Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Not Impressed: Decision in Mock Deliberation by Minnesota News Council Disappoints Many Editors Attending APME Convention

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Not Impressed: Decision in Mock Deliberation by Minnesota News Council Disappoints Many Editors Attending APME Convention

Article excerpt

MINNESOTA'S NEWS COUNCIL -- one of only three such bodies in the United States -- failed to impress many editors with its mock deliberation at the recent Associated Press Managing Editors convention in Minneapolis.

By a show of hands, APME members demonstrated near-universal disagreement with the judgment of the 24 Minnesota News Council members in the mock case.

The case dealt with a newspaper that published names and addresses of jurors in a controversial criminal trial. In the specific complaint to the council, one juror said her privacy had been violated and her safety threatened by publication of her name.

In a unanimous vote, the council said the newspaper should not have published the juror's name and address during the trial. In another unanimous vote, it said the newspaper was right to try to interview jurors after the trial.

In addition to disagreeing with the council's first decision, some editors were not impressed by the quality of the deliberation.

"I was kind of shocked by the superficiality of the discussion" Cincinnati Enquirer executive editor Larry Beaupre said. "It seemed almost reflexive."

Privately, a number of editors said they especially were disappointed with the media members of the council, a voluntary group composed of members of news organizations and the general public that rules on complaints about press coverage.

For example, council member Maureen Reeder, a reporter at KMSP-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul, seemed to argue for self-censorship by journalists. The fictional newspaper "acted irresponsibly" in identifying jurors and could "jeopardize the press' right to information," she said.

Similarly, council president Andy Hilger, owner of two country & western music-format radio stations in St. Cloud, said, "The [media] could jeopardize a fair trial" by identifying jurors.

Council member Ron Handberg, retired news director of WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, declared that identifying jurors during a high-profile trial is "morally objectionable."

Red Wing Republican Eagle editor Jim Pumarlo was a bit more ambiguous.

He said he was not sure that his paper would print the names in a similar situation, "but then there is a strong argument to keep [juror] names public. …

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