We’re “on the air” from the University of St. Thomas, where the Minnesota News Council is holding two hearings today with complaints from the public against a couple of media organizations. I won’t go into detail on the nature of the complaints, because I’ve already posted them here.
Please feel free to post your comments and questions in the comments section below and I’ll be happy to kick them around with you.
The hearing starts at 12:15. There are quite a few “big names” (and former big names) from the media sitting on the council. Like Kerri Miller, who’s not here. Where’s Kerri?
(Latest posts will be at bottom)
12:15 – First case is Steve Devich vs. KSTP, city manager for Richfield who objects that KSTP didn’t get his comments in a story about noise in Richfield, while using a letter he wrote. Jim Gilbert, former Minnesota Supreme Court justice, is the hearing officer.
12:24 – The video of the KSTP report is being played. You can view it here.
12:26 – Devich explains the noise monitoring process in Richfield. Says readings in this case didn’t warrant more tests. Says he couldn’t force existing Richfield ordinance because the city attorney said it was below the state standard. He sent a letter about it and then turned on the TV and saw the letter was used. “We’re very familiar with noise issues of Richfield,” he said, suggesting the KSTP report made it look as though the city was vindictive. “I was never contacted, he (reporter) never tried to contact me.”
12:32 – Letter from KSTP news director Lindsay Radford in packet given to council members:
“We represented the city’s side by interviewing Mr. Devich’s boss, the Mayor of Richfield. …. Surely the mayor is capable of speaking accurately for the city.”
12:34 – KSTP policy, apparently, is not to participate in these proceedings, Justice Gilbert says. He reads KSTP’s letter. Devich says KSTP letter is wrong because mayor is not “his boss,” per se. He reports to council and mayor equally.
12:38. “Were you aware your letter is a public letter is a public document,” Council member Issa Mansaray asks. Devich says yes. He then directs question to KSTP about why they didn’t contact him directly since they used his letter?
“We don’t know because KSTP is not here,” Gilbert says.
12:42 – Devich says reporter Tim Sherno contacted him later about another story. He declined to be interviewed.
12:44 PiPress boss Thom Fladung, “Does the mayor agree the story was unfair?”
Devich: “I don’t feel comfortable speaking for someone else.”
12:45 “If I could do it all over again,” Devich said. “I would have delivered it out there and talked to them (residents). Could I have done a better job? You bet. I was surprised that in the response to getting that letter, that the neighborhood didn’t pick up the phone and call me. I was surprised the first phone call didn’t come to me. The first phone call went to KSTP. I apologized to the City Council. That still doesn’t absolve KSTP and Tim Sherno from calling me and explaining the letter.”
12:47 Council member Barbara Johnson: “If you could change the newscast, what would make it more fair for you?”
“Just something to show that we were working on the problem; that I was working with the school district to quiet down the air handling unit while trying to get an ordinance put into effect that we could use to solve the problem,” Devich said.
12:50 – Deliberations begin
Minnesota News Council member comments
Heather Harden, former TV reporter – KSTP entirely missed the story and the mayor was uninformed. That’s unfortunate. In terms of the writing of the story, a real error is in the lede of the story. The reporter failed to notice that the decibel of the air handling unit was below the standards. Neighbor quoted the nighttime decibel level. (Bob: Nice catch by Ms. Harden)
Tom Peterson – If you call Stanley Hubbard on a Sunday and ask about a Tim Sherno story, you’d probably get the same sort of response that the mayor gave. They were looking for a conspiracy that wasn’t really there.
Lorin Robinson – There’s this ratings building thing that TV stations have that they’re on the side of the “little people.” It’s just so easy to take on a governmental body and try to prove their on the side of the people against the governmental body “abusing” them without checking the real facts. Believes there’s a trend that we’ve seen repeatedly and this is another example.
Elizabeth Costello – As someone who worked weekends and battled to get someone to talk to you on a Sunday, I’m not bothered that the mayor was interviewed, but that there weren’t 10 voicemails on Devich’s phone on Monday morning to show an attempt was made to contact Devich. “The legwork wasn’t done.”
Issa Mansaray – Concerned with the use of the letter itself. “It sets a bad precedent.” Says it sends the message that reporters can build story around a letter without contacting its source.
Al Zdon – The press does have a role to protect people, it just wasn’t done very well here. The letter looked like a slap in the face. “I don’t see that it’s a big deal… a serious problem.”
Jeremy Iggers – “Both the reporting and KSTP’s response are really shabby. This feels like drive-by journalism to me.” Says “you hate to make that phone call when you have a beautiful story with a villain.”
1:10 p.m. Voting begins. I’ve sent an e-mail to KSTP asking why they didn’t send someone to defend their story. “I think they were here by virtue of their letter,” Justice Gilbert says.
Final vote on the question:
1. Was KSTP’s usage of Steven Devich’s letter misleading in a 4/20/08 story about noise levels coming from Richfield Middle School?
Analysis — That one was easy. The next one won’t be. I’ll set up a different entry.