It’s never a good day for an editor when he has to write a column explaining why an out-of-town media outlet scooped the paper on a big story involving the mayor. But that was Joe Spear’s unenviable task when he explained the Mankato Free Press wasn’t covering up for John Brady, who blew a .242 after an alleged hit-and-run in Golden Valley last week. Brady, who left with an official delegation to China, has since been charged with fourth-degree DUI, leaving the scene of an accident and failing to yield to an emergency vehicle.
Spear, the paper’s managing editor, acknowledged the Free Press didn’t know about the incident until Twin Cities station Fox9 showed up at a Mankato City Council meeting. “Some readers assumed we were somehow protecting Brady for one reason or another as part of the ‘good ol’ boys’ network in Mankato,” he wrote.
Spear offered this explanation: “The Free Press was unaware of the incident because it happened in Golden Valley, a police jurisdiction that is far out of our coverage area. There are a number of scenarios that are possible on how Twin Cities television got the story; they could have simply been going through Golden Valley police reports and recalled the name John Brady in Mankato as the mayor.”
As it turns out, that wasn’t the case. Fox9 news director Bill Dallman says the station got the story because a viewer tipped off the newsroom. Reporter Leah Beno ran down the story down, so to speak. If you wonder why news organizations advertise tip lines, here’s a good example.
Spear argues that the Free Press didn’t scrimp once the story broke, doing six stories through the course of last week. The paper refrained from using a widely circulated mug shot because they couldn’t get a callback from authorities, and did not want to use an emailed version without being sure it was genuine.
The story was a classic “talker” prompting the predictable assembling of torches and pitchforks, but Spear argues for his paper’s continued restraint.
“Some expect the newspaper to possibly call for his resignation,” he writes. “To make that decision, we need more information and we need to hear from Brady himself. … Things are not looking good for the mayor, but we’re obligated by our ethics and our sense of fairness to hear the whole story before passing judgment.”
Brady is scheduled to hold a news conference at noon today, though he will not discuss the facts of the DUI.