We called the Star Tribune’s story on the expunged 1995 arrest of Fifth District Republican congressional candidate a “sucker punch.” Star Tribune reader’s representative (I prefer “reporter’s enabler”) Kate Parry is proud of the Star Tribune’s story. She contrasts the Star Tribune’s patient weighing of the facts with our rush to judgment. She writes Star Tribune reader Gene Delaune, who has responded to Parry by congratulating her on her perspicacity:
Thanks for sending your thoughts on this. The newspaper has taken significant time and resources to run to ground allegations from a variety of corners about the Fifth District race. The goal has been thorough, challenging coverage that is reliable, accurate and complete.
The Star Tribune has reported that a judge has granted the restraining order Keith Ellison sought against the woman making the allegations. When she called 911 and made allegations against Ellison, there was no arrest and no charges. When she sought a restraining order against him, the judge denied the initial request but scheduled a hearing for further review – standard practice when a judge sees no clear evidence of immediate threat. That is the hearing scheduled for Oct. 23, which the Star Tribune will cover. Anyone can file for a restraining order simply by filling out a form, so filing for the order doesn’t mean a lot in and of itself. The issue is whether it is granted.
The situation with Ellison differs from the incident involving Allan [sic] Fine in terms of news value because Fine was arrested by the police, charged with domestic assault and spent a few hours in jail. Police, who are trained to assess risk in these situations, looked at Fine’s situation differently and made the arrest. In the case of Ellison, there was no arrest, no charge and no allegation of crime.
I hope that helps clarify why the Star Tribune has proceeded as it has with coverage in the two cases. The newspaper has probed allegations about both candidates thoroughly and published stories when the information has met journalistic standards for verification and news value. Sometimes bloggers toss allegations online without going through that kind of careful process.
Some like to suggest there is some ulterior motive in newspapers taking more time to investigate. The ulterior motive is the desire to make sure what is printed is accurate, in context and explores all sides in a dispute, rather than rushing to print with the allegations of one side.
In a separate message to reader Michael Tienken, Parry says the Star Tribune “corroborated” allegations in the court documents by talking to Fine’s ex-wife:
Thank you for taking the time to send this thoughtful note. Each day, I take concerns such as yours and talk about them in a report to the editors at the afternoon news meeting. That’s what I’m planning to do with your thoughts today.
The allegations raised in the court documents were corroborated by the ex-wife in interviews with Star Tribune reporters. Given the prominence of domestic abuse legislation in legislatures and in Congress in recent years, allegations of this sort seem entirely relevant to campaign reporting. The reporter provided Mr. Fine with opportunities to respond to allegations and the newspaper published a follow-up story detailing Mr. Fine’s concerns.
Let’s see. If I write something bad about Parry here, or assert it in a report prepared by me or a third party, is it “corroboration” if I repeat it when you contact me later? I don’t think so, but I never did go to journalism school. I’ll have more to say about the Star Tribune’s story later, but wanted to provide the unexpurgated Parry for now.