Why photojournalists were right to show you Gov. Dayton collapsing

Of all of the ludicrous, misplaced, and, frankly, chilling criticisms and intimidation of the free press in recent days, none rises to the level of absurdity as the criticism leveled against the Minnesota media overnight for showing this.

Gov. Dayton fainted during the State of the State speech in the House of Representatives last night and local journalists had no choice but to tell you he did. It’s their job.

“Let’s be respectful and not post these pictures for cripes sake,” one person on Twitter replied to Star Tribune photojournalist Glen Stubbe’s posting.

Here’s a better idea: Let’s not.

For the record, of course, it was a horrifying sight to see. A 70-year-old man collapsing, instinctively makes us want to look away, just as House TV panned away from the scene moments after it happened. The governor’s slurred speech just before he went down only added to the alarm, which hasn’t been assuaged by the good news that the governor appears to have recovered.

But the time and the place dictates decisions such as this and there simply are no compelling reasons for journalists to shield viewers and readers from a potentially monumental moment in state history. This is journalism, not public relations, and sometimes it’s ugly and uncomfortable.

There can and should be little expectation of privacy for a governor, and there certainly can be none for one delivering the State of the State speech.

Yes, it is personally embarrassing to collapse at such a moment. It is horrifying to watch.

So was this.

And this…

And this…


And, of course, this…

People always have the option of turning away, but there is no alternative when a free press sanitizes news and, potentially, history. It’s not a role any responsible citizen should be urging upon journalists. They ought not be assigned as guardians of dignity at the expense of providing important information to the people they serve.

What can we learn by seeing the video of Gov. Dayton’s collapse?

Most important, we can learn that the explanations surrounding the incident aren’t adding up to the lay-person.

Within a few minutes of his collapse, politicial officials noted Dayton was “fine” and was joking as he walked out of the Capitol.

His son provided us with the comfort we were seeking when he assured us his dad was OK.

He said the governor went back to the Governor’s Mansion and worked on a puzzle with his grandson.

Dayton’s staff issued this statement:

Perhaps if people weren’t so concerned about journalists doing journalism, they instead could have noticed that, from afar, none of this makes any sense.

Who collapses after slurring speech and then goes home and not to a hospital for a full medical checkout? Why are EMTs — not doctors — monitoring him at his home? Why is his staff still pointing out that he’ll be at the Capitol today to issue a new budget?

Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, a doctor, was one of the people who rushed to Dayton’s side. He told MPR’s Cathy Wurzer this morning the governor’s pulse was “in the thirties.” He checked for signs of a possible stroke.

“I have many patients who faint multiple times,” he said. “I think Gov. Dayton works very hard and, like most people, he’s his own worst enemy” about taking care of himself.

  1. Listen MPR’s Cathy Wurzer talks with Sen. Scott Jensen about Gov. Dayton’s collapse

    January 24, 2017

A year ago, Dayton, who has had serious health problems from back woes, fainted at a dinner in Woodbury. He spent the night at the hospital. His staff said he was being treated for dehydration.

That’s the expected course of action at moments such as this and to the extent it wasn’t last night is, itself, cause for additional concern.

Perhaps there’s a good explanation for why a similar reasonable and cautious approach to the governor’s care wasn’t the order of the day last night. No doubt, some will insist it’s disrespectful and none of our business to ask.

They’re wrong.

  • Jack

    I praise the media for not censoring the video of Governor Dayton yesterday. It wasn’t just the collapse at the podium, it was also the stumbling before he started the speech.

    Something is going on to cause slurred speech and lack of coordination. He needs a thorough medical examination to confirm that he isn’t suffering from a serious issue. Even if it is/was dehydration, that can be deadly too.

    As my family was reminded over and over in the cardiac ward and during my spouse’s cardiac rehab, you have to pay attention to your own body and others. Denial is a huge cause of death.

    Governor Dayton, the state isn’t going anywhere. Get it checked out. If it is so important to have the budget speech delivered today, have the lieutenant governor deliver it.

    This is a warning to all of us not to take our health for granted.

  • wjc

    I hope the Governor IS feeling better, and I hope that he is getting appropriate care.

  • MrE85

    Like you, I have been concerned about the governor’s health for some time. That scary moment served as a reminder that in the big issues of life, politics mean nothing, and people mean everything. Why can’t we remember that all the time?

  • KariBemidji

    Can we also talk about the house minority leader’s response? To paraphrase, Rep. Hortman last night: “he’s a former goalie, he’s used to getting knocked in the head.” He’s a 70 year old man who was slurring his words before he fainted. I think most of us would’ve sent our loved one much less our governor to the ER not home.

  • Gary F

    “Who collapses after slurring speech and then goes home and not to a hospital for a full medical checkout? ” Well, for one, Hillary Clinton went to her daughter’s apartment and not the hospital after collapsing and being rushed away from the scene.

    What worries me is what would have happened if it were a stroke? Seconds, minutes matter, I would really kick myself afterwards if I were one of those folks who didn’t call 911 and he ended up much worse because of a stroke.

  • Mike
    • RBHolb

      During Desert Storm–remember the Cool War?–the Pentagon offered media outlets video that had been taken from a helicopter attacking an Iraqi camp. The video showed soldiers being gunned down while they ate, drop their plates, and running, often futilely, for their lives. The media outlets were sickened, and turned it down.

      What did we see instead? Flashy American flag graphics, blips on a screen representing successful air strikes, and heartwarming messages to the folks at home. The fact that the war–any war–is about killing and being killed was something the Fifth Estate decided to elide. Instead, they gave us a pep rally crossed with a video game. Keep the public informed, but make sure it’s what they want to see.

      • Links please. My memory isn’t as good as it once was.

        • RBHolb

          Sorry, no link. I recall the anecdote from an article in the Washington Monthly, probably in ’91 or ’92. The online archives for the magazine don’t go back that far.

          • I don’t recall the scenario you describe at all.

          • RBHolb

            Seek, and ye shall find:
            “Only once during the war did Pentagon officials
            willingly deviate from their hardware-only accounting
            of costs to the other side. On February 24, they
            allowed a select group of reporters to screen-test a
            videotape of Iraqis being mowed down by Apache
            helicopters. The reporters blanched. The officials
            shelved the film, sticking with the tank kills. Today.
            in some Pentagon cubbyhole, there’s an image the
            rest of us will never have to see: a group of young
            men dropping their dinners and fleeing in panic, before
            Apache cannon fire rips them in half. “

          • I can’t find your anecdote there. Can you zero in for me?

          • RBHolb

            Page 18 of the article, 5th page of the scan, lower left-hand corner.

          • Mike

            Regardless of the particular anecdote, your general statement about that conflict is accurate. The powers that be learned their lesson from the unflattering media coverage of the Vietnam War, and were determined not to let that happen again. It created the template for all the heartwarming (i.e., dishonest) coverage of death, destruction, and imperialism that we get today in the U.S. media.

            A far more honest depiction of Gulf War I was “Lessons of Darkness,” a documentary by the great German filmmaker Werner Herzog.


          • This photograph, which I’ve now replaced, comes from that war and the first person to die in it.When all was said and done, casualties were described as “light,” which was absurd.


            The anniversary of Capt. Edwards’ death, by the way, is next week.

  • Mike Worcester

    Sen Alice Housman noted this morning that she saw his difficulties before the speech and wanted to say “sit down and give it”, that nobody would care. Considering his ongoing back issues it would have made perfect sense.

    Showing his collapse is certainly embarrassing; none of us would want to be seen that way. One national news outlet which showed the video did note beforehand it would be difficult to watch, which it was. At the same time, as others have noted, it shows the fragility of the human body at times, so caution is warranted.

    Finally, it is absolutely the duty of respectful journalists to ask about his care. He is the governor after all. His family and those close to him are trying to be protective. Makes perfect sense. We all would do that for our loved ones were we in a similar situation.

  • Jasper

    I agree with everything you said except your last two words: “They’re wrong.”
    It is rude and disrespectful to think that outsiders who are not at all privy to (nor should they be) the governor’s personal health history should be prying into and questioning the choices that were made regarding his health. The media is always prying into public figures lives in ways that are not acceptable. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it shouldn’t. You sound just like an HMO, who thinks that it should be able to decide your best care, instead of leaving that decision to the patient and his/her doctor. Journalists as a group don’t get a lot of respect these days because they too often cross the line into prying and spying.

    • You’re wrong.

      • Jasper

        What a snotty response.

        • Rob

          Accurate, no-nonsense response. Nothing snotty about it. This might sound snotty, but what part about Dayton being a public figure and leader of the state did you miss? His health – or evident lack thereof – is totally the public’s business, and thereby the duty of journalists to report, as Bob C.’s. excellent post explicated.

          • dukepowell


        • Gary Leatherman

          Hah. Jasper, meet Bob. You are obviously new here so I’ll introduce you. Bob is why there is a Newscut blog and why we read it. Bob is an old-school reporter and an excellent one at that. He also doesn’t suffer fools. You are welcome to your opinions. You are also welcome to hear others disagree, and trust me, Bob will disagree. That’s why he’s worth reading. Everyday.

          The governor is NOT a private citizen. Nor is he a ‘public’ figure like a celebrity. He is the leader of our state government. His health and how he is taken care of is a priority and concern for ALL Minnesotans, because we elected him. It’s part of the job and normal ‘privacy’ is part of the deal you give up when you are elected to lead us. He naturally ‘may’ want to hide his health issues from his political opponents (and possibly, us citizens). It’s the fourth-estates job to dig in and find out what’s really going on, because that is their job. So indeed, as Bob stated far more succinctly than I, you are wrong.

    • BReynolds33

      This isn’t a celebrity gossip issue, talking about who married whom. There are public figures, and there are public servants. When a public servant has health issues, we absolutely have the right to know.

      Here’s hoping he has a speedy recovery, and his health is as solid as his family is reporting.

      • dukepowell

        I agree with all of what you said.

        However, when he initially ran for Governor, his health was strictly off limits on these pages.

          • dukepowell

            We all got in a big kerfuffle on whether Dayton had a diagnosis of depression, major depression, or bipolar disorder. The Dayton campaign, as I remember it, finally admitted to depression.

            Given he wouldn’t release the list of meds he was on, it was a concern that perhaps he was hiding a major depression or bipolar diagnosis.

            At the time MPR, and I believe it was Kerri Miller, had interviewed a psychiatrist who said that he would be reluctant to vote for a person who was bipolar.

            My sense was we were going to find out, over time.

            And over time, I’ve thought that Governor Dayton is not bipolar.

            Be that as it may, his health status was off limits to most of the readers here.

          • Ah, I see. It sounded as though you were asserting I had banned discussion of the governor’s health, which confused me.

          • dukepowell

            OK, my bad…

    • RBHolb

      You are wrong, Jasper. The Governor is the chief executive of the state. A lot of responsibility for governance is vested in him. As citizens, we have a right to know about the state of the chief executive’s health. That right extends into areas that might be a horrible violation of privacy for the average citizen.

      Being Governor means some privacy is forfeited. Most Governors have understood that.

      • jon

        “As citizens, we have a right to know about the state of the chief executive’s health.”
        I’ll just add, If it impacts their ability to do their job, yes I agree. If it doesn’t, I don’t care.

        This was him faltering while giving the state of the state speech, part of his job, definate impact.

        If the gov has a hang nail, I don’t care.
        If the gov has well managed cardiac condition, I don’t care.
        If either of those things interfears with his ability to serve as gov, then I care alot.

        Note, I don’t care isn’t the same as “we shouldn’t know.” If he is in public he has no reasonable expectaction of privacy and should something happen, should something be noticable, it’s then fair game, same as it would be for any normal citizen, no special rights for public figures to privacy while in public.
        If I have no expectaction of privacy when in public they shouldn’t get one either.

    • Kassie

      Also, as a State employee, if I were to collapse at work while I would need a “return to work” statement from a doctor. Yet somehow this isn’t expected from the governor. And while we may not need all the details, it is reasonable to expect the public be given an all clear from a doctor on the governor, not just EMTs.

  • Matt

    Agreed, Gov. needs to present to his primary docs. and report results if only to qualm citizen concerns about his health.

    Other thoughts: in MN, judges at all levels of state judiciary have mandatory retirement age of 70 (something I am opposed to); nothing exists for governors.

    • Gary Leatherman

      how about presidents?

    • Which reminds me … President Trump is 70, and often looks like he’s going to burst a blood vessel. 😉

  • MikeB

    Uncomfortable to watch and report on, but it is necessary. It’s the public’s right to know, journalists are just doing their job.

  • Rob

    My sense is that anyone who’s heard Dayton speak in the last several years has noticed how slurred he sounds; I’ve always chalked it up to the likelihood that his back pain requires some pretty strong painkillers. And his collapse puts me in mind of Prince.

    • Crashkobra

      On election night I thought he sounded/was drunk. I’m surprised more people haven’t noticed or said anything about it

      • Kassie

        The people in my circle talk about how slurred he sounds all the time. It is just how he talks, it seems. Has been that way as long as I can remember.

  • Laurie K.

    I do feel that as an elected official, we have the right to know if there has been a serious health diagnosis for Governor Dayton. I understand that health issues sometimes have a stigma and there is the potential for public misunderstanding around some health issues, however, that does not take away from the fact that the public should be able to assess whether their elected official is fit to lead. Based on the fact that Governor Dayton displayed classic stroke symptoms and yet was transferred home and checked out only by EMTs, I suspect that the Governor has a diagnosis and knew that his symptoms last night were related to that diagnosis. Just a hunch.

    • wjc

      That sounds very reasonable.

    • kat

      Fit to lead? He is the governor for the rest of his term and the lieutenant gov will pick up if he is unable- not much consequence for greater MN

  • Anna

    Mark Dayton has dealt with serious health issues in the past including depression and alcoholism, two of the most devastating illnesses to conquer.

    Let’s give the man a little credit for knowing his own body and what he needs or doesn’t need in the way of immediate healthcare.

    He also comes well equipped with good genes. His father died late in 2015 at the age of 97.

    If his pulse was in the 30’s, it is likely Dayton might need a cardiac workup to determine if he needs a pacemaker. He is reaching an age where heart failure can also be an issue.

    There are so many medications that affect heart rate and bradycardia is a well known side effect for anti-depressants and pain medication.

    I guarantee even if a much younger person had a pulse in the 30’s (normal is 60-100) they would be fainting and passing out. A pulse that low affects brain function as there is not enough blood flow to maintain consciousness.

    Saying his speech was slurred because of medication for back pain is unneeded speculation. It implies narcotics use without any proof and we know what a hot button topic opioids are at this moment in time. For all we know he has a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit to help with his back pain.

    Anytime a person of Mark Dayton’s age has slurred speech, stroke or a transient ischemic attack, a precursor to stroke is a top concern.

    I’ve worked in geriatrics for 20 years. These things happen, many times without warning. Mark Dayton has access to the finest healthcare in the country. I have no doubt his physicians will be keeping a close eye on him and will tell him if he needs to take a break from his official duties or if he needs to undergo more rigorous medical evaluation.

    Mark Dayton is a kind, honest, and considerate man and he has done many good things for Minnesota over a long and distinguished career.

    Let’s not write him off as old and feeble just yet.

    Our thoughts and prayers should be with his family right now, who I am sure are very worried about their dad and grandfather.

    • My pulse went to the 30s about 10-15 years ago. I thought I was going to die. As I recall, I actually wanted to.

      I ended up in the hospital.

      • Anna

        The bad thing about very low pulse is that it can cause blood clots which can break loose and cause the very thing healthcare professionals try to prevent–a major stroke. If the blood doesn’t move through the veins and arteries at a faster pace, the blood will have a tendency to pool in the extremities making it prone to clots.

        I had this happen with an elderly nursing home resident very early in my nursing career. His pulse routinely ran in the low 40’s to upper 30’s. He did have a stroke as a result. His wife had had a debilitating stroke a couple of years prior and he swore he would never have a feeding tube like her.

        His children overruled him and I remember visiting him in the hospital. His downtrodden, angry look said everything—why didn’t you stop this?

        Better to have a massive stroke that kills you than to live a half life tied to feeding tubes and confined to a wheelchair.

        For many years, nurses were required to take a pulse directly over the heart (apical) when administering beta blockers for hypertension and to hold it if the pulse was below 60. It is no longer followed but for the life of me I don’t know why.

        The rule still applies to digoxin, used to control atrial fibrillation as it increases the strength of the heart rate and slows it down. Anything below 50 and the drug is held and the physician contacted.

        I am pretty certain Mark Dayton would have a POLST (Physician’s Order for Life Sustaining Treatment) or an advanced directive. He’s lost both his parents in the last 15 years, his father most recently. His obit says he died of natural causes and stroke is one of many.

        I just hope this doesn’t turn into a political circus to force him to step down. Minnesota doesn’t need that right now. We have too many unsolved issues to deal with.

      • Rob

        So, what did the medicos discern?

  • Al

    I was REALLY thankful for Twitter when it came to this. Got my news from Rachel Stassen-Berger of the STrib via her Twitter feed, long before anything hit the main webpage.

  • Jerry

    It could have just been low blood sugar, which I think an EMT could test for.

    • It could have been a lot of things, but EMTs are not highly trained medical people in extensive diagnostics.

      It seems to me that using EMTs in this situation suggests that people knew that going to the hospital would only tell the doctors what they already know.

      The question that’s worth asking is: What is it they already know and how do they know it?

      The frightening thing is nobody seems to be asking the question(s).

      • Laurie K.

        The other thing about EMTs is that the usual protocol when a patient is not being transported to a hospital or medical facility is to get clearance from their medical director. I am curious if this happened in this case.

        • dukepowell

          EMS will transport about 70% of patients seen. While EMS may occasionally consult with a medical control physician regarding a “left” patient, the normal procedure would require documentation of a physical exam and a signature of refusal without medical control.

          In some instances, a “patient” cannot refuse. Its a bit complicated.

          • Laurie K.

            Yes, I know that non-transports can be complicated, which is probably why the medical director I worked with for over six years required clearance in addition to the patient’s acknowledgment of refusal.

          • dukepowell

            Your medical director did not work around here.

          • Laurie K.

            Depends upon your definition of “around here”. I worked for a small volunteer EMS service in Minnesota. The fact that we were a volunteer service may have played a part in his decision to always get clearance. I realize that every service is different and my experience may be unique.

          • dukepowell

            Yep, agreed, and probably the right course given your situation.

            In a system where dozens are left a day, that wouldn’t work.

      • Kassie

        And, to be fair, I’ve fainted a number of times and never went to the doctor. The only time I did was when I also hit my head. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the reason I passed out where the same reason the governor passed out: panic attacks.

      • dukepowell

        Bob, you and I are on the same page here.

  • It’s the job of journalists to report events as we see and hear them. There are times when we would fuzz out part of a picture to preserve someone’s privacy, but Gov. Dayton is a public figure and I believe my colleagues were right to show the video. I agree that he should have gone directly to the closest hospital to be tested.

  • dukepowell

    There is much to be said about this situation but let me initially dwell on the fact Sen Hausman had noted “difficulties” before the speech.

    That begs several questions but I’ll offer two:

    Why wasn’t 911 called before the speech?

    Given the concern, why was Governor Dayton allowed to mount the dais?

  • crystals

    Well, he’s just disclosed he has prostate cancer. Found out last week; it hasn’t spread and he intends to finish his term.

    His doctor at Mayo learned about his fainting last night via Twitter. What a world.

  • sgigs
  • Rob

    Seems unlikely that a case of prostate cancer that hasn’t spread would cause such a collapse. Something else must be at the root of it.

    • I think he’s acknowledging it’s likely separate from the collapse by noting he’s going to Mayo to get checked out.

    • dukepowell


  • daddyyay

    The governor collapsing is newsworthy, but seeing him collapse adds nothing. Its no doubt titillating, but not newsworthy. Completely unlike the supposedly illustrative examples of assassinations, or the physical effects of Agent Orange, etc. I agree with those who say it would have been better left off.

  • T Roberts

    I have something that happens to me that is very similar. I have occasional epileptic seizures. Maybe once every 3 months. Mine is an absence seizure, where I just go absent, everything shuts down and for 10 to 15 seconds. Typically I feel it coming and will go sit down. If I am talking my words will start to not make sense. There was a reporter who did something similar back a couple of years that was the same thing. She started talking gibberish and then collapsed. If I have a seizure, I do not go to the doctor, provided I don’t hit something while falling. There really is nothing they can do. If they are like me, they have tried all the drugs available. Going to see the doctor does nothing. I have had surgery, but it did not cure it. At this point it is a way of life.

  • kat

    Wow guys- talk about much ado… some people are more prone to fainting. Fainting can look scary. Often, there is little consequence. Sometimes, there is more to be checked out- but it seems the governor is getting plenty of attention.

    • crystals

      I don’t think concern about our Governor fainting (and banging his head) in the middle of the State of the State address is much ado about nothing.

      • kat

        I get that people are concerned, I just think it is misguided. What really concerns people is not the health of the governor- it is the perception of weakness. People are also worried that his fainting will somehow effect them. He fainted, he is no more or less able to govern than he was a day ago.

        • That’s generally the feeling of people who don’t want something shown. How it will be interpreted.

          That’s not the job of journalism nor journalists. That’s for partisans and spinmeisters .

          He’s going to Mayo this afternoon to give Minnesotans assurance that he’s fine. That’s an acknowledgement that such an assurance is not presently available.

          Generally speaking, how many feel about this depends on their politics, unfortunately.

          A better question is : What would I advise if it was MY father?

          The answer is obvious. That’s why it didn’t add up. How is fainting in Woodbury different from fainting during the State of the State?

          • kat

            I agree it’s fine that it was reported, but I want to challenge the perception that the Governor is now weak or deficient. I also want to point out that this has little effect on our state government. I just have trouble believing that everyone here is concerned about the governor’s health on a personal level

          • // the perception that the Governor is now weak or deficient.

            I believer that has been invoked only by a commenter as a possibility of a perception and a reason why it shouldn’t be shown.

            // I just have trouble believing that everyone here is concerned about the governor’s health on a personal level

            That you have trouble believing is the saddest thing I’ve heard so far.

          • kat

            Oh man- let’s repeat the facts- he fainted. Fainting is really not that big of a medical problem. He is being attended to by medical professionals. No one cares if he is really sicker than we know, they only care how that effects them politically. Not sad- just without pretention

          • You’re saying he shouldn’t have gone to the hospital after fainting in Woodbury?

          • kat

            Yes. Fainting is not a big deal for most people. You could listen to the segment by the good doctor on all things considered today.

          • So he suggested if a 70 year old man collapses, don’t go to the hospital to have it checked out?

  • I agree with the writer. News, no matter what, should never be sanitized, camera’s should never pan away, etc… If the snowflakes can’t handle it, tough. Man up. Sanitizing the news is the denial of reality.

  • MarkOfWA

    Seizure disorders are widely accepted in society now, and I’m fine with the press showing a full event, complete with medical interruptions, so long as they are also willing to show Dems when they are falling down drunk with slurred speech, or their favorite celebrities engaging in drug-fueled public rants.