OutTake

Is the Uptake – the left-leaning but ostensibly higher-aiming “citizen news” outlet – on the outs with the Capitol Press Corps?

Sarah Janecek at PIM writes:

At least two media organizations currently renting space in the Capitol press room are objecting to The Uptake also renting space in the basement of the Capitol. The Uptake is a Minnesota-based citizen journalist organization operating on a low budget and perhaps best known for its live streaming of the various proceedings attendant to the 2008 U.S. Senate recount.

We’ve written about the Uptake before.  Since basically anyone can contribute to the Uptake, their efforts can be all right, and they can be pretty stupid, and in any case they depend on the restraint and “journalistic ethics” of the people involved.

And while I’ve broadly supported the Uptake, there’ve been some real veers into partisanship.

So have they, again?

Mike Dougherty, the local news editor for the Rochester Post-Bulletin, sent an email to Commissioner of Administration Sheila Reger (Admin is in charge of leasing the space), objecting to The Uptake’s presence. Wrote Dougherty:

“My concern is that they [The Uptake] are not a nonpartisan news site, which compromises the efforts of all the media in that complex that have built their reputations over time. Including The Uptake in this area with access to information about what many of the news organizations are working on with no guarantee someone else’s work won’t appear on their site or be Tweeted via Twitter … the media we represent are very different than The Uptake and we hope you will address our concerns by not allowing them to lease space in our current office or within the current press corps complex. We believe our concerns are shared by other news media organizations.”

TPT’s political reporter and “Almanac at the Capitol” host Mary LaHammer confirms that TPT also has concerns about The Uptake’s presence in the press room, noting that TPT is “zealous” about anyone or any organization using any TPT resources for partisan purposes, because of the public television company’s nonprofit status.

So what’s the problem?

Several people have said there have been some highly partisan tweets from some Uptake staff. We’ve checked the official Uptake Twitter account, and can’t find any specific, objectionable tweets other than the overriding liberal bent that is The Uptake.

We’re told the most partisan tweets are coming from Erin Maye, who is an Uptake intern. Specifically, Maye was tweeting from a House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL-Minneapolis) press conference while covering it for The Uptake. Maye allegedly tweeted that Kelliher would be a great governor. A check of Maye’s tweets doesn’t show that happened. So either the tweets were deleted or they didn’t happen.

The smart money would go with “deleted”.  We carried one of them last winter:

…in reference to a story where she was alleged to have done some fairly dodgy editing based, it might be surmised, on political bias:

And Luke Hellier at MDE has another, the one from the presser above:

Both are from “Erin Maye”, an “intern” whose bio notes that she’s a “progressive” and was a “peace studies” major.

The Tweets are pretty much par for the course – if you’re a political blogger whose biases are part of your entire identity.  But if you’re trying to present yourself as a genuine news organization that’s “detached” from its staff’s individual partisanship, this is a real blot on the Uptake.

If you read through the PIM report’s comments, Mike Mcintee of the Uptake claims this is a battle of old media versus new media.

I’m sure that’s in the background. But then, it’s in the background of every story where new media and old media collide.

More to the point – what do you think would happen if someone, even a dime-a-dozen intern from, say, MPR or WCCO or the PiPress would do what Maye did?  Flout their biases, giggle about their ability to misrepresent and, says Hellier, go on to do it?

Do you think that “news” organization is going to get open, unfettered information from, say, the opposition party?

It’s the kind of thing “interns” and cub reporters and newbies get fired for doing at “real” news outlets (although it could be argued there’s a statute of limitations on that standard).

So there are several explanations for this:

  • Maye didn’t get the memo on “journalistic ethics”.  Or maybe Uptake assumes they’re for squares.  I invite Mike Mcintee and/or Chuck Olson to comment on the Uptake’s “training”, if you will, in the rules of the road for “journalists” and CapCorps correspondents in particular.
  • Maye got the memo, but just didn’t connect the dots.  She did major in “peace studies”, which is the “underwater basketweaving” of the 21st century, but I think we need to assume that the Uptake didn’t knowingly hire an idiot.
  • It’s really nothing but a culture clash.  Maybe the old media really are attacking the new media!  Including Mary LaHammer, whose new media efforts via her blogs, tweeting and so on are among the most widely-read in town.  It could be.

I’ll be looking for comments from some of the principals in this story.

UPDATE:  Welcome PIM readers!

UPDATE 2: In the comments below, Margaret Martin notes that there’s another explanation:

If you’ve ever seen where the media resides down at the capitol, it’s a tiny space in the basement. I imagine there is no privacy down there at all for individual reporters and they rely on a sort of code of personal decency (among themselves) and a highly developed sense of personally assured mutual destruction if somebody should blab about something overheard from another member of the press about a source, or an impolitic opinion let loose in an unguarded moment that would shatter the illusion of non-partisan media.

I never learned the secret handshake among Capitol newsies, although I’ve known quite a few of them over the years (going back to Cathy Wurzer in 1986).  For people from such a range of fiercely-competitive companies to get along in such a small space, there must be some kind of rule, written or not.  Or so I’d suspect.

The uptake intern with her gossipy, gushy twittering is a menace to them all. No wonder they want to give her the boot. I have a little sympathy for them, but not much. Most of them are unsparing about politicians and would not hesitate to publish something unflattering about a politician they don’t like. Especially Republicans, and no matter how how the info came to them.

Yep.  It’s absurd to think that journalists don’t have political biases of their own; the crushing majority vote DFL; a staggering number of them go on to work for the DFL, for left-leaning think tanks, or for one government bureaucracy or another when they leave the news business.

But if you’re, say, Laura Brod or Dave Hann, and you have a “journalist” asking you for the straight conservative scoop on some issue or another, are you truly going to talk straight with someone that you more-or-less trust to detach their feelings, or one that you know is looking for the partisan angle?

It’s bad for business.

9 thoughts on “OutTake

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  2. There is another explanation. If you’ve ever seen where the media resides down at the capitol, it’s a tiny space in the basement. I imagine there is no privacy down there at all for individual reporters and they rely on a sort of code of personal decency (among themselves) and a highly developed sense of personally assured mutual destruction if somebody should blab about something overheard from another member of the press about a source, or an impolitic opinion let loose in an unguarded moment that would shatter the illusion of non-partisan media. The uptake intern with her gossipy, gushy twittering is a menace to them all. No wonder they want to give her the boot. I have a little sympathy for them, but not much. Most of them are unsparing about politicians and would not hesitate to publish something unflattering about a politician they don’t like. Especially Republicans, and no matter how how the info came to them.

  3. Mitch, this statement is dodgy, too: “in reference to a story where she was alleged to have done some fairly dodgy editing based, it might be surmised, on political bias.”

    Did the constituents “corner” Mack? I’d say not. She was on the floor and came out to talk to them. Otherwise, the people state their concerns, Mack listens and gives a reasonable response. I’d ask your readers just to look at the video report and judge for themselves whether the editing is fair and overlook the allegations from a politically biased Luke Hellier.

  4. CQ, Luke runs a BLOG called Minnesota Democrats Exposed, if you can’t tell there is bias there you are either brain dead or a liberal. If you are supposedly working for a non-partisan news outlet and are a flaming progressive it tends to discredit you and your organization. I think you are missing our beef here, its not that we don’t like the Uptake because its progressive its because its trying to paint itself as a non-partisan, fair, media source. If they want to be progressive fine it’s a free country (for now), but don’t say your non-partisan when your clearly not. If you want to be like Real Clear Politics don’t act like the Huffington Post.

  5. Charlie,

    The editing and the presentation of the Mack piece did in fact seem misleading to me.

    Your mileage may vary; indeed, it seems to vary quite a lot! You referred to the SEIU attack on the black conservative at the Carnahan town hall a “pratfall”. My definition of “pratfall” stops a bit short of a night in the hospital. Perhaps Obamacare redefines these things, I dunno.

    But whatever you want to say about the Mack bit, the real discussion is “did Maye screw up bigtime enough to get jacked from the CapCorps?”

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