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Recount denouement: KARE classy, Coleman staff not

As every Minnesota political junkie knows, video news site The Uptake has been the U.S. Senate recount's wall-to-wall coverage champ. But even as Norm Coleman was preparing a graceful concession speech, his press secretary all but put an Uptake reporter against the wall.

Noah Kunin. (Photo by Chuck Olsen)
Noah Kunin. (Photo by Chuck Olsen)

Noah Kunin was setting up a tripod at Coleman's backyard news conference Tuesday when press secretary Tom Erickson confronted him.

"He said, 'You're a liberal blog' and you have to leave,'" Kunin recalls. "I could either leave myself, or he would call someone."

In getting his way, Erickson ejected a credentialed member of the Capitol press corps.

"I didn't instantly recognize him — he was emotional," Kunin says of Erickson. "He said something about my cutesy homemade press pass. The one I was wearing was issued by the Minnesota Capitol. It says PRESS in big black letters. It's also a magnetic key card that lets me get into the Capitol after it closes to the public. I also had a red name tag badge specific to the Capitol press corps, issued by the Sergeant at Arms."

I confirmed Kunin's account with two other Capitol press corps members; because they work for mainstream organizations and were not authorized to comment (especially on a political topic), they asked not to be identified. Erickson did not respond to an email and two phone messages left Wednesday.

Kunin says he told Erickson the demand "was not OK on a lot of levels. This is a press conference, and I don't think you get to make that determination. He said, 'This is private property; we get to make the determination.'"

The Coleman campaign played this sort of access game with liberal-identified sites repeatedly during the election. When a politician holds a news conference in a public place — say, the Capitol — anyone can attend. But they purposefully schedule events on private property — a campaign office or, in this case, Coleman's yard — when they want to keep certain reporters out.

Given that The Uptake's chat rooms can become crucibles for Coleman-bashing, it's perhaps no surprise the ex-Senator would want to give the site's journalists the bum's rush.

That doesn't make it any less petty and wrong. If the objective reason for excluding bloggers is that they're belligerent, tendentious or otherwise unprofessional, The Uptake exhibited none of those faults.

Ironically, after the election, Norm's troops seemed to get that. "They stopped throwing up blockades. We were invited into [Coleman lawyer Ben] Ginsberg's background question-and-answer sessions," says Kunin, who even testified in the election contest because his absentee ballot was rejected. "The Senator even thanked us for a good question on nuclear power.

"All of a sudden, we started getting access from other Republicans. We've had Republicans on our shows, and had their comments in our stories. It got to the point where, when the Republican State Central Committee elected new leadership, I showed up and they had a press pass for me — from the Republican Party of Minnesota!"

In a way, it was a watershed moment for both sides. In the 2006 U.S. Senate race, Kunin — then an unaffiliated blogger — was involved in a partisan dustup where he found a publicly available pre-release Mark Kennedy attack ad on a consultant's web site.

"That seems like such old history," Kunin says of the incident, which ultimately amounted to not much. Thanks to his 2008-09 work, "I've been validated. Republicans talk to me now. [Erickson's] reaction was incredibly reactionary and backward-looking, as far as I'm concerned."

Erickson's unprofessionalism put The Uptake in a bind: here, they had lovingly covered 239 days of the recount, but had no way to show the final act.

Coming to the rescue: KARE Vice President and News Director Tom Lindner, who exhibited pure class in letting the site take the station's live feed.

The downside is that Kunin still wasn't there, and thus unable to quiz Coleman about his decision or future plans. Should the ex-Senator run for governor, he'd do well to hire a press staff as classy as the image he tried to project Tuesday.

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Comments (6)

And this is why we bid a not very fond farewell to the empty suit (paid for by Kazeminy) and his henchpersons. Farewell, Norm, good luck in your future legal adventures. May Laurie sell lots of Blows and Gos, if her vast experience in the insurance industry doesn't bring in enough to pay the mortgage(s).

Not only are the uptake' s chat rooms crucibles for Coleman-bashing, they stifle opposing viewpoints by removing comments....just like Minnpost.

For that reason alone they deserve to be shown the door. You can be legitimate sources of news, or you can be leftist hampsters, but you can't be both.

In all of this we should give kudos to KARE 11. If one believes in a free press (including the idea that the other side should have a voice), then KARE 11 showed solidarity with the priciple.

Thomas, when did Uptake ever remove a comment from the live blog? Did you use some foul language, which will get your removed from lots of sites? Perhaps your post was already in an archive.

And if the removed post wasn't yours, I'm curious where you get that information.

The press could and should shut this crap down right now, just don't attend such "news" conferences. You stop showing up, they'll stop ejecting journalists. Imagine Coleman tying to make one of the biggest statements of his political career while everyone is packing up and leaving.

I've never understood why the media just don't get that "access" in NOT the media's problem, it's the politicians problem. You can get the story either way, THEY need the images you provide.

Tom Swift, I have documented comments of mine being removed from the Star and Tribune website that were neither profane or violent. At the same time the right was vigorously attacking anything center left as communist, anti-American and worse.

It is a known fact that the words Assassination and Wellstone can never be used in the same sentence over at the STrib.

It is ironic how the right claims the STrib is so liberal but it allows wholesale bashing of so called leftists or nonneo-cons.