Saturday, September 8, 2007

KSTP, Why don't you just change your call letters to USSR?

My leftist buds will no doubt tell me that I'm naive, and my defense of the Hubbard family owned KSTP franchise in Minnesota was misplaced all along.

I will still defend the Hubbards on some things (like giving candidates free air time and hosting live debates), but I was sorely disappointed in their coverage of the aftermath of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. The mayor, R.T. Rybak, signed off on opening up a pedestrian bridge, which allowed closer viewing of the wreckage. KSTP sicced one of their serious, manly reporters on the hunt for Rybak (who as many reporters in the Twin Cities know is probably the most accessible elected official this side of the Mississippi). He got reporter-tough with him, asking him to respond to the emergency responders who didn't want the site opened up.

Follow up interview with Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. Remember this guy? The disgraced public safety commissioner in Minnesota who is on the record as using racial slurs in interrogating suspects as a Minneapolis cop and was forced to resign as a result? Well, the Comeback Kid Stanek got elected in 2006 to the sheriff's office, and he's loving it. The interview was between him in the KSTP's studios and some blonde cupcake who looked like she was barely literate. She gently probed him on what it meant to the families to limit access to the site. His eyes filled with tears, he choked up but somehow managed to make it through the tough interview with Barbie. He should have announced his candidacy for governor right then and there.

According to a former employee of KSTP, Gary Hill, expect more of this. The Hubbards are getting into the newsroom, and they're not leaving. They've always been idealogues, as I well know, making hefty contributions to Republican candidates, but they've always been explicit about their politics, which I'm grateful for. But painting Rybak as the bad guy, and Stanek as our knight in shining armor, besides showing KSTP's gross bias, is inaccurate.

I'd love to see a robust discussion about the ethics of access to disaster sites, the appropiateness of showing body bags, playing the tapes of the final moments of some of the victims, and other unpleasant things. If it were me, I'd show the bags, but I know other news executives feel differently.

KSTP was my station choice immediately after the bridge fell down. It's now fallen by the wayside, because I know the Hubbards are pushing their political agenda on an issue that has no good guys or bad guys. It's painting the story of government incompetence as black and white, when it's several different shades of the rainbow. Maybe KSTP should change their colors to red, the color of the Soviet flag, who so excellently spewed propaganda to the disservice of their constituents, but for the greater good of improving the lot of a small group of people who could only think about preserving their political influence.

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