The ‘more to the story’ story

There are a couple of intersecting stories in the news today; the thread between them is that there’s always more to the story.

Item #1

The story: Katherine Kersten’s article “Teacher questions Muslim practices at charter school,” documented the experiences of a substitute teacher to conclude that Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy in Inver Grove Heights is “an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers.”

The “more to the story”MinnPost’s David Brauer reports the sub was a conservative Republican activist in college, who had been shown a previous Kersten column on the school by her parents.

Item #2:

The story: During the presidential debate on Wednesday in Philadelphia, a video of a woman was shown, in which she asked Barack Obama if he “believed in the American flag.”

The more to the story: McClatchy reports that the woman appeared in a feature in the Washington Post awhile ago, critical of Obama for not wearing a flag pin. ABC tracked her down specifically to ask the question, as opposed to having randomly submitted video questions from which this was plucked.

For the record, the “more to the story” doesn’t render “the story” false. But when the full story isn’t told, it makes it far too easy to question the motives involved, even though they may be pure. Plus, in the age of blogs, it’s really a dumb idea not to disclose these things.

  • GregS

    I like how Brauer concludes his piece.

    Let’s say a DFL union activist criticized a “classical” charter school for teaching Christianity sub-rosa. I suspect conservatives would want that personal history to be reported.

    For the record, I’m a Democrat-voting, public-school-loving, Muslim-liking guy.

    In other words, wink, wink, it’s okay for one side to do it, and not the other.

    Supporters of vouchers have watched as Democratic union activsts from Education Unions including Eduction Minnesota, the largest stable of lobbyists in the state, have spent $millions promoting “Separation of Church and State” to separate their political opponents “Chrisitans” from funds……..but hey, this isn’t about just any old religion, it’s about a DIVERSE religion.

    Give me a freak’n break….did the acadamy violate the law or didn’t it?

    If it did, do something about it. If it didn’t leave them alone.

  • Thanks for the link, Bob.

    Definitely not saying what the teacher reported was false, and the “big picture” of the original column might even be unsullied.

    But I think a little more background on the source would’ve been appropriate for Kersten to work in, and I definitely think KSTP (referenced in my piece) over-dramatized and under-contextualized the teacher’s awareness going in.

    I actually think Andy Birkey at Minnesota Monitor raised a more interesting question about Kersten: how closely can columnists (or reporters) follow press-release verbiage when writing under their own name? KK was far too close for comfort for me in her recent St. Thomas column.

  • Lori

    I was left hanging on both of those stories. It seems obvious what wasn’t said. But how many people actually fill in the blanks as I think they should?!

    On another topic, I just heard MPR announce John McCain’s financial disclosure. Is anyone other than me surprised to learn that he is drawing Social Security?

  • Greg –

    You pretty much missed the point of the ending. All of us with biases should be pressed for fuller disclosure. And since I was talking about the teacher’s history and politics, I disclosed my own.

    Definitely not arguing for one-sidedness here. Just offering an alternate example to show either side would ask for disclosure, depending on the circumstances.

    I think many folks have noted the irony of KK going after TIZA while long touting Christian-sponsored and -influenced charters. There’s ample room for hypocrisy out there.

  • GregS

    David, if people, especially reporters, had to disclose their biases, there would be no space or time for the news.

    I see no hypocrisy at all in KK’s attack on TIZA. Her position is that ALL, let me repeat that again, ALL faith-based educational institutions should enjoy voucher support.

    The fact that the opponents of KK’s voucher ideas limit their attack to Christian schools but turn a blind eye to TIZA show hypocrisy on the other side.

  • Bob Collins

    The issue I have with Kersten’s columns is that they’re not reported. As I understand it, every other columnist there not named Hartman and Kersten has to have reported columns.

    The fact that she uses the “someone told me” method of journalism makes it MORE important that she fully disclose.

    Personally, I’m waiting for a column about the evils of the ACLU, the one organization that appears to be on her side here.

    I did enjoy her column the other day about how her mother and father lived in some run-down dump and mom never said a discouraging word about it and smiled through. Maybe. Maybe not. There’s a lot about old mom and dad, I’ve learned, that junior and sis don’t know.

  • Greg – for sure, there’s a point of drastically diminishing returns on disclosure, but in this case, we were at first-level stuff regarding a main, pivotal source.

    Like I said, there’s hypocrisy all around, but KK wasn’t arguing for vouchers in her column. Seems to me she’s fine – even buoyant – with Christianist-flavored charters but not Muslimist-ones. That’s inconsistent, and a little weird.

    And remember, we still don’t know TIZA did ANYTHING wrong.

  • GregS

    Seems to me she’s fine – even buoyant – with Christianist-flavored charters but not Muslimist-ones.

    I see absolutely no evidence of that. What I see is KK demanding that rules be applied equally.

    She concludes her column by saying “— if TIZA were a Christian school, it would likely be gone in a heartbeat.” – and she is right. We all know she is right – that is why her oponents choose to attack the messenger rather than the facts.

  • GregS

    Hmmmm, I notice both of these instances are of conservative “plants” raising issues with a liberal agenda. Is there more to the story of this “coincidence”?

  • Bob Collins

    Where did you get that she was a conservative “plant”?

  • Bob Collins

    //We all know she is right – that is why her oponents choose to attack the messenger rather than the facts.

    She doesn’t even know she’s right. She had never been to the school. She only wrote about one person who had been to the school for a day. Wouldn’t you think it prudent that the investigation determine the facts before concluding that there even are facts here?

    That’s the point, Greg. If you’re going to do a “somebody told me” “story”, then part of the story simply has to include who somebody is.

    Otherwise we’re back to that favorite old saying (which I know I’ve mentioned to you in the past)

    “Check the facts? Nah, you ruin a lot of good stories that way.”

  • GregS

    We know who the somebody is. The somebody was Amanda Getz.

    Ms. Getz was a whistle-blower. She reported what appears to be systemic illegal behavior on the part a tax-funded institution.

    Is the media now suggesting that we challenge the motivation of whistle-blowers?

    Are you suggesting the media will now challenge the motivation of every report of maintenance problems at Northwest/Delta by questioning the union relationship of the whistle-blower?

    The nature of whistle-blowing frequently involves motivations that are less than pure. People report illegal activity because they are mad at their ex. They tattle because their job was outsourced. They report their business competitors to the IRS.

    And yes, activists infiltrate Hormel, Wal-Mart, McDonalds, V.A. hospitals – and educational institutions to make a political or cultural point.

    But, you know what?

    It doesn’t matter.

    If the reports are true, the law is not interested in the motivation of the witness.

    In this case, it appears the media is more interested in motivation than illegality.

    It comes down to two things.

    1) Is TIZA being run as a religious institution?

    2) Did Amanda Getz see what she said she saw?

  • GregS

    “Check the facts? Nah, you ruin a lot of good stories that way.”

    The fact we know the name of the whistle blower, Amanda Getz answers your quesiton “who is the somebody”.

    The only question that remains is did Katherine Kersten check her facts.

    Here you, Bob, and Mr. Brauer have expertise that I do not have.

    Did she or did she not cross a line?

    Would MPR publish a story based on a report by a politically motivated activist? Say a union activist at Northwest regarding maintenance? Would you put that information in an opinion column?

    What did Ms. Kersten do that she should not have done – ethically?

    At least to me, that is the only story here.