This feedback forum is designed to give readers a way to voice criticisms and compliments or ask questions about The Californian’s news coverage. Your questions — which may be edited for space — are answered here each Saturday by The Californian’s Robert Price.
Reader: Hard to keep track now of all the prominent sexual harassers from politics, entertainment and news media. Add Garrison Keillor to that list. And fired on the very day an article was published in which he defended Sen. Al Franken.
And evidently Matt Lauer was a big-time predator on the scale of Harvey Weinstein. I guess a blind eye was turned at NBC because he created so much revenue.
I have a feeling that more of the mighty are going to fall.
By the way, is The Californian going to cease publishing the articles of the purveyor of Powdered Milk Biscuits? If he's good enough to be kicked off NPR, then he's certainly good enough to be kicked off The Californian.
— Chris Padham
Price: Keillor's column was set to appear in Wednesday's Californian until we got word of the allegations against him. We decided to hold off on its publication until the matter was resolved one way or another.
The Washington Post News Service & Syndicate, which manages Keillor's column, made the decision for us Thursday with a terse email saying it "will no longer distribute the columns of Garrison Keillor."
I found the opening paragraph of Keillor's final WPNSS-distributed column, which never saw the light of publication, somewhat ironic, perhaps even intentionally so:
"My friend Pastor B.D. Christensen said something so good Sunday morning that I woke up and wrote it down: "(something something) ... about making peace with the mistakes of the past (blah blah blah) and learning from them. It's slippery ground, in general, to judge past actions by present standards and with a benefit of hindsight that is, morally, highly questionable."
He was referring to slavery-related issue in his native Minnesota but could easily have been discussing the alleged harassment of a female co-worker at Minnesota Public Radio that led to his professional demise.
Keillor is an entertaining writer who had a growing local fan base. But, assuming these allegations are true — and Keillor has not denied them — he has no place in these pages. A shame.
Price: We in the journalism profession are stingy about granting anonymity: Sources must have a pretty good reason before we'll publish their statements — especially their accusatory statements — without identifying them by name.
When a news agency grants anonymity, however, it makes an ironclad promise: We will protect your identity at all costs.
This week, The Washington Post revoked that agreement with a news source, and it was fully justified in doing so.
Project Veritas, which regularly employs deceit as a weapon against perceived enemies of the far right, attempted to lure The Post into publishing a false story about a woman whose teen-years affair with U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama led to an abortion. The plan was apparently to record a Post reporter revealing the publication's liberal bias against Donald Trump. But The Post’s rigorous reporting uncovered the scam.
After Moore's supposed victim, Jaime T. Phillips, was observed entering the Project Veritas office, The Post made the unusual decision to report her previous off-the-record comments.
“We always honor ‘off-the-record’ agreements when they’re entered into in good faith,” said Martin Baron, The Post’s executive editor. “But this so-called off-the-record conversation was the essence of a scheme to deceive and embarrass us. The intent by Project Veritas clearly was to publicize the conversation if we fell for the trap. Because of our customary journalistic rigor, we weren’t fooled, and we can’t honor an ‘off-the-record’ agreement that was solicited in maliciously bad faith.”
I've tried to lay out the various definitions of "fake news" over the past few months. This is one I hadn't considered. Kudos to The Post for sniffing it out.
Reader: Your response to “Vivian," who insisted that Fox News is the pinnacle of journalistic accuracy, and that The Californian is lacking in that regard, was clearly stated and needed. I continue to drop my jaw at some people who think that if they think it, it is correct. "Who needs data?" is their apparent mantra. If it matches their own bias it must be accurate. If it doesn’t match their bias they shout "Fake news!"
I’m retired but a long time educator, advocate for public education and supporter of any well-done education method. Yet, I fault our own system for coming up short on teaching about propaganda, data analysis, and primary source material. We educators can and must do better. In part, the structure we now suffer is due to “If I think it, it is so” mentality.
Bravo, Robert. Great commentary. Oh, by the way: I agreed with your comments ... does that make me biased?
— Marty Butt, Ed.D.
Price: No, if you agree with me, your internal truth evaluator is operating with Swiss precision.
Reader: Oh, how do I love thee, Mr. Price! "Members of the school board, and especially certain school site administrators, know who I’m referring to …" Minor, minor. Doesn’t the sentence require whom as the object of "to" — or am I in error?
Thank you, Robert. Hope you are not getting ulcers.
— Ann Silver
Price: I'm going to start a regular section in Sound Off called "This Week's Who-Whom Error."
Reader: Hey, Robert Price. Boy, you've got a hard job defending (The Californian from) all these idiots that love Trump. Well, you know what? I love Trump. You're a (expletive) head. Straight up. Peace.
— Greg Dukellis
Price: Your observation couldn't more appropriately fit the times we live in, Greg: If you can't debate 'em, insult 'em. That strategy worked effectively during the presidential campaign, to the amazement of many, with candidate Trump serving up such gems as "Crooked Hillary" (Hillary Clinton), "Crazy Bernie" (Sen. Bernie Sanders), "Little Marco" (Sen. Marco Rubio), "Lyin' Ted" (Sen. Ted Cruz) and "Low-Energy Jeb" (Jeb Bush). More recently, we've got "Cryin' Chuck" (Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer), "Rocket Man" (Kim Jong Un) and now "Pocahontas" (Sen. Elizabeth Warren). So "(Expletive) Head" would be right in our erudite president's wheelhouse.
I know, I know: Hillary Clinton famously insulted a few million people, calling a segment of Trump voters "deplorables." But she's not in Trump's league. Now, you, Greg — you've got real promise.