‘Doubling down, tripling down, and what KSTP is doing’

“There’s doubling down, there’s tripling down, and then there’s what KSTP is doing,” Corey Hutchins writes today in the Columbia Journalism Review concerning the ongoing refusal of the TV station to understand why its story — dubbed #pointergate — is being so widely condemned by other journalists.

He provides a timeline of the controversy, which doesn’t reveal much new about the controversy other than to solidify the unusual stance by the TV station to stick to its “the mayor flashed gang signs” angle on evidence that doesn’t quite reach the level of “thin”.

Hutchins says Stan Hubbard, KSTP’s boss, pushed back again in the face of condemnation of the story this week by the Society of Professional Journalists.

For his part, Hubbard told me he wrote the SPJ, of which he said he is a member, a “stinging letter.” He clearly feels besieged—angry at the rest of the media, and bitter about the mayor, who didn’t talk for KSTP’s initial story, and whom he blames for “stirring up” the angry response. I asked if, had she had spoken to the station at the outset, they might not have run the story at all.

“I don’t know what she would have said or what she could have said that might have changed it,” he said. “It’s very possible.”

But now, Hubbard is very comfortable with his station’s reporting. And his position, he insists, is bolstered by local public opinion.
“I’ve gotten wonderful phone calls from black leaders saying ‘Good for you,’” he told me. “We just did a major study—we wanted to find out the public reaction—I haven’t got the number exactly, but it’s something like 65 or 70 percent of the people don’t care one way or the other. But interestingly, of those who are aware of the story, 52 percent of black people say, ‘Good for you, right on.’” (I didn’t get details of how the study was conducted.)

He also read me a letter that had been written, he said, by a young black school girl whose grandmother works at the station, and who had been learning about #pointergate in social studies. “We know that the man did a gang sign, but I didn’t learn that in school,” the letter read, in part. Hubbard told me the girl learned it “on the street.”

Hubbard added that he also personally looked up gang signs on Google, and he found one that looked just like what the mayor was doing.
“It may be an uncomfortable story for some people, but we vetted it very carefully,” he insisted. He is, clearly, dug in on this.

Meanwhile, in an email to a spokeswoman for Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges this week, KSTP reporter Jay Kolls, who did the original story, suggested there’s been a spike in gang killing in Minneapolis since the infamous “point.”


(The email was part of a release of emails under an MPR data request)

(Update: Here’s the direct link to the post referenced in the e-mail. h/t: David Brauer)

  • Robert Moffitt

    Not sure which is more disturbing, Hubbard’s “some of my best friends are black defense” or the weird call-out of the Mayor’s Chief of Staff’s partner, Javier, who is well known as a political panelist on “Almanac” and until recently “At Issue,” a KSTP-TV public affairs show. He left the show in protest of #pointergate. Yes, he is “with the union.” He’s the president of the local chapter. A veteran reporter of 28 years didn’t know this?

    • Of course he knew it. That was some classic Minnesota “passive aggressive” right there.

      • BJ

        Was it a case of asking a ‘simple’ question to get a reply so Kolls would know if Brickman had read the rest of the email?

        • No, it was a case of dismissing the guy’s criticism and saying he knows that it emanates from his relationship to the mayor’s office. Whatever.

          Most of the emails we got were Kolls asking for emails between Hodges and NOC.

          After Morillo wrote his scathing blog post, Kolls expanded it to include him.


  • Guest

    Regarding Hubbard’s “survey” — several people on Twitter noted that they received calls from “TV Research” about Pointergate, and remarked that the questions seemed loaded to produce a desired response favorable to KSTP. Now we know who was behind the pseudo-survey.

  • kennedy

    “…making some kind of pointing gesture. I am not sure. We don’t use it much in the suburbs.”

    So the claim is that people in the suburbs generally do not use their fingers to point? C’mon. People everywhere point. What is really being said is that the good people in the suburbs don’t understand the significance of the hand gesture or how the mayor’s point was a sign of solidarity with the city gang bangers. More of the same. And the rest of the letter is full of stereotypes and intimations.

    This gets more absurd with every new release defending the story. Enough already. I understand it’s hard to apologize. Koll/KSTP/Hubbard, if you are not going to admit that it was poor journalism, at least quit talking and let the story die. The continuing defense/denials are now a bigger story than the initial failure.

  • J-dawg

    Nobody in the current culture will ever admit they were wrong. I don’t know why people keep expecting that to suddenly change.

  • ptoadstool

    The blizzard of images that have shown up in various posts showing exactly the same pointing gestures that are obviously not gang signs is pretty telling. I’m afraid this is a case of confirmation bias, which is what you get when you are already primed to find fault with a mayor you don’t like and (of course) a “thug” – wink, wink. It is shameful and embarrassing to have this happen in Minnesota.

  • raflw

    The tone of Koll’s email is remarkable in its lack of professionalism, it’s sarcasm, the sense that comes across is that he is furious with the mayor. He is now, at best, a pundit, not a reporter. He clearly demonstrates he has no objectivity left.
    Frankly, KSTP throughout this has demonstrated they’d rather be Fox News than ABC.

  • Brian Kelly

    A friend of mine received one of these slanted robo-calls. She said one of the questions was: “Do you still want KSTP to report on criminal activity, even though some may think those reports are racist?”
    This kind of “research” is designed to support their narrative. If they REALLY wanted to know what people were thinking…they wouldn’t take down their ratings section on Facebook. They wouldn’t delete posts which criticize them. They don’t want to know the public’s opinion, they just want to paint it in such a way as to appear that they have community support.

  • Leslie Davis

    Mayor Hodges is clearly making a gang sign. No one would raise their arm the way she did to point at another person.
    She does her silly crap like making a gang sign or wearing a muslim head scarf to win over the weirdos who like her or she gives money to.
    What she should be doing is getting the fluoride out of our water instead of running for office again and again.