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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pioneer Press hatchet piece on Council Member Gina Bauman was shoddy journalism at its worst

In the span of two days the Saint Paul Pioneer Press published a poorly researched, highly biased hatchet piece on New Brighton Council Member Gina Bauman and the following day (actually within hours in the on-line edition) had to publish a followup to report that the charges against Bauman had been dropped. The quick dropping of the charges is indicative of how bogus they were in the first place and demonstrates that the Pravda Press didn't bother with a lot of checking into the story before they ran it.

Anyone who knows Council Member Bauman could immediately see that the original story was a copious load of Bravo Sierra. If the reporters over at the Pravda Press had bothered asking around New Brighton they would have found many people, including many who strongly disagree with her politically, who would tell them that Gina Bauman is an honest, ethical, and caring person who would never do what she was accused of.

Had the paper done the proper checking the editor, if not the reporters, should have at the very least suspected that the charges were without merit and sat on the story until more facts were known. Unfortunately responsible journalism apparently doesn't sell papers, although the shoddy variety also isn't doing so hot these days as reflected by the plummeting circulation of dead tree media "news" publications. It didn't take the Ramsey County Attorney's office very long to conclude that the charges were without merit as indicated by how quickly they were dropped.

The original story essentially assumed that the accusations made by a relative were gospel and ignored Bauman's contention that the charges were completely without merit. In addition to spewing the charges in minute detail in a very pejorative tone, the reporters (or, to be fair, possibly the editor) also felt the need to pile on by concluding the story with the following specimen of shoddy journalism:
The owner of Cuppa Chiodo's coffee shop on Silver Lake Road ran on a platform of fixed property taxes and championed the idea of making New Brighton a retail destination. She has criticized the Northwest Quadrant, a 100-acre mixed-use project in the city.

Last year, a fellow city council member had a run-in with the law.

David Phillips took an Alford plea in November to hiring a prostitute, a misdemeanor. The plea means he acknowledged the prosecution likely had enough evidence to convict him but he didn't admit to specific acts outlined in the criminal complaint. He was placed on probation.
Just what the flaming hooty-hoo does Bauman's political positions or the reference to Council Member Phillips have to do with the story, other than to inject a further implication of guilt? To me it indicates that the intent of the story was primarily an attempt at "gotcha" journalism to call to attention the alleged wrong doing of an elected official (and a Conservative one at that - so much the better!) without regard to the newsworthiness of the underlying story. And the follow-up story to report that the charges had been dropped didn't exactly go out of its way to retract the innuendo of guilt suggested by the tone of the original story.

How many dozens of cases like these come up daily and never get reported (and with good reason) to the public? And how did the reporters just happen to pick out the one that just happened to involve a Conservative elected official practically before the ink was dry on the complaint? Perhaps a little investigation into these questions is in order.

Clearly, if Gina Bauman was not an elected official the story would not have been published in the first place. The Pioneer Press dragged a private family matter based on unsubstantiated accusations that did not pertain to Council Member Bauman's actions in office into the realm of public scrutiny instead of waiting for the result of the legal process to determine the newsworthiness of the story.

I would have less of a problem with a report on the story if the county attorney's actions and the subsequent court proceeding had validated the accusations. But unless and until this was the case this was a non-story. As it turns out it was a non-story, but the good name and reputation of an upstanding citizen who happens to be an elected office holder was questioned needlessly and without warrant.

Regardless of whether the story was run with the intent to sell more newspapers or as an attempt to besmirch the name and reputation of an elected official who holds views generally opposite of the political agenda of the paper, the Pioneer Press owes Council Member Bauman and their readers a big apology.


Blogger Mark Heuring said...

Good post, RH. This blog's motto pretty much sums up the matter:

A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.The PP should be ashamed, but I suspect they are incapable of shame.

4/16/2009 12:06 PM  
Blogger John Galt said...

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I sent a msg to the author and copied the msg on the comment board. It was indeed a hatchet piece.

4/20/2009 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Pioneer Press does seem to have trouble finding legitimate news to report in New Brighton. Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't they the only metro newspaper not to run the story of the Pi-Press papergirl from Minnetonka arrested for a string of burglaries here in N.B?

4/20/2009 8:36 PM  

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