Wednesday, June 01, 2005

How much did Coleman stretch? 

Last week I discussed the now-overdiscussed visit some bloggers and outstate talk-radio to the Governor's mansion, and its discussion by Nick Coleman. Coleman's only quote from an attendee was from Kelli Gorr, the program director at WJON here in St. Cloud. I clipped the quote then and repeat it here:
"I'll stand as the one person who would not be considered right-wing," said Gorr, who broadcast a talk show from the governor's reception room in St. Paul on the day of the reception, but who took pains to present a politically balanced program. "The spin was that they [the governor's staff] wanted to reach new media able to disseminate information quickly and to say thank you to the nontraditional media. That was the spin. But if you call it most definitely right-wing, you're not off base."
I was the only person from St. Cloud at the meeting besides Gorr, and while she's interviewed me for economic pieces (largely from the local business report I co-author) we had never met in person until that meeting. Mrs. S. played piano in rehearsals for a musical Gorr was in here, and that's the extent to which we know each other. When we met at the Governor's, I had to introduce myself.

On his show Friday, Coleman made additional claims about the conversation he had with Gorr. Between yuks with Brian Lambert, he tells the story behind the story, as it were:
And I said to him [I'll guess this is McClung, the press secretary] tell me anybody there who wasn't a right-wing wingnut, and they gave me the name of a woman who is a news, a program director at ... WJON in St. Cloud [Lambert: And she was the only one] and he said "Talk to her, she'll tell you it wasn't partisan," so I called her up and she said "I was the only person there who wasn't a right-wing wingnut," you know, and she obviously felt out of place. It was totally partisan.
Here's the clip to hear for yourself (0:21 MP3). I heard this and thought this simply couldn't be right. I had visited with her, as did Mitch -- we ended up with an interview to help advertise MOB Road Show -- and I did not sense any of that sort of discomfort.

So I decided to investigate this and sent the clip to her and asked whether it was accurate. I got back this message.
As far as Coleman's column...he was 98% within context. The only thing I would correct was my reference to the "room" being right-wing had to do with the radio broadcast that morning (All were conservative except for WJON.) As far as the bloggers went, well Mitch and you were the first I had ever met.
That might seem a minor correction but it matters quite a bit. Coleman is specifically focused on the new media event -- a.k.a. the bloggers -- and to make his point the one quote he uses is referring to an entirely different event! She could not have said to him it was totally right-wing wingnuts as Coleman represented on the air, because she had not ever met us. If she was uncomfortable it would have been only from preconceptions of bloggers as pajamaheddin wingnuts, a preconception fueled by Coleman. I rather doubt this to be the case. I think she was in an unusual place and tried to investigate who bloggers were ... which led to the interview. And doing that means, when it comes to reporting on bloggers, Gorr has done a better job than Coleman.

At minimum -- assuming Coleman simply was confused about which part of Gorr's day she was discussing in the newspaper quote -- he's been sloppy. If he knowingly used the quote from one part of her day with the Governor to discuss another, it's dishonest. Given the experiences others have had trying to get Coleman columns fixed, it's not worth our time getting this story to the STrib. This merely serves as another item in the indictment that Coleman's columns are held to an editorial standard that remains a mystery.