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Star Tribune’s official response to Butthurtgate

by The Big E on October 10, 2012 · 5 comments

Do not contact us!

The Minneapolis Star Tribune does not like criticism. And they have no ombudsman. They fired him/her in one of their rounds of staff clear-outs. They just want to continue their incomplete and biased coverage of Michele Bachmann in peace. I have the gall to try and elicit a response to their reporters unprofessional behavior and their failure as journalists.

Here’s the story.

Bill Prendergast and I have been criticizing the Minneapolis Star Tribune for many years. We claim that they have never fact check Michele Bachmann and often don’t cover what Bachmann says and either minimize, bury or fail to report stories about Bachmann.

So when reporter Jennifer Brooks wrote a puff piece about Bachmann’s tightening congressional race, Bill criticized her story. She surprised us both by starting Butthurtgate with the following tweet:

@BillPrendergast Aw, pumpkin. I am butthurt that you didn’t link to my Jim Graves story too. http://bit.ly/UvAobz

Bill followed up with a post and I tweeted about it. Normal stuff. But Brooks responded to me.

Eric Pusey @eric_pusey 2 Oct 12
More on @stribrooks and Star Tribune’s failure to do basic political journalism bit.ly/Wfo9zJ #stribpol #mnleg #occupymn

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks
Here you go, @eric_pusey. I’m going to need you to get that back to me in triplicate by the morning. bit.ly/10zbLv

Click on her URL and you go to this report:

I then wrote an email (complete version below the fold) to publisher Michael J. Klingensmith, Editor and Senior Vice President Nancy Barnes, Political Editor Patricia Lopez and Brooks. I cc’ed Rachel Stassen-Berger. I asked if Brooks’ response was the official response of the Strib and inquired about their professional standards.

Brooks responded via email.

Aw, pumpkin.  Come to my office and we’ll have some tea and hug it out.

Mad love,

Jennifer Brooks
Reporter, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Once again I’m guessing this wasn’t the official response.

The publisher didn’t reply. The Editor didn’t reply. Patricia Lopez did.

Mr. Pusey,

Thanks for your email.

Star Tribune journalists are expected to respond with civility even on those occasions when their critics do not subject themselves to the same standard.

Sorry you didn’t like the story. We stand by it.

Thanks for reading.

Patricia Lopez
Political Editor
Star Tribune

This wasn’t a very clear response. Brooks’ piece was factually correct. I wasn’t questioning that.

It’s as if I’d asked why the Strib didn’t write about the Emperor parading around naked and Lopez responded that they stand by their story that there was an Imperial parade and the weather was warm and sunny.

Furthermore, Brooks hadn’t sworn at me so I guess her behavior meets their professional standards?

So I wrote a follow up email (see below). I never got a response to my follow up.

When Brooks wrote a piece fact-checking Jim Graves over a board he did not sit on (Graves admits the error), I sent a tweet and then another and, after I still had no response, sent an email. I wasn’t happy that they’d fact check Graves but never Bachmann.

Eventually, when I didn’t get any response, I went to the Strib’s website and found Lopez’ contact information:

And I called her up cell phone to try and elicit a response.

Here’s my transcript that I wrote down immediately after the call ended:

I introduced myself and said I was following up on my tweets and emails.

Me: “Since the Star Tribune just fact checked Jim Graves, will you cover Michele Bachmann’s Obama Libya conspiracy theory?”

Lopez: “You’ve contacted me on twitter, email and now you’ve called my cell phone. This has to end. Stop contacting me.”

Me: “So your response to my question about whether you will cover this Bachmann story is to stop contacting you?”

Lopez: “You must stop contacting me.”

Me: “So your response to my question about when you will start fact checking Michele Bachmann is that I should no longer contact you?”

Lopez: “I know you’re trying to make something out of this. We’re just going to cover this election”

Click

I didn’t get to ask if she thought Jennifer Brooks behavior met their professional standards. I’m guessing she doesn’t want me to ask about that, either.
Complete first email:

Nancy,

I am writing to find out if Jennifer Brooks response is the official response of the Minneapolis Star Tribune to criticism of the Star Tribune and its coverage of Michele Bachmann. Bill Prendergast and I have been criticizing the Star Tribune’s coverage of Bachmann for many years. We have never received a response and were quite surprised when Brooks responded.

Earlier this week, Bill Prendergast wrote a blog post critical of Brooks at MN Progressive Project and cross-posted it at Daily Kos. The third item below is Brooks’ original article.

http://www.mnprogressiveprojec…

http://www.dailykos.com/story/…

http://www.startribune.com/pol…

Brooks responded to Prendergast on twitter:

@BillPrendergast Aw, pumpkin. I am butthurt that you didn’t link to my Jim Graves story too. http://bit.ly/UvAobz
https://twitter.com/stribrooks…

City Pages noted Prendergast’s post and Brooks response:

http://blogs.citypages.com/blo…

Prendergast responded:

http://www.mnprogressiveprojec…

I engaged Brooks on twitter. Here are two of our exchanges:

http://twitter.com/eric_pusey/…
http://twitter.com/stribrooks/…

Would you please answer two questions:

1.  Is Brooks’ juvenile responses the official response of the Minneapolis Star Tribune to this criticism?

2.  Does the Star Tribune have professional standards for how their journalists are supposed to interact with critics?

Bill or I will be writing a post about this on Monday evening, please respond by 3pm on Monday, October 8, 2012.

Thanks!

Here’s my response to Lopez:

Patricia,

Thanks for responding.

I’m still unclear. Do you consider Jennifer Brooks response to Bill Prendergast and my criticism to meet your professional standards.

Secondly, why does the Star Tribune never fact-check Michele Bachmann?

Thanks!

Bill Prendergast October 10, 2012 at 4:09 am

…whether Brooks violated professional standards set by the paper…

…and they don’t want to talk about how Strib reporters are held accountable if they do violate the professional standards set by the Strib…

…and they don’t want to talk about an apology from Brooks or the Strib, for Brooks’ bad behavior…

…and they certainly don’t want to talk about the Strib’s record on fact-checking controversial statements by Michele Bachmann.

That’s too bad. You didn’t do anything wrong by trying to get answers. They did wrong by insulting you, failing to give answers, and then ducking the issue and any accountability. Lopez’ response is kinda like those guys who try to cover up the lens of the camera when 60 Minutes is after them.

But that is how the Strib presents itself, with regard to accountability to the professional standard cited by Lopez in her email. It leaves one with the impression that that particular Strib standard for reporter conduct: is little more than some kind of “inside office joke.”    

Dan October 10, 2012 at 6:23 am

While it is more widely used now, the origin of the term “butthurt” is a fairly obvious anti-gay slur.  Maybe next time Brooks will call you a faggot.  

Just unbelievable to see that coming from the Strib.

blueJ October 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Brooks referred to the piece she wrote about Jim Graves. It put him in a good light, in my opinion, but also included Republican quotes opposing him. Fair enough – I’d expect that in a real work of journalism.

The recent Bachmann piece by Brooks did not offer any opposing viewpoints. Surely the writer could have found some to include.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the Strib never covers Bachmann’s lies and gaffes. The Strib does so when they make news. But this pair of stories is so obviously uneven, that I would expect a real response from management, not the push back you have described.

JML October 10, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Broaden the scope of inquiry. Find out if this meets the Pioneer Press’ standards of conduct or Minn Post’s. Check with the journalism dept at the U of MN and see if they think this is appropriate. Try other forms of media, like WCCO.

I mean, this is ridiculous. so don’t let them off the hook. clearly, they think they can ignore you. let’s see how they do when every media outlet in town starts laughing at them.

ericf October 11, 2012 at 12:15 am

I can imagine the many former Strib employees wondering among themselves at what happened to their former employer. Though the Pioneer Press is so stripped down, I’m not sure there’s anyone to have a take on it.

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