Star Tribune “reader’s representative” Kate Parry discharges her responsibilities in a peculiar manner. As a general matter, she vociferously defends the paper from attacks on its state news coverage, the part of her job that is within the heart of her jurisdiction. She found the paper’s coverage of then Fifth District (Minneapolis and suburbs) congressional candidate Keith Ellison just fine, for example, even though the Star Tribune never got around to reporting the most basic elements of Ellison’s public record. I based a 2,000-word Weekly Standard article on facts about Ellison omitted from its coverage by the Star Tribune.
As to elements of the paper outside her jurisdicition, however, Parry displays her independence by working herself into high dudgeon. In her weekly column yesterday, Parry lit out after the Star Tribune’s 86-year-old sports columnist Sid Hartman. Sid is a local institution — Parry describes him as “the newsroom’s best-known columnist” — the self-proclaimed “close personal friend” of Bobby Knight, Lou Holtz and many other sports celebrities. Parry finds that Hartman has done great damage to the Star Tribune by appearing in a local television advertisement for Sun Country Airlines and getting away with it despite its violation of the Star Tribune’s ethics policy:
What an uncomfortable situation he has created for his colleagues, particularly reporters covering the airlines, and for the three top managers — Publisher Keith Moyer, Editor Anders Gyllenhaal and Managing Editor Scott Gillespie — who determined what would and wouldn’t be the consequences for Hartman’s disregard of the Star Tribune’s ethics policies.
Parry finds a double standard at work in the Star Tribune’s leniency with Sid and bewails the harm to the newspaper:
The damaging, high-profile ethics scandals at some of the nation’s very best newspapers in recent years have had their roots in similar situations. When a prominent or promising staff member appears to skate past standards to which others are held, real damage is done. It hurts morale when others think there is a double standard. It sends the wrong signals to young journalists. It endangers the newspaper’s credibility.
Thanks to Sid, readers may develop a healthy skepticism about what they read in the Star Tribune! This is the first column by Parry I have read that has made me laugh.
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