Say what you will about Michael Brodkorb (and when I say “say what you will”, I don’t actually mean in the comment section of this post; I realize many of you really really don’t like the guy, and I get it, but that’s also not the subject of this thread; I have heard your objections and noted them)
But like Brodkorb or hate him, there’s little way around the conclusion that he was instrumental in breaking open the Grazzini-Rucki parental kidnapping case, for which Sandra Grazzini-Rucki was sentenced yesterday. He did, in fact, the sort of thing that “journalists” used to see as their goal; telling stories – the whole stories – and comforting the afflicted by righting the wrongs against them.
Which is, of course, not what modern “journalism” is about. Yeah, they have a political outcome in mind, naturally, at least at an institutional level – but for an awful lot of “journalists”, the biggest goal seems to be keeping their status as society’s “high priests of information” intact against the interlopers.
One of the lower high priests for the past thirty years has been Brian Lambert. And he breaks down the “journalists’ conundrum; to hail someone who may have done one of the few notable works of actual journalism in Minnesota in recent years, or to admit that someone who “journos” regard as politically unclean (not so much for his present activities as for his previous life as a no-holds-barred GOP operator, for which there is no statute of limitations) is not only one of them, but better at it than most of them?
Brian Lambert at the MinnPost is like most journalists, only moreso; while most Twin Cities “journalists” merely don’t have any conservatives in their daily social circles, Lambert has had an actual toe in DFL politics (he was hired to be then-Senator Mark Dayton’s press guy right in time for Dayton to leave office).
The circus aspect of the [Grazzini-Rucki] case aside, the episode highlights a question asked more and more frequently as the business of news gathering fragments away from just a few major institutions and into the hands of activist citizens, people with more time and interest in a given story than traditional news organizations.
And that question is (with emphasis added by me)…:
Specifically, if Michael Brodkorb was practicing journalism by reporting steadily on the Grazzini-Rucki matter, is he then in effect a journalist entitled to First Amendment protections and collegial support afforded normal reporters?
In other words, can he go from not just a mere citizen, but a formerly very trayf one, to joining The Club?
And if so, why haven’t more journalists come to his defense in the wake of the restraining order, which among other things, he says, has left him confined to Dakota County this past week and taking calls from police for things he’s written since the order went out?
My guess – and let’s be honest, it’s more than just a guess – is because Brodkorb worked for “the bad guys”, and ate “the good guys'” lunch.
In fact, we get it in almost as many words:
Speaking for himself, Joe Spear, managing editor of the Mankato Free Press and the [Society of Professional Journalists’] current secretary, has some sympathy for Brodkorb’s predicament but agrees with the SPJ’s official decision to wait until after Thursday’s hearing before making a statement on the matter.
“It does appear [Brodkorb] was acting as a journalist, at least in some capacity. Although not in the same capacity as if he was working for the Star Tribune or another organization.
The hypocrisy is thick enough to cut with an axe. Not only is the First Amendment not a toy reserved for people who get a check from a newspaper – it’s a right “of the people”, not “of people who work for the right organization”…
…but this is the same “Society of Professional Journalists” that gave an award to Karl Bremer, an irascible crank whose only real “journalistic” accomplishment was stalking Michele Bachman. The award, by the way, was for…stalking Michele Bachmann.
No, I’m not exaggerating; here’s Lambo’s long-time colleague David Brauer:
Bremer uncovered stories about Bachmann that the mainstream media missed and later got around to reporting, Brauer said.
“You can argue that his pursuit of Michele Bachmann was at times obsessive and excessive, but, really, I think … we need approaches like Karl’s,” Brauer said. “We need people to remind us that journalists can be hellraisers and rabble rousers and opinionated. He added facts to the debate.”
In other words, Karl Bremer did exactly what Michael Brodkorb did – covered something the mainstream media didn’t (or, in the case of stalking Michele Bachmann, couldn’t do while maintaining an illusion of decorum).
But Bremer covered the right people, while Brodkorb largely bedeviled the “journalists’s” drinking buddies and in many cases, let’s be honest, future employers.
We wouldn’t be having this discussion if Brodkorb hadn’t switched his sights to Keith Downey.
Oh, and Sandra Grazzini-Rucki.