“It is rare when KSTP decides to take an editorial position …”
So begins an on-air editorial thanking police for being “calm and professional and measured when faced with protesters” during the Republican National Convention. The Sunday piece said Channel 5 reporters who “were in the middle of each disturbance” universally share that view.
The editorial concludes, “It is the opinion of the owners of KSTP that we owe a debt of gratitude to all police officers on duty during the Republican National Convention.”
It’s certainly not out-of-bounds to praise police; even some reporters and photographers who were arrested last week told me they basically agree. (Of course, other journalists cite incidents that raise questions about this evaluation.)
However, two things are worth noting — one of which KSTP had a duty to disclose, and the other a bit of valuable context.
First, the context: KSTP was the only major Twin Cities TV station that didn’t have a staff member arrested covering the demonstrations, according to an assignment desk staffer this afternoon. That might’ve altered the Channel 5 staff’s perspective.
Second, the must-do: KSTP’s owner, Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., was an RNC Host Committee sponsor and HBI patriarch Stanley Hubbard is on the Host Committee’s executive board.
According to a July 14 Pioneer Press story, Hubbard “has donated his fundraising talents, an undisclosed amount of money and convention-time use of his 125-foot yacht. ‘I hope they make good use of it,’ Hubbard said of the boat. His only rules: ‘No smoking and no unfriendly shoes.'”
KSTP’s failure to disclose its owners’ clear ties to convention promoters wouldn’t have undermined its unusual editorial, but did undermine journalistic principles that demand news organizations own up to ties that can affect what gets on the air.
[Addendum: Minnesota Independent’s Paul Schmelzer has his own objections, noting Hubbard’s pattern of campaign contributions to Republicans.]