Monday, October 30, 2006

Kline Endorsement Correction

Posted by Craig Westover | 4:00 PM |  

The following appeared on the Pioneer Press website Friday afternoon and on the Opinion Page on Saturday:

The campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives seat from the 2nd District of Minnesota has been edgy on both sides, but in our opinion page endorsement of John Kline on Friday we erroneously reported that the Coleen Rowley campaign had produced a misleading negative video tying Kline to Washington corruption.

Although it includes Rowley campaign graphics, the video we referenced was neither produced nor endorsed by the candidate or her campaign.

It was created independently. According to the filmmaker, it was shown to the campaign, which declined to use it because it was "too negative." The filmmaker contends the video is accurate, not misleading. The video remained accessible on YouTube Friday, posted by the filmmaker and not the campaign, and it was not linked or referenced on the Rowley campaign Web site.

Attributing the video to the Rowley campaign was our error.

— Mike Burbach, editorial page editor
My mea culpa in response to a comment here:

You'll find the correction at the Pioneer Press prominently displayed on Saturday's editorial page, which essentially says the editorial we, meaning me, screwed up.

The original draft, written after the endorsement decision was made in a meeting of the editorial board of the Pioneer Press, had a general statement about campaign nastiness, (the Col. Klink photo and the like, but not mentioned specifically). The suggestion was made to add a specific, and I didn't want to replay the Nazi card. I'd just seen the film in question with the official Rowley graphics and made a bad assumption the use of the graphics indicated the campaign had a hand it its production. Bad decision on my part.

I screwed up, but the screw-up was after the endorsement was already made. (The entire editorial board sat in on both the Kline and Rowley interviews and discussed the endorsement. I supported Kline in this one, but in others I have supported the DFL candidate as a better endorsement based on Pioneer Press criteria.) The video itself had no bearing on the endorsement.

The paper made the correction promptly (next day), prominently, and completely, even adding the filmmaker's statement the film is accurate. I promptly returned his call. (I also returned a call to the Rowely campaign and apologized.) I assume the filmmaker’s data is accurate, but is, my opinion, used to mislead; the Rowley campaign said the ad was “too negative,” which means in their opinion something is not quite right about it even if it is accurate.

The reality is, I used the film (erroneously) as an illustration of general campaign nastiness that could have been illustrated by other examples. The film itself had nothing to do with the endorsement decision, which was based on the board's opinion that Rowley didn't present herself as ready to be effective in Congress and Kline's military experience and disagreement with the administration (on issues that are often behind the scenes and do not come to a vote) was needed in Congress.

I’d also note that the endorsement specifically gave Rowley credit for being more interesting than negative advertising portrayed her, and it was much harder on Kline for his infamous “meth mailer.” That’s not an excuse, but demonstrates the endorsement was far from a Kline puff piece.

Short of gutting myself on the corner of 4th and Cedar, there is little more to be done except learn from the experience.