between MPR and Allina, and yes the AG had raised serious concerns about the health care provider that went to the heart of its operations. MPR could have provided deep coverage – ANY coverage – of the scandal – DURING the scandal.

    Instead it virtually ignored the scandal, then acted all guilty when someone asked about its coverage. This was a real test of MPR and its funding strategy, as well as the integrity of its newsroom. And they both got an F.

  • Bob Collins

    thanks for your time, Rob.