KSTP is showing us that in journalism, story all too often trumps fact
KSTP teased the segment for much of the day. The station would finally provide answers regarding its flawed news report a week earlier. Only KSTP did not provide answers. Instead the station used valuable air time to triple down on its defense of the so-called #pointergate story, originally reported by Jay Kolls, and worked to demonize Navell Gordon, the young African American man pictured in a photo pointing at Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodge while the two canvassed a Minneapolis neighborhood to get out the vote.
KSTP news anchors told us, again, that they had no evidence that Gordon was affiliated with a gang, but then went on to spend five minutes and 42 seconds telling and showing viewers what a scary, menacing person Gordon supposedly is. Aside from that, KSTP spent much of its time engaging in “he said, she said” reporting.
Broadcasting “he said, she said” allegations has nothing to do with journalism, and everything to do with failing to do the reporting required to shed light on conflicting claims of truth. KSTP failed a week ago, and they failed again last night, to shed light on what actually happened between Mayor Hodges and Gordon (many of us figured it out anyway, without KSTP’s help). Making Gordon into a scapegoat for mistakes Kolls and the station made in originally airing the #pointergate story is much easier than exercising restraint in order to provide the most complete information possible, which is what journalists are supposed to do.
It’s what happens when story trumps fact. Michael Wolff, media critic for The Guardian, calls it “the anti-journalism.”
“… journalistic red meat – has been blown away by a story with no evident meaning, other than the likely bleak fate of most onboard,” Wolfe writes about flawed foreign news coverage. But his assessment is just as applicable to what’s happening in Minneapolis. For KSTP and the police union, reporting the real story about Gordon, Hodges, policing, and disenfranchisement (voting and economic) is right underneath their noses, but it might as well be a world away. KSTP can’t tell that story, won’t tell that story. It’s too hard to understand it, takes too much time to report it, and is too much like actual journalism.
“It is, of course, an ideal story for the current journalism era because it costs nothing. Nobody has to go anywhere. Nobody has to cover the wreckage and the recovery. Not only is the story pretty much all just theories – but theories are cheap.
There is, too, a gotcha element. –Michael Wolff
The gotcha element in #pointergate, of course, is that KSTP thought it had a story when police said the mayor was flashing gang signs. Silly woman, she didn’t know any better. There’s the sexism element to accompany the racial one. Again, easy stuff to report. Quick too. Except it’s unethical and lazy journalism.
The journalistic lapses at KSTP continue to pile up (I provided a list earlier this week). The sad part is that had Kolls and KSTP initially exercised restraint, they may have gotten a better story. In what city does the mayor, the police chief and a convicted felon walk together door-to-door asking people to vote? In what city does a white mayor stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a bad guy-trying-to-do-good? That story rarely gets told, so it’s harder to report.
Airing the age-old narrative of the gun-toting black, male thug — like posting memes on Twitter — is so much easier. And it’s repetitive storytelling. The same old, same old.
More important is the fact that KSTP is showing us, in rather stark terms, that all too often in journalism, narrative — or story as journalists like to say – trumps fact.
The #pointergate story, or narrative, has become so problematic that it even prompted a response from station owner Stanley Hubbard. Even if that response was inadequate.
“Multiple, credible law enforcement officials told our reporter Jay Kolls that the sign that the mayor had… whether it was inadvertent or whether it could have been known, was a gang sign. When she made that sign together with a guy who is a convicted criminal…,” Hubbard told the protesters, before going off on a tangent about Gordon’s criminal as well as a website that allegedly belongs to Gordon. “You’ve been sucked in folks.”
Who really got sucked in? Jay Kolls and KSTP? Or the people who called them out?