Star Tribune Bachmann coverage slammed by watchdog

Sometimes you've got to call a liar a liar.
Minnesota's paper of record is giving the state's most flagrantly deceptive politician a free pass.

That's the conclusion of a harshly worded critique of the Star Tribune posted this week by the Columbia Journalism Review, a major journalism trade magazine.

Specifically, the piece, entitled "What Not to Do in Campaign Reporting," criticizes the Strib's Saturday coverage of Michele Bachmann's expedition to Iowa.

Bachmann may or may not have been back in her original home state to lay the groundwork for what would surely be the most spectacularly unhinged presidential campaign in history. But she was definitely there to do what she does best: tell some whoppers.

Not that you'd know that from the Strib's handling of it:

"[Bachmann] did throw out some strong opinions, saying that the federal government owns half of the country's mortgages, that the Medicare trust fund will go "flat broke" in six years and that Barack Obama has accumulated more debt in one year than all past presidents combined."

Bullshit, says the CJR--those aren't opinions, they're factual claims, and you can't just reprint them without letting your readers know that two out of three of them are patently untrue. (The government does own about 44 percent of mortgages--nearly half.)

So far the Strib isn't commenting on this public upbraiding. Rachel Stassen-Berger, the author of the article, declined to comment on the CJR article. So did the Strib's political editor, Patricia Lopez, who referred questions to Deputy Managing Editor Rene Sanchez. Sanchez did not return calls for comment by the time of this posting.

Previous Michele Bachmann Coverage:

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Adam Minter
Adam Minter

So easy for the CJR and those who aren't actually out there doing actual reporting, to sit in their Blogging Chairs, arms crossed in judgment, and say that Stassen-Berger, "in addition to writing down, [should] verify or correct or flesh out for readers" Bachmann's statements. In other words, rather than spend a small part of her 800-word reported story explicitly labeling Bachmann's statements as "opinions," she should spend time deconstructing them. If I were Berger-Stassen, I wouldn't respond to this kind of crap, either, in part because I'd be too busy chasing down a candidate, trying to file on time, than to worry about what some nag at the totally irrelevant CJR thinks.

And as for Alex Brant-Zawadzki's comment about fact-checking: "Professional irresponsibility like this is an insult to the Star Tribune's readers and an insult to America as a nation of well-informed citizens armed with actual facts."

Climb off the ledge, buddy. The Republic will survive.

Actually, fact-checkers don't verify the actual substance of what's in a quote. They just verify that the quote is, in fact, an accurate quote of what was said. In other words: the Strib doesn't need you.


If only it were just the Strib letting her -- and a whole slew of other (mostly) Repub/Tea Party pols -- off the hook. In the name of unbiased coverage they give both sides equal play, even when one's making up "facts" to suit an agenda, as Michelle B usually is. They also do it in coverage of things like climate change and evolution, failing to note that one is fact and one is fantasy, or that one is religion-based and one is science-based.

Alex Brant-Zawadzki
Alex Brant-Zawadzki

Oh heavens to Murgatroid, you mean journalists are supposed to DO THEIR JOBS?!? Stop the presses!

Professional irresponsibility like this is an insult to the Star Tribune's readers and an insult to America as a nation of well-informed citizens armed with actual facts.

Silver lining? Hey Star Tribune: you need a fact-checker. I need a job. Let's do this


Factual assertions are not opinions, ergo the story was faulty even if the underlying assertions are true.

Went Rogue
Went Rogue

The Strib may not need me either, but it is the CJR assessment that finally caused our household to cancel the subscription we've held since moving to Minnesota 6 years ago. We'd been inching toward the ledge for a couple of years and have since jumped. We're fine, but I don't know if the Strib as we know it can survive.

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