A few weeks ago, I pointed out that not only does the MinnPost appear to be selling news to the highest bidder (or, more accurately, biggest contributor), but that MPR News appears to have done the same.
The Usual Bona Fides: Let me give you my usual disclaimer; I’ve always – or at least for the last ten years or so – believed that MPR News made a fairly credible effort at appearing, from an institutional level, to be fairly balanced and to keep its individual staffers’ biases firewalled away pretty well. I know some people at MPR News, and I believe they operate with a level of integrity (although some of them also believe they’re above criticism by the hoi polloi; after I asked questions about MPR News’ “Poligraph” segment’s oddly incurious coverage of the Betty McCollum/Tony Hernandez debates, I got an email from a senior MPR News exec to Catherine Richert advising her “not to engage with that guy”. He’d fumble-fingered and sent it to me, too).
All that aside, I’ve always believed MPR News – the news department, as opposed to NPR, or non-news programming, like Garrison Keillor – does an adequate job of compartmentalizing bias.
Or I did, until fairly recently.
The Shakedown We Pay For: As noted above, I wonder why MPR News is covering Second Amendment issues under the direct sponsorship of the Joyce Foundation, the nation’s largest funder of gun-grabber organizations.
Bill Glahn covers some of the same ground in a piece about MPR’s “Daily Current” show, hosted by the bias-sodden Keri Miller. The “Daily Current”, a look at their website notes, is a production of MPR News.
The hour was hosted by MPR’s Kerri Miller. Panelists included Denise Cardinal, the founder of Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM), Ben Golnik, a political consultant, and Kathryn Pearson, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota.
Cardinal is, of course, a major liberal mover and shaker and, as Glahn points out and I reported endlessly in 2010, architect of Alida Messinger’s epic, toxic sleaze campaign in 2010, which bought Mark Dayton barely enough votes to win. Golnik is a fixture in MN GOP politics. Pearson is Larry Jacobs’ understudy and contender for his title of “most over-quoted person in the Twin Cities media”.
Let’s turn to MPR’s Kerri Miller for a moment. As the show’s host and moderator, her chief means of controlling the narrative are by asking questions and controlling the show’s flow…As for flow, by my count, Miller interrupts the Republican Golnik at total of thirteen 13 times. During one 56-second stretch alone [08:26 to 09:22] MPR’s Miller interrupts Golnik seven times to challenge his facts.
Not only do such constant interruptions throw off a guest’s rhythm, they telegraph to the audience that the “neutral” host believes the guest to be untrustworthy or evasive.
On the rare occasions Miller speaks during Cardinal’s or Pearson’s time, she never interrupts and stops the flow. Rather, Miller will say a word or two to clarify or to reinforce a point—never to challenge or dispute—as can be heard at the 17:47 mark with Cardinal and the 25:52 mark with Pearson.
I urge you to try to find the recordings of Miller’s performance in the 2010 Governor’s race. I listened to both interviews, and wrote about ’em back then. Her interview of Tom Emmer was harsh, acerbic, combative, laced with hostile interruptions.
Which is fine – journalists should ask questions, right?
But in contrast, her conversation with Mark Dayton was chummy, clubby, a rhetorical warm fuzzy blanket with camomile tea. It sounded like they may have been painting each others’ toenails.
Miller hasn’t changed much.
Conflict Of Interest: But here’s the part I wanted to draw your attention to; I’ll add emphasis:
The host’s interruptions of the token conservative are not just to challenge facts or opinion. On two occasions, MPR’s Miller interrupts Republican Golnik to defend Democrat Governor Dayton—on the Vikings Stadium [30:22] and on MPR News’ sponsorMNsure [32:15].
Her defense of the Democrat Dayton during that latter exchange reveals volumes about the host and the outlet. While the disastrous debut of Obamacare was makinginternational news, and the problems with the local MNsure rollout again on the front pages, Miller dismisses the problems with her corporate sponsor as mere “glitches.”
Her defense of our liberal Governor is so over the top that she has to catch herself at one point [32:42 mark] with the walk back “not to speak for the Governor here,” played to laughter from the panelists.
That Miller is a shill for the DFL is not up for question by anyone paying attention.
That MPR News is taking money to produce the news is one thing; all commercial news operations have to work to create the impression there’s a high, thick wall between the money and news sides of their operations.
That MPR News is not only having its news coverage directly sponsored by advocacy groups, but is having its non-news, opinion programming – Miller’s show – sponsored by the government that MPR News is supposed to be covering?
How is this not merely a conflict of interest, but an undercutting of the integrity of a news operation that has always publicly wrapped itself in the flag of journalistic ethics (whatever they are?)
Tom Scheck? Mike Mulcahy? Rupa Chinoy? Bob Collins? Anyone?