Star Tribune reporter’s enabler

The Minneapolis Star Tribune palms Kate Parry off as its reader’s representative dealing with questions of fairness and accuracy regarding its news pages. I know from my own personal experience with her that “reporter’s enabler” would be a fairer description of her work for the Star Tribune. When columnist Nick Coleman recently built a column around the whopper that President Bush had given the finger to a bunch of reporters, Parry showed her stuff. Reader John Stuart wrote Parry:

Ms. Parry:
I am writing with respect to this particular column: http://www.startribune.com/stories/357/5540054.html
Specifically: “Bush, it seems, has given the press the presidential bird, a digital message of the kind you see exchanged between angry drivers at stop signs. At least we know where we stand.”
The problem is, that’s not in fact what the video shows or what happened. This isn’t the Zapruder film, it is clear that the President is showing a thumb, something which the people *on the scene* have confirmed at the very same website (http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/002261.html#002261) Mr. Coleman got the tape from.
“John Godfrey (Dow Jones Newswire) writes, ‘I was in the scrum of reporters at the event. Bush did not flip anyone off. He was clearly giving a thumbs up in response to a question shouted from
the crowd.’ I called John to verify the email was from him and to ask him if there was any doubt in his mind, he said there was not. I forgot to ask him if he’s sighted. ”
Of course Mr. Coleman saw what he wanted to see and wrote accordingly. Now, even his own source admits and posts that “Bush did not flip anyone off.” The source was willing to post the correction, I assume Mr. Coleman’s correction will be occuring forthwith, yes?
Respectfully,
J. Stuart

Here is Parry’s response:

Dear Mr. Stuart,
Thank you for taking the time to write to me about this. After I received a few queries on the video, I reviewed it several times trying to determine if it was a thumb or a finger held aloft. I found the image too fuzzy, even when blown up, to provide clarity on that point. Also, although most of the column plays off the notion that it is a finger, toward the end of the column, Nick Coleman writes “But maybe it was only a thumb” * at least flagging that the situation is not crystal clear.
Kate Parry
Reader’s Representative

Stuart wrote back:

Ms. Parry:
Thank you for the response, however it is belied by Mr. Coleman’s follow up, namely, to distribute to readers photoshopped copies of a photo of President Bush with middle finger extended.
I’ve already emailed Larry Downing, the photographer who took the original unaltered photo in 2002. I am sure he and Reuters are going to be very interested in knowing 1) the StarTrib is using a photo under Downing and/or Reuter’s copyright without permission and 2) assuming you do have consent, that the photo itself has been altered from its original prior to distribution to readers.
Respectfully,
J. Stuart

Recall that in his column Coleman had described President Bush’s giving the finger to Coleman’s colleagues in the fourth estate as “[u]nmistakable.” Even by the measure of Parry’s own lame standards, Coleman’s statement was inaccurate. However, perhaps the Star Tribune was busy working on other, more important corrections this week. Here is its lead August 5 correction:

Responses

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