I’m not altogether sure I understand the fury from the Minnesota Nurses Association (by way of David Brauer’s blog at MinnPost) over the fact a meeting the nurses had was closed to the press, but the Strib inflitrated.
According to David:
The latest flashpoint is a Strib story that includes quotes from what the MNA says was a closed-to-the-press union membership meeting Wednesday. The piece, written by Josephine Marcotty and Chen May Yee, includes passages such as:
One nurse stood up and said, “I’m a young nurse and I talk to a lot of young nurses.” She said she was worried that some would cross the picket line.
MNA spokesman John Nemo says the media organizations were informed via press release that the meeting was closed.
I’m probably old school here but I’m inclined to respond, “so what?” It’s the job of reporters to find information and that’s what the Star Tribune did. Did they break the law to get it? Not that I can tell. Did they get the story wrong? That doesn’t appear to be the contention.
Far more troubling are two other parts of Brauer’s story. One in which the nurses union spokesman seems to acknowledge he’d already been favoring certain media outlets over another. And one in which a TV reporter seems more than willing to accept information crumbs as the nurses are willing to provide them.
In any event, Nemo vows payback. “I told the Strib I’m cutting them out of the scoops. On Monday, they’ll have to wait for the strike vote. I’m giving it to [Pioneer Press reporter] Jeremy Olson first.”
He makes even that sound charitable: “We don’t need the mainstream media to tell our story. We built our whole campaign around social networking — 10,000 fans on Facebook, and MNAblog.com gets 8-10,000 hits a day. It’s not 1988 any more.”
Ethical? One can’t very expect the media to sit and wait for spoon-fed information from one side in a labor dispute, when the people dispensing that information are favoring some media over the other.
Better to just get the information on your own. You know, like reporters do.
As for the need for mainstream media, it’s true. It’s not 1988 anymore and the nurses don’t need mainstream media to get their information out to nurses, but they do need the mainstream media if they’re engaged in a fight for the public’s hearts and minds, which they are.
Someday, perhaps, the majority of the not-involved-in-nursing-or-hospitals general public will browse YouTube videos and Web site blogs to get these morsels on their own, but that’s not a reality of 2011.
As penetrating as “new media” has become in our daily lives, it hasn’t come close to carrying the influence the old guard still wields. Like it or not, that’s simply a fact.
It’s understandable that in a contentious labor situation, cooler heads aren’t likely to prevail when it comes to relationships with the media. The communications individuals have a job to do: To get their story told, preferably just the way they want it.
But that’s not the job of journalists. If there are elements of the story that are wrong, a reporter’s head should be fair game. Attribution, not insinuation, belongs in news stories. Clearly, two sides (or more) of a particular story should be told. But increasingly, the definition of bias among the communications professionals is that another point of view saw the light of day.
Look at another situation, the oil spill in the Gulf. Other than actually breaking the law, at what point should reporters stop trying to get the full story, rather than just the one BP wants told?