No bias award this week because of something better: the complete humiliation of Minnesota’s highly self-regarding, but manifestly unwarranted, media by The Intercept, a left leaning but smart news outlet whose most famous reporter is the estimable Glenn Greenwald. In a devastating account, reporter Rachel Cohen exposed how Attorney General Lori Swanson routinely used public employees for her campaign work. The story was huge, a national attention grabber and underscored how big stories go wanting by local media because of laziness, indifference and ideological blindness.
The story was well sourced and full of the telling detail that journalists these days–being political advocates and not reporters of facts–especially value in “storytelling.” It also contained many sources who would not go on the record. Anonymous sources have their use and can be easily abused: just look at any Washington Post or New York Times hit job on President Trump for examples. Yet, in the hands of real journalists seeking to find the truth of a particular matter, they can be invaluable.
Local media reaction to the story was stunned silence initially. After all, Swanson has been Minnesota’s Attorney General for years. The evidence that tipped off The Intercept that something was amiss? In Swanson’s public campaign finance records, there were no expenses for staff. A campaign with no staff costs? How could that be? The Intercept found and reported thoroughly on the answer. Minnesota media were too busy covering animals climbing a building or singing the praises of one or another Regressive Left causes.
When they came to, having had a near-death brush with humiliation on a national stage, the consensus of local media was–surprise!–rather self-serving. They couldn’t have run with such a story because there were too many anonymous sources. Such an excuse only made them more pathetic, something I didn’t think possible.
Rachel Cohen was following local media reaction, and rear-end covering, because she tweeted at one point that those in local media who were making that excuse should stand by because a follow up story was coming with sources on the record. Checkmate.
And lo, it came to pass: “‘It Was All True:’ Minnesota Attorney General’s Former Deputy Speaks Out About Participation In Political Work.” That story had several former staffers speak on the record, confirming the substance of the first bombshell report.
The Intercept confirms what many of us have known about Minnesota media for some time: they’re not very good and laziness can explain only part of the reason why. Think how we had to turn routinely to the U.K. based Daily Mail for information in the wake of an affirmative action cop hire killing poor Justine Damond. I doubt anything will change in our media environment despite what they should have learned from being scooped on the Swanson story.
As if to prove my point, the Star Tribune didn’t report on the initial Intercept story, although it has a story on the second, more recent reporting. When you read local media, you’ll either learn nothing or be the last to know.
Photo credit: The Intercept