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Why can't The Uptake get a Capitol press office?

When Politics in Minnesota’s Sarah Janecek reported March 26 that the Rochester Post-Bulletin and Twin Cities Public Television raised concerns about citizen journalism site The Uptake’s quest for state Capitol press space, the latest media access battle became very public.

The Uptake — whose founders have worked in Democratic Party and progressive politics — is best known for pumping out hours of unedited political video. The site earned national praise for its indefatigable U.S. Senate recount coverage.

But to Post-Bulletin local news editor Mike Dougherty, the Uptake represented the barbarians inside the gate ... or, at least, the warren of offices constituting the basement press area. The Uptake would slide into vacant space in a room where the Rochester paper and KARE-TV already reside. In a letter to the state Department of Administration, which leases the space, Dougherty wrote:

My concern is that they are not a nonpartisan news site, which compromises the efforts of all the media in that complex that have built their reputations over time.

Including The Uptake in this area with access to information about what many of the news organizations are working on with no guarantee someone else’s work won’t appear on their site or be Tweeted via Twitter ...

[T]he media we represent are very different than The Uptake and we hope you will address our concerns by not allowing them to lease space in our current office or within the current press corps complex. We believe our concerns are shared by other news media organizations.

After receiving the letter, Administration canceled The Uptake’s lease, just a day after it was signed. That triggered a 30-day notice requirement, meaning Uptake video equipment already housed in the press room could be evicted April 26 if the two sides can't agree.

Once again, the scab was ripped off the old-versus-new media debate, though the narrative isn’t that simple. Many mainstream reporters I spoke with sounded slightly nauseous about the infighting; several cited freedom of the press, and made it clear they had no problems with the Uptake getting space. (On the flip, one new media reporter has qualms about The Uptake’s intern training.)

Since the PIM story ran, those who’ve complained have either backpedaled, soft-pedaled, or dummied up. But the press scrum opened the door to a full review of the lease-granting policy, and no one knows what the result will be. Even incumbents are a bit nervous about keeping what they have. Admin spokesman Jim Schwartz says there’s no deadline, and the matter could remain unresolved past the legislature’s May adjournment.

The vacancy
Ironically, the department that scuttled the lease initially suggested The Uptake take the space.

Mainstream media cutbacks created the vacancy. Last year, Fargo-based Forum Communications laid off one of its two Capitol reporters, relinquishing the $28-a-square-foot office it split with KARE. This session, the Post-Bulletin took half of what Forum left behind, but the rest remained unused.

At the time, the vacant space seemed like a nifty solution to a problem. In 2009, The Uptake got its toehold in the press room: a hallway video cabinet where an Associated Press file cabinet once stood.

The main Capitol press room layout. The larger orange square is the disputed space.
The main Capitol press room layout. The larger orange square is the disputed space.

Uptake executive producer Mike McIntee says the ultimate goal is to tap into a “clean” graphics-free Capitol feed that comes through the press room near the potential office.

TPT political reporter Mary Lahammer insists that her organization never opposed The Uptake's office move. However, she says Uptake workers sometimes camped in the hallway, creating logistical problems in the already-tight space. Says Uptake executive director Jason Barnett, “So when the office space opened up, we thought this would solve the [hallway] problem, but instead, it created more.”

Ideology: a non-factor?
Unlike the Post-Bulletin, KARE is enthusiastic about the Uptake as a co-tenant. In a letter to Admin, station news director Tom Lindner singled out McIntee for praise, and crystallized the equal-access argument:

KARE 11 has no objections to The UpTake leasing the space. I’ve known Mike McIntee for more than 30 years. I know him to be an honorable man of his word.

I find it ironic that in one of the most publicly accessible buildings in our state, some members of the media are concerned about giving access to The UpTake in the press area.

I do not want to be responsible for defining who can and cannot be considered the working press. ... If The UpTake has the money to pay the lease, why not let them? KARE 11 will share the space with them without objection.

The office in question is one of the few shared between organizations, but KARE’s seen worse; at a press corps meeting last week, Channel 11 photojournalist Aethan Hart noted his station once shared quarters with Channel 9.

Although The Uptake is credentialed by the state House and Senate, the Post-Bulletin regards the group’s press-room presence as illegitimate. Or at least it did. Since the controversy broke, the paper’s managing editor, Jay Furst, has blogged about “raising legitimate questions” about the inclusion of ideological journalists in workspace. When we talked, he emphasized engaging the debate rather than settling it, and says he'll accept Admin's decision.

Re-read Dougherty’s letter, I replied: Your paper is on record saying not only that the Uptake shouldn’t share an office with you, it should be kicked out of the press warrens entirely.

Furst, who says he “glanced” at Dougherty’s communication before it was sent, replied, “I can live with that letter completely.” Still, he added, “I probably would’ve worded it in a different way.”

Although some Democrats see crypto-Republican sympathies at work in the objections, the fear seems more that partisan veterans of any stripe can’t become journalists independent of politicians and parties.

As WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler puts it, “Is an anti-Republican blogger going to get space down here, or an anti-Democratic tracker? We’re going to have to draw the line at some point.”

Kessler is clear The Uptake hasn’t crossed it. “I’ve watched them here, and they’ve been very dedicated, completely professional. I’m told they have a progressive, liberal lean, but I haven’t seen it. If the purpose of this is to provide raw feeds, then does that matter?”

Besides, Kessler notes, asking government to enforce journalistic principles seems odd. “Many years ago, [then-Gov.] Jesse Ventura said he would not do interviews until you can produce for me a code of ethics. So I sent him the First Amendment and the Ten Commandments.”

Although The Uptake’s staff isn’t shy about past political service, no staffer works on campaigns, and a glance at the site's home page shows an eclectic mix of unedited political event footage: Tea Party rallies, counter-demonstrations, presidential and gubernatorial press conferences, police chief interviews. Barnett figures this is more than 90 percent of what The Uptake produces.

Several organizations represented in the basement embed such footage on their websites; MinnPost does as well.

Most Uptake donations come from small donors, Barnett says, though two foundations currently kick in funds: the Harnisch Foundation (also a MinnPost supporter) and the Instructional Telecommunications Foundation.

This hardly fits Furst’s accusation that The Uptake is an “advocacy organization” or one “generally perceived as more political than journalistic in nature.” Of course the staffers lean left (McIntee hosts a show on liberal station KTNF), and some of their reports (and user comments) please Dems and anger Republicans. So do Lori Sturdevant’s Strib columns, and the editorial writer has worked in the Capitol basement for years, albeit in a different press area.

Notes McIntee, “We don’t endorse candidates, like a lot of newspapers in that room do. We don’t lobby at the Capitol [for taxpayer money], like some media outlets do.”

Whose ideological beef?
At least give the Post-Bulletin credit for voicing what others have publicly backed away from.

I asked Furst if TPT (via Lahammer), and Forum (via Capitol reporter Don Davis), were the “other news organizations” with the “partisan” concerns Dougherty’s letter referenced. “I can confirm that,” he said.

Davis, who answered his phone during a Wednesday committee meeting, told me he “wasn’t in a position to talk” and abruptly ended the conversation. He sent an apologetic email Thursday, but declined to answer questions.

Other reporters heard Lahammer say she was taking her complaints to Administration. She says she contacted Jim Rhodes, the former Republican state representative from St. Louis Park who is now the department’s legislative director. “I’ve known him my whole life; he’s a nice, easygoing guy,” Lahammer notes. “It was an informal ‘what’s the deal?’”

Lahammer, who has publicly supported the new media in previous Capitol fights, says the conversation did not involve The Uptake’s ideology or partisanship; Rhodes declined to comment.

However, Lahammer’s boss, Brendan Henehan, acknowledges The Uptake’s leanings were an issue. “What Mary did say to me is, at various points, she had concerns about some of the people with partisan background working for the Uptake.”

Schwartz says that after the Capitol press corps (who call themselves the Jackals, after a Ventura epithet) met with Uptake leaders, Lahammer called the department to say her objections had been resolved.

As for TPT, Henehan says “We don’t have a position on whether it’s appropriate” for the Uptake to be in the press space.

McIntee says The Uptake has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the complaints and how the department decided to cancel the lease. Regarding the new policy, the state has invited the Uptake to provide “input” as a “stakeholder.”

The Department of Administration has offered to let The Uptake return to their original hallway-space lease; The Uptake is holding out for the office they feel they qualify for.

Constitutionally confident
Barnett is convinced The Uptake will ultimately get its space. “We’re going to come out of this better than before, just like after anytime someone attacks us,” he says. “This is about freedom of the press. There’s no way they can kick us out.”

It doesn’t hurt that The Uptake’s lawyer is David Lillehaug, the former Minnesota U.S. Attorney who was part of Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s winning recount team. While that linkage won’t quiet the partisanship murmurs, Barnett says Constitutional law is on The Uptake’s side; the state simply can’t discriminate based on real or perceived ideology. Schwartz agrees, adding Administration’s standards — which have never been examined since taking over management from the Senate — will be platform-neutral (print, broadcast, web) as well.

A possible model might be found in the state Senate, whose credentialing rules are breathtakingly simple: they only specify “those news agencies that regularly cover the legislature.”

Of course, it’s up to the Secretary of the Senate to determine a “news agency” and “regularly” — some new-media reporters say they’ve received access only through indefatigability. Still, the “regularity” and “news agency” standard likely separates The Uptake from the conservative organs that Furst and others compare them to, Power Line and Minnesota Democrats Exposed.

Not necessarily professionals, but professionalism
That’s not to say there aren't less-than-Constitutional issues here.

Several reporters who support The Uptake’s right to the press room space are concerned about the organization’s laissez-faire attitude toward interns and volunteers.

This session, an Uptake intern who works at the Capitol, Erin Maye, tweeted that she thought House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher would “make a great governor.” In another tweet, Maye wrote that when editing video “I can make people say things they may not have said ... muhahahha.”

Marty Owings, a new-media reporter who covers the legislature for community station KFAI-FM, told the Jackals that interns needed better training before groups like The Uptake threw them into the Capitol. It was an indication that, access aside, concerns transcended old-versus-new, or even left-versus-right.

At the same meeting, Kessler recalls Barnett saying he “had no right to restrict the [political] rights of his employees.”

Kessler says he replied, “Yes, you do.”

Later, McIntee clarified, “I don’t believe anybody’s right to be a citizen should be abridged by being a journalist. There’s a difference between a staffer and a volunteer. I’m not going to ask a volunteer to give away their rights as a citizen.”

However, Barnett says that had Maye “been a full-time employee, we would have fired her” over the editing tweet. “We know she was kidding around, but it’s not funny, given what we do,” he says. “We told her not to delete it, even though we know certain blogs are going to find out and hit really hard. Interns need to learn.”

Although Maye, just off a stint with Al Franken’s campaign, tweeted from a personal account, McIntee explains, “Erin had never used Twitter. We signed her up and said, that’s what we do. What doesn’t get reported is she put out an apology, too.”

McIntee says he is not concerned about the Kelliher tweet, regarding Maye’s opinion as an example of transparency. “Would you rather a reporter think that and not tell you what they’re really thinking?” he asked.

Building trust
Even though the Constitution doesn’t demand it, McIntee and Barnett acknowledge they need to build trust with fellow journalists working in close quarters.  “We want to be good neighbors,” Barnett says. “If there’s anything Mike and I have done wrong, it’s that we haven’t developed relationships [in the press room] to the level we need. We will do that.”

McIntee says he would only put credentialed reporters in the basement space, rather than a revolving door of volunteers. “We are only going to put our best foot forward. Am I going to request we give other people privacy on the phone? Damn right I am.”

(Adds Barnett, “I don’t want to give out that many keys.”)

And let’s not give the worst fears too much credence. Maye’s shaky social networking is closest thing supporting Dougherty’s evidence-free assertion that The Uptake would, in effect, steal a competitor’s work or ruin the scoop via Twitter. Not one of the eight Capitol journalists I talked to could recall a single case of the Uptake actually doing anything unethical in the 13 months the organization has been credentialed at the Capitol. “Never,” Kessler states.

And, a couple of reporters noted, the press warrens were hardly a pilfer-free zone before citizen journalists arrived; one Capitol vet slyly recalled an excursion through a competitor’s trash can.

The truth is, while MPR, AP and the Strib have relatively large offices, most Capitol reporters work on top of each other and privacy expectations are very, very low. “If you have something hot, you find somewhere else to work on it,” one says.

Fundamentally, the press room is about access, being close to the action. Legislators trolling for coverage often stage impromptu press conferences or drop off releases.

DFL partisans have noted there was no partisan eruption when ex-lobbyist and open Republican Janecek secured a big new press-room space for Dolan Media. There are a few differences: Dolan already had space, and its Capitol reporters — whose ideologies, if anything, are the opposite of Janecek’s — have been in the business for awhile. They are, more or less, already in the Capitol club.

The Uptake isn’t, and so far, that’s been a good thing for democracy. As McIntee notes, “Who else sent a camera to [show] the Independence Party convention?”

In fact, The Uptake’s future business prospects largely rest on taking such raw information and adding value to it, such as keyword tagging and other archive-retrieval aids. Among those who might pay for such a service: the media.

Says McIntee, “I gotta tell you, I look at the press, yes, as competition, but I also look at them as customers, in terms of getting more of our video out, and perhaps making something down the road attractive and worth paying for. Why would I want to piss off my customers?”

While The Uptake will likely fill the vacancy, the truth is, they’re probably lousy precedent setters. The next organization that leverages the Constitution could be far more upsetting to the Capitol’s folkways — more nakedly partisan, perhaps, or jerkier. Just like journalists were when the First Amendment was written.

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Comments (29)

This is why I love Braublog. It felt like every paragraph was another named source or original quote. Thorough work on this piece.

Do TPT reporters lie about their affiliation with TPT?

Does MPR? KARE? KSTP?

During a Tea Party Rally at the Capital last year, I spotted an Uptake crew preparing to "interview" a guy that was holding a sign with verbiage that could (and would) be misconstrued by such leftist propaganda mills.

When I explained to the guy what was going on, and who he was preparing to speak with, the guy behind the camera claimed not to be with the Uptake. The target declined to be interviewed, but was taped walking off.

Ten minutes later, I watched as the gal "reporter" taped a clip ("We're seeing a lot of hate here") that ended with her signing off "with the Uptake"….yeah, pure professionals.

Anyone that has any doubts about “the Uptake’s” purely leftist agenda only need listen to McIntee’s daily screed on KTNF radio. One hour of raw, unadulterated, Republican bashing, misrepresentations and outright lies.

When Kessler joins Matt McNeil for hour two of his spittle fest, we’ll have an lack of access \ equivalency issue to discuss; ‘till then, well, not so much.

David, you missed the point of our nearly half-hour conversation yesterday, which is this: We've raised a legitimate question about whether citizens organizations (whether "partisan," political, "advocacy-oriented" or whatever) should get space in the Capitol press room, where established news organizations have jockeyed for space for years. As I told you more than once in our conversation, in what I thought were decent juicy quotes, I don't care if the Department of Administration wants to build them an office behind the quadriga on the Capitol roof, or give them the Rotunda or whatever -- we've just raised a legitimate question about whether they belong in the very limited space of the Capitol press room -- and if after Admin has reviewed the issue they believe Uptake can be in the press room, so be it -- fine, we're roommates.
I also told that I think the Uptake has a fantastic Web site, I'm all for citizen journalist groups, etc. -- have no problem with that. Instead, your column leaves the strong impression and straw-man argument that this is a MSM vs. New Media argument. Makes for a better column, fills your deadline requirement for today, but really misleads readers.
Also gives you a chance to champion new media and the First Amendment at our expense, which is unfair to me, Dougherty and the newspaper -- as you know, David, from our conversation. We don't regard the Uptake as "barbarians inside the gate," there's no "scab," etc. Makes for good insider reading, perhaps, but it really misrepresents the issue.
Here's my blog post on the issue, which I only posted after Uptake fans lobbed a few insults into the online comments on unrelated topics. My blog is Furst Draft, at http://postbulletin.typepad.com/honk/

+++
05 April 2010
Who's next, Power Line?

In case anyone's trying to follow Sally Jo's narrative on the previous post, here's the story from Politics in Minnesota (link) about the Uptake, the "citizen journalist" organization that wants office space in the State Capitol. We've raised legitimate questions about the presence of an organization generally perceived as more political than journalistic in nature (left-leaning) claiming what little media office space is available in the Capitol. There's not a lot to begin with -- at least until the past few years, daily newspapers and broadcast news organizations have had to jockey for limited space. We're asking perfectly legitimate questions about a non-traditional citizen organization getting space in an area reserved for long-standing, professional news organizations such as Associated Press, WCCO, the Star Tribune, the Pioneer Press and the Post-Bulletin, serving local communities throughout the state.

Others in the Capitol press room have at least questioned the arrangement, including the precedent that it sets. Who's next, Power Line? Minnesota Democrats Exposed? At the very least, the Uptake is a new and unusual fit in the Capitol press room and it's worth discussing. In case you're interested, the organization (which has units in other states) describes itself as "a citizen-fueled, online video news gathering organization. Established July 2007." Check their Web site to see how they operate -- they call for volunteers to cover events, for example.

Here's what the conservative Web site Minnesota Democrats Exposed has to say about the Uptake and this Capitol office issue. (link)

And here's the Minnesota Daily's story. (link)

This is a debate we're happy to have, and if the Capitol administration says the Uptake's OK, fine. But the Post-Bulletin has been a legitimate, credible news organization since the days of the Civil War. We've had reporters covering the Legislature day in and day out for decades. So have the other mainstream (i.e., credible and well-established) news organizations in the Capitol press room. We're entitled to an opinion on whether nontraditional, unconventional, perceptibly political "citizen journalists" fit the description of potential tenants in that space, and how that might affect future space requests.

And Uptake fans, please save the lectures on journalism, and on how the Strib and Pioneer Press are "partisan media," etc. Just don't bother.
++++

I haven't written about this in print but plan to now, since David has fogged up the issue.

Last point: Best wishes to the Uptake, and while we've appropriately expressed concerns to Admin, if the outcome is that we're roommates, fine. Just so we all know the ground rules.

Where was TPT with all their vaunted digital channels during the senate recount? Nowhere. Uptake filled the void admirably. While TPT and MPR may SEEM to be non-partisan, who pays their bills? Corporations? What is the interest in their underwriters' in their coverage? Notably the issue of influence with them is NEVER discussed.

We don't live in a "partisan" world anymore. Arguably the press lines can be redrawn between corporate (toadies?) and non-corporate media. While the influences upon places like TPT and MPR may be more subtle, they may be more dangerous precisely because it is difficult to unravel the control.

Tom - fair point about KTNF (even if the evaulation is highly subjective). Added a reference in the piece.

Jay - I think I mentioned, repeatedly, including in the lead section, this is not a new-versus-old media issue, so that's a straw man.

But I'll say again: I think that *now* you're raising questions and welcoming debate, but Dougherty's letter was straight-up *kick the bums out.* To refresh: "we hope you will address our concerns by not allowing them to lease space in our current office or within the current press corps complex."

I think that's a rational basis for the barbarians quip ... which was limited to inside the press room warrens.

As you told me, "I can live with that letter completely” even though you might've phrased it differently.

That said, while I noted you were now content to engage the debate rather than settle it, I probably didn't put a fine enough point on saying you'd live with the outcome. I'll make that clear in the piece.

Isn't the debate more about where you draw the line between real media and some guy with a $200 camera who claims to be a 'journalist'? Go back to the RNC and look at some of the video by so-called journalists. Bob and weave all you want but if there isn't some sort of line the result will be chaos and the entire concepts of unbiased reporting and ethics will be a thing of the past. With traditional media cutting back the public's ability to know what's going on in government is being hindered, but we don't need a takeover by biased rookies providing us with info.

Not the point, David -- the letter is fine, it raised our objection, we do have a concern. The letter's not a smoking gun. How else would we express our concern -- "go ahead and give Uptake the office space, but we think it's inappropriate"?
(The reference to my having only "glanced" at the letter, etc., is among what I would call your "escalation" techniques in this column, by the way.)
My point is that if the Uptake gets space down the hall, up the stairs, in the Governor's Reception Room, whatever, fine -- I think it's inappropriate for them to be in the limited space of the press room, others privately have expressed concerns as well, but if Admin determines otherwise, fine. And hats off to Uptake -- I could hardly have been more complimentary of their project in my conversation with you.

If there's a better example of how to write a story than this one, I sure haven't seen it. Great job, David.

Another solution: kick them ALL out,and let them rent office space elsewhere.

I've got a great idea.

Why not trot McIntee & Co. down to share space with Lori Sturdevant in her "press area"...be a real party over there (so long as Sturdevant is down with the "iksnay on the Uptake-ay" interview request process), and everyone else wouldn't have to worry about seeing their work on Twitter.

Problem solved. I'm a problem solver.

Jay - I have you saying "glanced" in my notes.

Jay and Tom - While it's tempting to think the Uptake could go somewhere else (though I haven't heard of vacancies somewhere else) I think there's a proximity issue. I didn't have this firmly enough in my notes to use in the story, but I believe the clean feed Mike and the Uptake need is in a particular part of the main press room. (I don't think their current video cabinet can tap into it.) So there was some imperative to be in that part of the room.

As I said, not positive about this. My understanding, too, is that there aren't vacancies in other spaces. And I'm not sure incumbents w/their own offices will want to shuffle into the shared office.

It's certainly possible some shuffling could be done, or perhaps wiring could be run somewhere else. Don't know. I do know the Uptake is already looking at substantial bucks to tap into the feed that other media outlets have paid for; they'd need to pick up part of the tab others already have.

(I did say "glanced"...just thought it was interestingly used in a perjorative way.)

WCCO-TV's Pat Kessler asks “Is an anti-Republican blogger going to get space down here, or an anti-Democratic tracker? We’re going to have to draw the line at some point.”

Since uber-partisan blogger and political activist Michael Brodkorb became deputy chair of the MN GOP, we may have already crossed that line, Pat.

I suppose nobody remembers "Bambi" the film/narrative quite like I do but...wasn't it Thumper the rabbit's mother - who by the way was a J-School grad and media consultant before she had Thumper - who too often said to her son, something like, "If you can't write something 'Right', don't write anything at all." Bad advice whatever her alleged profession.

If every disturbed professional media group feels threatened by the 'new journalist' coming in on their territory - good or bad - maybe they should work a little harder to cover the news with a wee more investigative zeal...and stump the competition; if that seems to be the problem.

It's just a suggestion. Actually I don't know. I'm just another watcher in the woods.

When you guys get around to it, Post Bulletin, can you give us an example of how the Uptake being in the same area as the PB has hurt your credibility or COULD hurt your credibility?

Under what I THINK your letter says, it also stands to reason that having your product appear on the same newsstand/store at the National Enquirer hasn't hurt your credibility.

It hasn't been adequately explained other than in very vague terms, exactly how being at the same lunch counter as the Uptake, hurts you in the eyes of the public.

I really appreciate the fact this is being discussed here, thanks David for writing about this. I can also appreciate the various concerns and viewpoints on the subject. Most of all, I'm glad because it sheds some light on transparency in Government.

Bottom line is we need more of that transparency at the Capitol, not less. There are over 3500 bills introduced each session. Divide that among the Capitol Press Corps of about 30 or so Reporters, that leaves about 116 pieces of Legislation per Reporter. If you think following a bill and all it's details and related impacts is easy, give it a try some time. It's not rocket science, but it isn't a breeze either.

That's part of the reason I welcome the UpTake and other media organizations, new or old, being at the Capitol, reporting on the issues and events that directly effect Minnesotan's.

It's pretty simple, many things in the media environment have changed, but what remains is the public interest in getting the facts and ultimately the truth about issues that effect their lives. If the public can find those facts or the truth through a video stream, news paper, tv story or Tweet then we're doing our job.

I think most Minnesotan's are smart enough to know if the media they are consuming is legitimate, fair and so on, based on the reputation they've established over time and their approach to the news. Personally I think that should be the highest goal of every media organization...the public's trust, even if it takes us years to build it.

And for those that may not be aware, the Press Corps at the Capitol has actually been reduced over the years, not expanded. In other words, there are fewer Reporters to cover the many laws being proposed and enacted every session..and of course there is always more than just legislation to cover at the Capitol.

Although I've only been at the Capitol for three years, I've come to respect, even admire many of the fine Journalists working there. They never alientated me or made me feel anything but welcome as a member of the "new media". And I'll admit that over time, I've come to understand why many of them would be interested in guarding their hard earned reputations and the public trust.

Is every Reporter a saint? Of course not, they're people just like you and I. But by and large, they work harder, longer and with much less these days than they ever have before. Whatever their motivations may be, they seem dedicated to the promotion of solid, ethical journalism.

At the end of the day I don't think anyone can argue against the Free Press as an integral part of our Democracy. If that's important to your readers David, then I think they'd be interested in having more Reporters at the Capitol and ultimately they'll decide if a particular media outlet is successful or not.

Thank you for mentioning my remarks on Professionalism. I think it's important to remember that the Capitol is more than just a collection of Ornate Rooms and Marble Halls, it represents the institutions and values we hold so dear in our Democracy. Accordingly, I think it deserves our respect and so do the people in it. If Law Makers, Lobbyists, Staffers or Reporters do something to lose that respect so be it, let the people decide.

A word to would be Journalists. If your going to come to the Capitol to report the news, consider it an honor and try to do your job with care and respect. You'll make mistakes, we all do, but try not to let them be mistakes of character. If you're new and not sure to what to do or where to go, ask someone in the Press Corps, most of them are very happy to help as am I.

Lastly, this was never about old versus new media in my humble opinion. This dust up was more about respect and if we can't find it among eachother, others will start making decisions for us. Frankly, I don't want to see that happen! To Mr. Furst, I get it. I understand your concern. I also think we might agree that this whole issue could have been dealt with more positively through direct dialog. Here's hoping we can work toward resolution without exclusion and outside direction.

"It hasn't been adequately explained other than in very vague terms, exactly how being at the same lunch counter as the Uptake, hurts you in the eyes of the public."

Wow. 10 points deducted for a low blow.

Nice to see *you* have managed to keep your objectivity, Bob.

This issue isn't about new media/old media; it's about journalistic standards.

[Full disclosure: I'm a P-B reporter, but not the Capitol reporter and I have not any been part of those discussions.]

This issue is about an organization (The UpTake) that has employed people who have worked for political campaigns that they now cover, and also has employed people who have made statements in support of certain political candidates.

I could make a 5,000 word post -- that would go largely ignored -- detailing the possible conflict of interest of someone in the Capitol Press Corps having recently served as a volunteer or paid employee of a campaign, but those concerns should be obvious.

The UpTake has done some great work (notably on the recount), but there are also similar issues like the one raised in Thomas Swift's comment (about reporters not identifying themselves as a working reporter).

It's about the consistency of journalism, not about how that journalism is delivered. If *insert Minnesota newspaper company here* had reporters with campaign bumper stickers on their cars (hypothetical) or had done the same things with Twitter messages, volunteering on a campaign, etc., others would be bringing up the same questions.

If the issue of partisan reporting is just one person or just two isolated incidents, fine, everyone should move on and welcome The UpTake. If not, the discussion should continue.

But shouldn't the question at least be asked? Doesn't that benefit us all in the industry a bit to revisit the lines once and awhile?

Just my $0.02.

(My comments do not represent the beliefs of my employer, other newsroom employees, or any of my editors, etc. Just me. And for the record, again, The UpTake has done some great work. I became familiar with them through Noah Kunin's work.)

Elliot - you should've written Mike's letter.

The journalistic standards argument is a very interesting one. The Uptake's argument (if I may) is that they opt for transparency over objectivity. Essentially, they say we all have opinions and even conflicts, but as long as they aren't hidden, viewers can judge for themselves.

That might be inferior to the way the P-B does it, but it's not unethical in my view.

As a journalist who's organized his career around not hiding his opinions, I have three basic standards: I don't give to campaigns, I don't work for campaigns and I don't leak to campaigns. In other words, maintain independence.

I don't think even past service in campaigns is a disqualifier, though obviously, it's a warning flag that bears watching. I know I've never quite trusted Nixon White House staffer Diane Sawyer, or Clinton White House staffer George Stephanopoulous, but I wouldn't deny their ABC press credentials.

I appreciate newspaper standards, really I do, but they are not the be-all and end-all of journalism. MSM journalists leave themselves wide open to charges of hidden bias because they are opaque about our true feelings. Again, I'm glad the ethical standard exists, though there is a strategic element to it, and I don't personally subscribe to the paradigm. It might be the best way to the truth, but it's not the only way to the truth.

The bottom line, in my view, is that none of this disqualifies the Uptake, which has certainly produced unassailably journalistic work.

Even though you weren't in the loop, I think one of the ways this situation flared is that no one from the P-B talked to the Uptake prior to the Admin letter. I suspect whatever the differences, the ethical considerations could've been bridged without making it a state case. I agree with Jay that the questions are worth asking and the objective standard worth cementing, but in 20-20 hindsight I think this could've been handled better.

I would also say if you've witnessed similar ethical lapses to what Tom has intimated, you should be specific and let us know. (Here, you probably do have more credibility since you're not one of the TC's most indefatigable partisans.) The innuendo in Mike D's letter was a huge problem for me, and I think it's only fair to get specifics if we're going to impugn an organization.

10-1 if we looked hard at the P-B we could find plenty examples of bias, willful ignorance, and terrible reporting. Let's not act as if traditional media does a great, or even passable job. Newspapers are OWNED by people and companies that have agendas, and that exercise that agenda, period.

The notion that reporters, editors or owners of traditional media are going around criticizing new media as not being legitimate doesn't pass the smell test, and reeks a lot of them protesting too much.

Did anyone complain about Cindy Brucato's bias when she went back to journalism after working for Arne Carlson? All the sudden this is a big issue? Please.

Another thing, what's so much more legitimate about a the Rochester whatever-it-is newspaper? I've never heard of it before I read this article. I've seen the Uptake. Why should a rinky dink city paper get more access than a internet news outlet?

The thing that bug me about the established media space in the capital is more often than not I can't figure out what they do with it. If you watch TPT's coverage for 45 minutes you get some idea just how much goes completely unreported. Instead, they set up interviews with politicians. It's taken years for the media get round to actually looking at Pawlenty with a critical, no doubt because he's suck a likeable guy.

Jay here, from the Rochester whatever-it-is newspaper...

Quick responses to a couple points -- then you can go to my blog, Furst Draft, http://postbulletin.typepad.com/honk/, and quit giving all the business to David and Minnpost.

Elliot Mann's post is excellent -- and David, you sound like this is a surprising new wrinkle. Isn't this the heart of the issue regarding Uptake?

As to whether Elliot should have written Mike's letter, whatever...you're sure parsing our business letter closely, David. My concern isn't to criticize or torpedo the Uptake, it's to protect our own newsgathering in the Capitol and to understand whether the rules are changing for the press room.

Here's a response from my blog on this point:

+++
Regarding one of the concerns raised in Dougherty's letter, as I told David -- that's a secondary or tertiary concern, but it's not illegitimate...we're in a competitive business, first of all, as well as a line of work that relies on discretion, the confidence of sources, the confidentiality of conversations, and in our very tight space at the Capitol, it's not being paranoid to have concerns about who we're sharing space with.
+++

Fact is, we will literally share a desk with Uptake or whoever leases that space...it's going to affect our business, just as much as it's affecting the Uptake.

Two more items:

Do you think the "Rochester whatever-it-is newspaper" alone can change Admin policy on this? I wonder if any party leaders have weighed in on the issue? Think the Republican governor's office is interested in what organizations receive Capitol press space?

And David, a question regarding Minnpost protocol, so I understand your ground rules: Do you go back into your column and change it after it's posted? I believe you said in one of your comments that you did or would, and it appears on quick glance that the column has been changed. If true, shouldn't you (and Minnpost) alert readers to that in some prominent way? Readers may wonder why I make a point in my response to you, for example, when in fact you've already gone back into the column and touched it up.

Now, everyone over to Furst Draft...

Dave, I didn't "intimate anything", I said it loud and clear; the Uptake crew lied about who they were. I didn't get either of their names, but I could identify both on sight.

If by "transparent", the Uptake means to say they don't hide their bias, how does that square when they won't even admit who they *are*?

Objective: Fail

Transparent: Fail

Truthful: Fail

Maybe that works for the scary smart, reality based community; excuse us, but the rest of us poor slobs expect a bit more.

And speaking of the rest of us...

Dave, you have been encouraging people to go check out the Uptake's website, and I'll go one further. I'd like a right of center reader to try and engage the "Uptake community" in their live blog discussion....be polite as your aunt Harriet, but just try to challenge the echo chamber and you won't last longer than five minutes before you are "hung up" on.

I can usually tell when Minnpost has a hand-off of moderators after a couple of comments fail to appear here; fine, I'm done for the day, but I have to admit that the vast majority of my opinions do make it to "print"....at least you guys try...Uptake, not so much.

Paul, you're right -- the Post-Bulletin is such a boring name. I would think that our recent work in the Rochester area makes us legitimate, rather than our name. But still, we should have followed in your creative footsteps.

I, for one, love the sound of your company: Paul's Photography.

/endjokes

(I'm glad you brought up the Brucato point though. I think that does matter. For example, I remember an earlier BrauBlog post about a BringMeTheNews "news reader" who also works with a PR company in developing strategies of how to deal with the media. At that point, I effectively wrote off BMTN, and consider them only a news aggregator.)

http://www.minnpost.com/braublog/2009/10/01/12071/bringmethenews_hockert...

Jay - I think you're comparing apples to oranges. The question of journalistic standards (and how the public should regard a particular news operation) is not the same as the argument about which journalistic organizations should get Capitol access.

The Dept of Admin thankfully say an organization's ideology, such as it is, will not be a standard for leasing space. The P-B is saying ideology (not the specific one, but any one) should be a standard. Admin is constitutionally correct.

If you want to have the *other* fight, about which approach is better, well, that's covered in my earlier response to Elliot's.

Thankfully, he did not accuse or suggest the Uptake would rat out someone it shared office space. That's why I thought he should've written the letter.

And again, the P-B's letter was *precisely* to torpedo the Uptake.

As for the story text, I think the two changes were quite small and didn't bear drawing extra attention or interrupting flow. I always note when corrections are made, but in your case, it was discretionary context, more of a courtesy. As they say, "give 'em an inch ..."

I disagree with your policy or Minnpost's policy on correcting/adding to your column, David...want me to have Dougherty write a letter?

Regarding Admin being "constitutionally correct," I don't think the state or U.S. constitutions address press room policy, though you seem pretty certain on that point.

And damn the torpedo regarding Uptake -- I wish them every success in their business. While I might wish to scuttle the Uptake's request for office space in the press room, that's a little different from a wish to "torpedo the Uptake."

As a media outside, let me tell you that the Uptake complainers look like, well, complainers. Did RPB or TPT ever voice their concerns with UpTake leadership? Seems like this could have been resolved without whining to mommy (the admin office). Instead, the way this was handled makes certain organizations look like they are trying to kick out their competition. Not saying that's what happened, but that's the perception.

And Jay to be fair, the Strib makes changes to their articles online all the time. In fact, I think they rely on the comment section for copy editing. This is 2010... collective knowledge or corrections (such as how your comments allow David to refine his column). Not that following the practices of the Strib is ever a justification for a certain policy... At least MinnPost doesn't have a Denny Hecker tiled background.

//Paul, you're right -- the Post-Bulletin is such a boring name. I would think that our recent work in the Rochester area makes us legitimate, rather than our name. But still, we should have followed in your creative footsteps.

First off Eliot, please know that my "rinky dink" comment was tongue n cheek provocation, not intended as real insult. I think your confusing me with someone else, I didn't complain about your name, nor was I questioning your legitimacy per se. I just don't see why you would consider yourself more legitimate than the Uptake. It's nice you think you've recently done some good work, how old is your rinky dink newspaper anyways? How often would you say you good work? And another thing, why is a town in NY so interested in MN politics?

(end of jokes... maybe)

My thing about legitimacy is very simple, I don't worry about bias, I focus on accuracy and reliability. Accuracy establishes legitimacy, not lack of bias, or circulation, or format. Glenn Beck irritates me, but more than that you can't trust a thing the guy says. I can see attacking someone's credentials if they consistently distort and misreport information, but not because they're bias. The most accurate and reliable source of news I've found over the last 20 years is Democracy Now! Clearly not unbiased. But they break almost every major story from WMDS to mine safety weeks or months ahead of every one else, and over time their reporting tends to be validated instead of refuted.

The fight over office space is kinda funny because I really can't figure out what you people are doing with that space anyways. I mean, I'm asking here: are reporters actually filing stories every day that just don't get aired or printed? For instance last year Ann Lenczewski gave a really kick-ass impromptu speech about tax cuts and the budget in the last days of the budget negotiations. It triggered a short succinct debate about the basic ideological differences. There was nothing about it in any of the established news outlets. Did you cover it?

I watch the coverage on TPT for a half hour or so almost every day while I'm on the exercise machine and it's a gold mine! All these guys that are running for governor are right there, you can see them work and argue and joke and work procedures. When Bachmann was there you could watch her run out the clock arguing about Abraham Lincoln while the budget crashed. I pick up the paper or turn on the news and there's nothing. What's the point of being there if you're not gonna report anything? And why is it so important to be close to politicians? They're not gonna tell you anything anyways.

I can see the Uptakes rational, they provide live feeds, you need proximity to do that. They want to give those feeds context and flesh out stories that arise during the coarse of the day, and they do it on a daily- sometimes minute to minute basis. But as a general rule the best political stories almost never come from anyone who's talking, sitting, or standing next to politicians. In fact the best stories tend to come from people who politicians never want to talk to. There's almost an inverse relationship between "access" and reliable reporting. My advice to you: get out of the capital. But what do I know, I came up with "Paul's Photography".