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DonorGate: A tale of two newspapers

Star Tribune headline: “Coleman calls on foes to ‘stop attacking my family'”

Pioneer Press story: “Coleman offered no links between Franken and his allies and those who brought the suit. No obvious connections — such as political affiliations or campaign donations — were apparent.”

To be fair, the Strib advanced the story big-time today, reporting a second lawsuit that parallels the one filed by oil-exploration exec Paul McKim earlier this week. And the Strib’s subhed gets at this: “A second suit was filed Friday, alleging money was improperly sent to the senator’s wife. The Franken campaign denies any link.”

But why banner Coleman’s hair-shirt claim when there’s nothing in the Strib story (or the PiPress’) indicating it’s true?

One theory is that the Coleman camp has made the Strib an issue, alleging the paper “is actively participating in the destruction of the reputation of Senator Coleman and his wife.” So the headline may be a mollifying wrapper even as dogged investigators Paul McEnroe and Tony Kennedy blast more facts into the paper.

Believe it or not, I have some sympathy for Coleman here — the suit doesn’t allege he was involved, and McKim emphasizes that fact in news reports. I’m not calling for a “Coleman: Guilty” hed, but I don’t think papers should give prominence to so-far-specious counter-charges either.

The PiPress headline — “Late suit throws fuel on heated Senate race” — strikes a better, if duller, balance. It’s also on the front page, unlike the Strib’s story, which is below the fold on the Metro front. (And the PiPress didn’t have the juicy news of the second suit.)

Unlike some, I’m not outraged by the play difference; because there’s no direct link to Coleman, I can see putting the late-election story on B1, albeit with the appropriate headline, etc.

Speaking of which: McKim is a defendent in the second suit, which relies on a “confidential informant.” That means there are at least two people willing to say Coleman donor Nasser Kazeminy tried to funnel money to Laurie Coleman’s employer.

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