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Columbia Journalism Review criticizes Star Tribune's Bachmann coverage

The Columbia Journalism Review's Liz Cox Barrett expands on my Saturday criticism of the Star Tribune for not vetting Michele Bachmann's campaign-trail inaccuracies.

As I noted, one Bachmann falsehood (about the rising public debt) was not, as the Strib labeled it, opinion. CJR fact-checks two other Bachmann data points from her Iowa speech, involving the government owning half of all mortgages and the Medicare Trust Fund going broke in six years:

The federal government owns almost half (44%) of the country’s mortgages, per the latest numbers from the Fed. And, about the Medicare trust fund going broke in six years? The same folks who made that projection in 2009 (that’s the Social Security and Medicare Trustees), in 2010, with passage of health care reform, put the insolvency date at 2029.

Wait, you mean Obamacare has fiscally responsible aspects?

Barrett also has a particularly snarky translation of the Strib's editorial non-judgment:

Mid-story, the Tribune reports, in passing, that “Democrats deride [Bachmann] as… factually challenged.” (I’m just passing along some other politicians’ claims about the veracity of this politician’s claims. Yes, I’m a reporter from Bachmann’s home state so I should be in a particularly good position to tell readers whether “factually challenged” is a fair description of the Congresswoman or just an unfounded Democratic dis. But, moving on….

I titled my piece "Journalists: Please catch Bachmann's false statements on the trail." CJR takes this one step further:

Let’s expand that to “false” and “half-true” and “mostly true but…” claims. By all politicians. Ideally, on and off the trail.

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Comments (9)

A crucial question in the Strib coverage of Bachmann (and other issues) is whether their failures are one of intent (i.e. are they deliberately covering up for lies) or incompetence (i.e. are they unable to distinguish between obvious facts and lies). What do you think David?


It's probably a good portion of both.

I would bet they would tell you that it's not their job to vet the statements of elected officials, only to convey what they say and let the pundits and private citizens seek the truth.

I'm no fan or Bachmann's but she is not the only politician that twists the facts and uses half-truths [at best] in her speeches. And why would any politician not do that when "journalists" never challenge what politicians say? Small wonder that issues never get a real discussion when politicians can do what ever they want to the truth.

It's about time the Star Tribune has been taken to the woodshed for its coverage of Bachmann. Too many of the Strib's reporters are just trying to be "Boys on the Bus," hobnobbing with national journalists. They let Pawlenty off the hook for eight straight years.

Ever since the Stribe was sold by McClatchy, and a little bit before that, its coverage has dropped to a series of questionable "he said/she said" political stories that are not worthy of a paper its size. And worse yet, they fail to recognize that Minnesotans want real coverage that enlightens them. Instead, they're trying to produce gotcha garbage.

A newspaper should be judged on how well it does its stated mission. If the Strib's mission is to cover minor crime court happenings in the seven county area, it's doing a bang-up job. If it is to cover Minnesota politics, there are mid-size daily newspapers on the prairie in Greater Minnesota, like the Mankato Free Press, doing a much, much better job.

Adam - I don't necessarily dispute your suggestion that "I would bet they would tell you that it's not their job to vet the statements of elected officials, only to convey what they say and let the pundits and private citizens seek the truth."

I've actually heard that from a number of reporters - both good and bad. BUT - if that's true - they would be admitting to being mere stenographers.

Re: Rob's comment (#6)…

If reporters and editors are going to say that vetting is the job of the public (which has neither the resources nor the training to do so), and their job is only to "convey what they say," they're not even stenographers. The 'Strib and the PiPress might as well fire all their reporters and simply print the press releases as they're delivered by the various reps and spokespersons of government officials.

Ink-stained wretches who've gone to the great beyond are rolling in their graves upon hearing that it's "not their job" to find out if elected officials are actually telling the truth.

Yea ! The Strib is becoming the Fox news of the print media real quickly. As to #1 there more and more evidence of it looking like intent. We are being hit on an almost daily basis with an the lack of digging into the facts. the question is now who reports and what are their credentials ? Would any of yopu who used to be at the Strib go back there to the paper that exists now ?

Why pick in the Strib? Has any other mainstream MN news outlet presented a headline: "Bachmann Continues Her Pattern Of Lies And Deception As She Seeks A National Platform"?

I wish some of the journalists around here would explain why it is that American Journalists are so reluctant to report basic observations.