Two TV stations spanked by Minnesota News Council
NEWS COUNCIL UPHOLDS COMPLAINTS AGAINST KBJR-TV & KSTP-TV
Minneapolis (June 19, 2008) – The Minnesota News Council today narrowly upheld two complaints against KBJR-TV (Duluth, Minn.) and upheld one complaint against KSTP-TV.
Tony Sheda, of Wrenshall, Minn. complained that the KBJR-TV broadcast, "The War At Home" (Nov. 27, 2007) sensationalized the death of his son Adam, a staff sergeant recently returned from Iraq. The story was the first in a two-part series about the emotional effects of war on returning soldiers.
The News Council voted 9-8 to uphold a complaint that it was unfair to use Adam Sheda as an example in a story about post-traumatic stress disorder. The Council also voted 10-7 that it was unfair for KBJR to report that, "It's been said that [Adam] Sheda may have had a death wish based on a posting he made on his MySpace account."
KBJR Station Manager, Dave Jensch, said the story was based on a suggestion from a Minnesota Military Assistance Council representative that the station should help raise awareness about the issues veterans face when reentering society.
"The Sheda story was covered by all media outlets, and was the best example of veterans experiencing emotional wounds," Jensch said. "It wasn't about PTSD. Our story never said that Adam Sheda suffered from PTSD; we could never have known that."
Adam's death was a high profile story for the Northland community. Council members agreed that it did serve to draw attention, but questions arose over whether it was a good example for the broadcast.
"I appreciate the story because we don't do enough to show what these young men do in Iraq," said public member Elizabeth Costello. "I'm just not sure that Adam was the best example to show the kinds of problems soldiers are experiencing."
The News Council also voted 17-1 to uphold a complaint by Richfield City Manager Steven Devich against KSTP-TV.
Devich complained that the KSTP feature story "Richfield residents frustrated over noise" (April 20, 2008) used excerpts from a letter he wrote to a Richfield resident in a manner that was misleading. The story on noise ordinances suggested that Richfield government officials were not attentive to the needs of their constituents in this matter.
Richfield's mayor was interviewed to give the city's side of the story, which seemed to contradict the letter from Devich.
"If I would have been contacted by the reporter to explain what the letter meant, KSTP's viewers would have understood that the city, the middle school and the community were working together to try and resolve the problem," said Devich. "This type of story destroys our [the city's] credibility."
Representatives from KSTP did not attend the hearing, but in a written statement said that, "Contrary to Mr. Devich's allegations, our story was neither misleading nor one-sided. We represented the city's side by interviewing the Mayor of Richfield."
"Certainly KSTP had a right to do this story, and to use Devich's letter," said public member Noelle Hawton. "The story featured the upset citizens and statements from the mayor, but there was definitely a view missing."