October 16, 2006

Things I Wish I'd Asked

I've had quite a few comments about last Saturday's interview with the Strib's Rochelle Olson (which should be going up on sometime today). Most were positive.

The only negative, in fact, that I've gotten is "Why didn't you tear into her for her various evasions? It's a good question.

There were a couple of occasions where I could have pounced. But as the interview unspooled, I thought that the look into the way the Twin Cities' media approaches these things - the assumptions, the evasions, the values - would be a whole lot more interesting than my ranting. And thrashing about in an interview merely puts your subjects on the defensive - and I thought Rochelle Olson's answers were plenty interesting, and going on the defensive wouldn't have helped.

But there are a few things I wish I'd asked:

  • Tell Us About Those Donnybrooks With "The Editors": Twice in the interview, Olson referred to long discussions/arguments with her editors on the exact facts to be included in those "35 column inches" devoted to the A1 story last Saturday, October 7. Who were these editors? And...
  • Why Did They Decide To Leave The Most Vital Fact About The Story...Out?: As I said early in the interview, I was never much of a reporter. But Bob Richardson and Jim Smorada - the guys who taught me to write news - were pretty clear on the need to get the facts about a story straight. So I'd love to know by what turn of "journalistic" logic Rochelle Olson and/or her editors decided the fact that Alan Fine was completely exonerated of the charges for which he was arrested wasn't part of completely telling the story.
  • There's A Pattern Here: It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see a pattern, here. Rod Grams was pilloried in the Strib for the antics of his son (whom the Strib didn't see fit to tell the reader that Grams had not really raised); Patty Wetterling attacks Michele Bachmann with an ad tying Republicans to the Foley scandal with statements that Eric Black calls "misleading" (because, he doesn't see fit to tell you, they are utterly devoid of fact, and delivered with a malicious intent to deceive the electorate - which most of us would call a "lie"); and now, the Fine case, in which key facts about Fine's innocence - indeed, his exemplary record as a father juxtaposed with his ex-wife's seeming emotional instability, which utterly undercuts the initial charges - were omitted due to...well, see question 2, above. In the meantime, key facts about Keith Ellison - including accusations of domestic abuse that have yet to go to court - go unreported, as the Strib editorial board goes into Scrupulous Overdrive mode...

    ...I'm just asking, Strib editors and Ms. Olson, is there a reason we should not see a pattern of partisan intent for your stories?

Oh, well. Next time.

Posted by Mitch at October 16, 2006 06:32 AM | TrackBack

You should have seen the look of anticipation on my face every time you pointed out an act of blatent bias to which she answered with a patently smug "O.K."...I was all "Go get that bone Mitch! Tear it up baby!".

I know, water under the bridge but...Siiigh

Non-condescending suggestion: Write this stuff down before hand!

Posted by: swiftee at October 16, 2006 09:54 AM

Olson's attitude is, the public needs to hear our (the Star Tribune's) side, our evidence about the plaintiff, Fine, and defendant Ellison (our client.) She and her newspaper are presenting Ellison’s side to the jury, and the plaintiff’s case--Fine's case--is not her job. "Buy Fine his own newspaper." That's the attitude I got from her.

Posted by: RBMN at October 16, 2006 09:58 AM


I thought her "OK..." answers stuffed themselves down her throat!



Posted by: mitch at October 16, 2006 10:47 AM

"And thrashing about in an interview merely puts your subjects on the defensive - and I thought Rochelle Olson's answers were plenty interesting, and going on the defensive wouldn't have helped."

Mitch - I do wish you could get your friend Hugh Hewitt to see things that way. I love it when people like Eric Black go on his show, but I hate the way Hugh badgers them. Sometimes asked and unanswered is more telling as asked and unanswered and asked and unanswered a dozen times.

Posted by: The Lady Logician at October 16, 2006 02:12 PM

I know you're a seasoned Radio Professional and all, but I got sense of almost hyperactive intensity in the interview. Like the way you can tell someone's not listening to your answer because they can barely restrain the next reply. Maybe it's the constraint imposed by the format, having to stuff point and counterpoint into seven and five minute slices. That was my impression, FWIW.

Posted by: Kermit at October 16, 2006 04:47 PM

Why don't you send her an e-mail with your questions? When (or if) she responds, you can post them another day.

I agree with Swiftee though. The greatest question in the world ain't worth much if that question occurs to you after the guest has left the studio.

Posted by: Jack Bauer at October 16, 2006 05:20 PM

I think you were trying too hard and kind of hogged the interview from Capt. Ed, but generally succeeded. Contention isn't the goal, getting her to confess is, and she obliged you several times.

Posted by: R-Five at October 17, 2006 09:02 PM
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