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Fox9’s Collins channels Fox News

Aggressive journalists are good. Aggressive, under-informed, innuendo-trafficking journalists, not so much.

As I’ve written before, Fox9 News is trying to rip you away from the DVR by conducting live, cable-hot interviews. This puts a lot of pressure on anchors, who sometimes spew inaccuracies

But Wednesday night’s interview between new Fox9 anchor Heidi Collins and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was something else again.

Ritchie will run the governor’s race recount as he did the 2008 U.S. Senate review. By all but the most partisan reckonings, that went fairly. But on Wednesday, GOP Chair Tony Sutton blistered Ritchie’s ties to demonized, now-defunct voter registration group ACORN.

Collins picks up that cudgel. Ritchie gamely explains that ACORN did support him, but just as gamely tries to explain how many eyes and checks and balances made the last recount a model.

Collins isn’t content to give Ritchie an opportunity to reframe the slur. At about the 2-minute mark, she matronizingly interrupts Ritchie to declare, “Secretary Ritchie? Could I ask the questions? I ask, you answer. Yes?”

Now, in some circumstances, this is the sign of a Mike Wallace bringing a pettifogger to heel. To me, it’s an indication of an interviewer who’s somewhat out of control.

It may be the rudest part of the interview, but it’s not the worst part. That comes at about the 5-minute mark, when things have settled down a bit.

Ritchie is explaining the make-up of the State Canvassing Board that will consist of four judges originally nominated by GOP governors, plus himself. On Tuesday, vote-watchers got a heart attack when Hennepin County made a tabulation error; officials were quick to explain the mistake, including in a live phone interview with Fox9 reporter Jeff Baillon.

As Ritchie goes over the make-up of the constitutionally chartered board, he lists a Hennepin County judge (Denise Reilly, who served on a 2008 panel). 

Collins: “Hennepin County certainly in the news last night as well, with some of the issues that they were having there, so very interesting that they will also be included on this canvassing panel.”

Did you catch that Megyn Kelly-ish innuendo? Collins is implying that a Hennepin County judge can’t be trusted to be on the panel. But she doesn’t just say so — and she doesn’t give Ritchie a chance to respond.

Second-weirdest moment, at about the 5:30 mark:

Collins: “You told me that it seemed like you were ready for this, prepared for this type of thing to happen. I think if voters hear that right now, they’re going to be saying, ‘What? Are you kidding me? You knew this was going to happen again? You were prepared for it?'”

What? Are you kidding me? Collins makes it sound like Ritchie being prepared for a recount is a bad thing, some sort of conspiracy. This in a state with a razor-thin 2006 governor’s race, 2008 U.S. Senate race, and now this one.

Collins wasn’t here for the first two — she was a CNN anchor — but the whole interview drips with the sort of government de-legitimizing you hear on Fox News, not Fox9.

Collins may want to make a rep as the toughest interviewer in town, and tough interviews are sorely needed. Still, this one fell short of professional standards.

Earlier in the campaign, Fox9 News retransmitted a GOP blogger’s innuendo, eventually pulling the web video. These sorts of escapades increase chatter that Fox News wants affiliates to tilt like the GOP-fluffing mother ship.

I’m still not ready to endorse that level of conspiracy. The newsroom is stuffed with professionals like Baillon, and I thought Election Night coverage was solid and straightforward. For all I know, Collins will keelhaul Sutton one of these days. But as it bids for attention, Fox9 is risking its credibility.

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Comments (32)

  1. Submitted by Ray H. on 11/04/2010 - 12:07 pm.

    Another portion that irked me was that Ritchie was attempting to align his being re-elected as validating that Minnesotans were pleased with the 2008 recount process. As much as we hate it when politicians reframe the question, this was a relevant point by Ritchie that points to the current recount process being conducted in a fair, non-partisan manner. Collins did not seem accept this point and barely acknowledged that Ritchie was indeed re-elected by the people.

  2. Submitted by Charlie Brose on 11/04/2010 - 12:20 pm.

    After watching the segment I though that she was submitting an audition tape to Fox News Network. Her unveiled bias was dripping from the screen.

  3. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 11/04/2010 - 12:41 pm.

    I could not believe the way Collins interviewed Mark Richtchie. Talk about attack journalism!
    I don’t know where she came from but she ought to go back there.

  4. Submitted by Iven Coffee on 11/04/2010 - 12:42 pm.

    Collins also seemed to be blaming Ritchie for the close outcome of the election. That whole interview struck this viewer as weird and terribly unprofessional.

  5. Submitted by Ron Brochu on 11/04/2010 - 12:42 pm.

    This isn’t journalism. It’s a the merging of pit bull innuendo, political entertainment and media profits, all at the expense of intelligent discourse.

    Collins suggests “This keeps happening in Minnesota!” What keeps happening? Close elections and mandated recounts?

    Smart journalists listen. They don’t bark, charge and bite to pad their ratings.

  6. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 11/04/2010 - 01:01 pm.

    I saw this interview live, and wondered at the time if others had the same impression I did. They did.

    Bob Collins at MPR’s NewsCut is talking about this, as is Kevin Hoffman at City Pages, and more…

  7. Submitted by Paul Schmelzer on 11/04/2010 - 01:31 pm.

    I’ve always appreciated that Fox 9 has seemed to largely take a pass on sipping the parent company Kool-Aid. Those were the days…

  8. Submitted by Shannon Walsh on 11/04/2010 - 01:48 pm.

    I tuned in looking forward to hearing Secretary Ritchie outline the next steps in the election process. I ended up turning off the television mid-interview because he apparently was not there to be provide factual answers to real questions but to act as a straw man and attacked with innuendos.

  9. Submitted by Elliot Mann on 11/04/2010 - 01:51 pm.

    Tough questions are great. Uninformed ones are embarrassing.

    Collins almost blamed Mark Ritchie for need of a recount, “taking him to task” for the voting decisions made by 2.1 million Minnesotans.

    This looks like a Nancy Grace imitation. If Collins thinks that Ritchie was guilty of skewing the last recount results or that he would be trying to do so this time, present some evidence and ask the question. But it’s classless and completely unprofessional to scoff and use innuendo in place of, you know, actually researching issues and asking informed questions.

    It is a journalist’s job to unearth controversial stories, but it is also a journalist’s job to lower the pitchforks when the vitriol is misguided.

    Not every recount is quite as controversial as the 2000 Presidential election. Sometimes, elections are very close and simply need to be double-checked as per state constitutional law.

    Someone should tell that to Heidi Collins the next time she interviews the Minnesota Secretary of State.

  10. Submitted by Swanson Painter on 11/04/2010 - 01:55 pm.

    This was not an interview, it was an inquisition.
    Mr. Ritchie WAS re-elected by a wide margin and the FOX person did ignore that.
    TURN OFF THE FOX.
    This was another example of how difficult it is to get actual news in this city.
    Thank you, David for bringing this to public.

  11. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/04/2010 - 02:19 pm.

    Probably, Collins should have stuck to important questions such as, “was Ritchie hypnotized”.

  12. Submitted by Andy York on 11/04/2010 - 02:32 pm.

    David–

    You say that their election night coverage was good, and for the most part I agree. Ballion and Tom Lydon did a very good job. However, and this may have been after you went to sleep, around 1-2 am when Emmer kept crawling closer and closer, both Collins and Jeff Passolt were about as close as you could be to openly cheering him on. Collins was asking stupid leading questions to their political expert Kathleen Grayson as well.

    She is not a good fit in this market at all, but I’m sure Fox 9 isn’t minding the publicity at the moment, even if the vast majority of opinions leads toward the negative so I’m sure she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

  13. Submitted by Jill Henricksen on 11/04/2010 - 03:20 pm.

    For me, Fox 9 News isn’t just risking its credibility, it has lost its credibility after what I saw last night with between the pitbull Collins and the Secretary of State. I have always watched Fox 9 news because of its 9pm timeslot, but last night I was completely appalled and offended.

    I watch the news for professional and objective journalism. The last thing I want to see is a bully in attack mode.

  14. Submitted by Peter Frost on 11/04/2010 - 04:48 pm.

    Yep, apparently she’s looking to send that tape to either Fox News or MSNBC.

    She showed no respect to her subject. Embarrassing. Thanks again, TV news.

  15. Submitted by Tony Wagner on 11/04/2010 - 04:56 pm.

    Sadly, with this post and these comments, we are giving Fox9 exactly the attention that they want. It’s like a grown-up version of a child “acting out.”

  16. Submitted by William Souder on 11/04/2010 - 05:14 pm.

    I thought the best part of the interview was Mr. Ritchie’s calm, measured responses to a daffy, hysterical interviewer who seemed to think that a close election must be some kind of conspiracy. His patience only made her seem the more ridiculous.

    As for the childish, condescending “I ask, you answer” interjection…I believe Ritchie got his part of that equation right. Collins, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to know the difference between an innuendo and a question.

  17. Submitted by Stan Daniels on 11/04/2010 - 05:39 pm.

    I admittedly lean right but have the same opinion of this as the earlier Passolt interview. Anchors need to stick to journalism and not commentary. Collins acted like a commentator by injecting her opinions. O’Reilly or Mathews can do an interview like this and I’m fine with it — they get paid to comment and do tough interviews (and their guests expect it).

    I do disagree though that this will hurt Fox 9. They are taking a page from cable news and heating things up. No disagreement from me that it breaks traditional journalism. But this type of “news” is selling and grabbing viewers for all of the cable networks.

    Should be an interesting couple of months. (And for the record, I do believe Dayton won fair and square).

  18. Submitted by Patrick Tice on 11/04/2010 - 05:50 pm.

    Hubbard Broadcasting does a better job with its 9pm KSTC newscast. The KMSP hour is a waste of time…

  19. Submitted by Jeff Rush on 11/04/2010 - 06:06 pm.

    David, thank you for taking note of this. The leaps in logic and ridiculous implications made by this so-called journalist were embarrassing, and her conduct was simply rude. I applaud Ritchie for handling the interview as well as he did.

  20. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 11/04/2010 - 07:36 pm.

    This is a bad sign. The part of the interview that seemed really strange to me was when she was trying to make a point about “this” happening again and how it was somehow his fault….what happening again, a close election?

    Was really let down too by the news director’s comment to Neal Justin: “If you want to watch hard-hitting interviews that hold politicians accountable, watch FOX 9.” I was a defender of this station in the past against those that believed Fox9 was somehow a local extension of the Fox News agenda but this stuff is absolute garbage.

  21. Submitted by Martin Owings on 11/04/2010 - 09:43 pm.

    What can we learn from this?

    Stations let go of people like Eric Eskola and others hire people like Collins. Mr. Eskola got the answers, got the stories and got respect not because he demanded it, but because he earned it. There is a right way to do journalism, this is an example of the wrong way. Bring back Eskola…nuff said.

  22. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/05/2010 - 06:55 am.

    Somehow I suspect there is a reason why Robyn Robinson jumped ship.

  23. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/05/2010 - 10:37 am.

    “Somehow I suspect there is a reason why Robyn Robinson jumped ship.”

    Yeah, she knew that being a DFL activist is so common in the local media that running for office wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow or cause her station to be accused of bias.

    But let a reporter challenge an allegedly corrupt DFL politician and your own political leanings are immediately the topic of conversation amongst the chattering class.

  24. Submitted by clancy wolf on 11/05/2010 - 11:40 am.

    But let a reporter challenge an allegedly corrupt DFL politician and your own political leanings are immediately the topic of conversation amongst the chattering class.
    It is alleged by the mouth of Tony Sutton with no proof, this used to be called a witch hunt.

  25. Submitted by John Reinan on 11/05/2010 - 11:50 am.

    Who is alleging that Ritchie is corrupt? And what is the basis for the allegations? I’m not being sarcastic — I want to know.

  26. Submitted by Hal Davis on 11/05/2010 - 11:52 am.

    ==let a reporter challenge an allegedly corrupt DFL politician==

    You mean Ritchie?

    Please elaborate, with details about the alleged corrpution and the questions that “challenged” him.

  27. Submitted by Joel Reiter on 11/05/2010 - 12:37 pm.

    Yep. Hostile interviews stink. How does it feel to be on the receiving end for a change?

  28. Submitted by edward allen on 11/05/2010 - 01:00 pm.

    I disagree with you on this one. We need more aggressive reporting, not pablum interviews. That goes for TV and newspapers.
    Ritchie doesn’t seem to mind. Indeed at the outset, he says he’s used to aggressive questioning and is thick skinned. So who is making a complaint here?
    I suggest you are uncomfortble because it is a woman who is being aggressive, perhaps unusually so as you insist. If this was a male presenter/reporter, would you have had the same reaction?

  29. Submitted by Erica Mauter on 11/05/2010 - 01:30 pm.

    “I suggest you are uncomfortble because it is a woman who is being aggressive, perhaps unusually so as you insist. If this was a male presenter/reporter, would you have had the same reaction?”

    I can’t speak for David, obvs, but in my professional opinion as a woman, I don’t think that had anything to do with it. The issue here (as everyone else has already stated and as David explained in detail) is that there’s a way to do effective “aggressive reporting” and to challenge an interviewee, and what Collins did was absolutely not it. Leaving aside the part where she was rude and power-trippy, she had no facts.

    David: “matronize”?

  30. Submitted by Neal Gendler on 11/05/2010 - 02:42 pm.

    I’m glad I didn’t see the so-called interview; I’d have been livid. A reporter’s job is to obtain information and challenge disinformation, which requires some knowledge before the interview. It most definitely is NOT the reporter’s job to argue with the interview subject, which destroys any semblance of objectivity.

    I also get disturbed when NPR’s much-better-informed reporters inject themselves into the story in the other direction from what Collins apparently did. (I recall an interview years ago about advertising of sugary cereals, when the NPR interviewer did not ask: “What’s the effect on children” but instead said: “Why that’s a terrible thing to do to children, isn’t it?”)

    At the risk of sounding like some old guy who says everything is going to hell, I point out that when I was in journalism school a few decades ago, we were taught to keep our opinions out of news stories. The rule was to tell (or show) the readers (or listener/viewer) the facts and let them form their own opinions. E.g., Don’t tell me it’s a “terrible tragedy” (are there any good tragedies?) but tell me what happened and I’ll decide if it’s terrible or tragic.

    Given the facts — and not reporter opinion or election-style disinformation — most Americans can draw pretty accurate conclusions.

  31. Submitted by scott gibson on 11/07/2010 - 12:11 am.

    Collins should go back where she came from. Fox9 has made it impossible at their website to comment on her performance. It is this kind of stuff that made me long ago decide not to watch any cable news network. This is making heat instead of light. It is coldly cynical and partisan. No one is being informed. Biases are being catered to. We are all diminished.

  32. Submitted by Michele Manion on 11/07/2010 - 03:30 pm.

    I think you give Fox9 too much credit. A quick look at their website shows them doubling down on the ‘Ritchie can’t be trusted’ meme. They are clearly doing a partisan hack job, just like the mother ship. I’m sure there are good journalists there, but that alone doesn’t ensure good journalism.

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