There’s not much more to say about Heidi Collins’ painful interview with Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, as Twin Cities media critics roundly condemned it. David Brauer of MinnPost.com and Neil Justin at the Star Tribune, noted, respectfully, that it “fell short of professional standards” and that former CNN anchor “crossed the line.” Kevin Hoffman at City Pages wasn’t off the mark in calling the interview “insanely hostile.”
Wanting to know whether producers paved the warpath for Collins, or whether she went it alone, whether Fox 9 has a right-wing bias, and if viewers should expect a similar tone in future Collins’ interviews, we called the newroom. Vice President and News Director, Bill Dallman, said they weren’t commenting on the seven-minute segment—on the record—though he e-mailed us a terse statement: “If you want to watch hard-hitting interviews that hold politicians accountable, watch FOX 9,” the statement advertises.
In 2009, we commented on a news segment Fox 9 almost ran about a child abduction in Edina. About to cruise the city’s serine streets in a SUV asking children for directions, the station canceled the segment after public outcry. “Television does lend itself to intelligent and hard journalism — [legendary broadcast journalist Edward] Murrow, after all, uncovered a political witch hunt,” we noted. “So it’s distressing that today’s television journalists are hunting children.”
At least this time, Fox 9 aimed its guns at a public figure, certainly a better target than children, people using (gasp!) old Metro-Transit stubs for a “free ride,” as Fox 9’s hard-hitting investigative team “exposed” or a native-American activist, whose ancestors, anchor Jeff Passolt claimed,“Scalped women and children.”
Checking public figures and the instutions they maintain—often at the expense of the disenfranchised—is how journalism finds its purpose in a democratic society. Channeling unsubstantiated partisan rhetoric—as in the Collins interview—is how journalism becomes a mere extension of those institutions.
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