Monday, November 20, 2006

Kate Parry in sackcloth and ashes

Here's the backstory. Scotty Johnson at Power Line gets word that a Star Tribune editorial used some similar-sounding language, including the "subcontracting" of policy matters to corporate interests, to a Hendrik Hertzberg comment in the New Yorker. Regardless of the fact that two different people might use similar words to describe a mugging, Scotty accuses the Strib of plagiarism. Spotty is sorry to ask you to do this boys and girls, but please go and read Scotty's entire pedantic summation. Scotty says that the Strib is terrible, except for Katherine Kersten, of course.

Now comes Kate Parry, always ready to throw a Strib staffer under the bus for Power Line, who writes a mea culpa for the incident, expressing her sorrow at her inability to engage in some more flagellation of the editor involved. This affair sent Spot on a trip down memory lane, recalling another case of following a little too closely by, guess who, Katherine Kersten. Here's a reprint of his post Conservative Reverb from September 15th of last year, just after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast:

Conservative Reverb

"Here in the blogosphere, Spotty means. Why yes, there is. Katherine Kersten's Thursday column in the Star Tribune, titled Gratitude, not anger, comes from Astrodome [the column is no longer available on the Strib website], sounded suspiciously familiar to Spotty. He decided to sniff it out.

What Spot found is evidence of the right wing echo chamber at work, and echoes that percolated up from the winger blogs almost directly into Katie's column. Before we get into that though, let Spotty describe the column.

Katie tells, or rather retells, the story of Jim Lodoen, a Minneapolis attorney who was in Houston last week to visit his mother, in the hospital, which Spotty always approves. While he was there, he spent several days at the Astrodome as a volunteer, and he also raised several thousand dollars from colleagues in Minneapolis, which he distributed in the form of Target gift cards and cash. Very commendable. [ . . . ]


Katie says that Lodoen told her that reports of the criticism of the federal government response were wrong.

Back at his mother's hospital room, Lodoen saw television reporters interviewing victims who appeared angry and indignant. "I thought, 'Where are they coming up with these people? I'm not seeing them.'" He was also shocked at the shrill finger-pointing on the news. "All around us, politicians are focused on the blame game. Yet the victims themselves are blaming no one. I didn't hear one complaint. In fact, I was overwhelmed by the love, faith, determination and compassion that everyone shared."

Who is Katie's stringer, Spot wondered? In just a few moments work, he found out that Lodoen is a right wing side kick of Peter Swanson of Swanblog and Scott Johnson of Power Line. These are, of course, two blogs in the vast right wing circle jerk. Lodoen is also the guy who put this question to Vin Weber at a conclave at the Center of the American Experiment right after last fall's election:

I've got a quick follow-up to the Supreme Court discussion. Is it going to be difficult to replace Rehnquist or possibly Antonin Scalia with a justice of similar position and strength, or Bush won't [probably should read won't Bush] be able to move to the right of there? Will he lose ground and move a little bit more toward center?

Clearly, a man of liberal political sentiment. It would be ungrateful of a hurricane survivor to complain to a complete stranger giving you money, of course. But are Lodoen and his blogger and columnist buddies just trying to put a brave face on the criminal ineptitude of the Bush administration? Spot thinks so.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, here are just a few of the echoes from the blogosphere that wound up in Katie's column.

From an email from Lodoen reprinted in Swanblog:

The people are comfortable and the Houston operation is very well organized. A lot of food is available although the selection is not too extensive at the moment, and doesn't work for special diets. Free stores stocked with clothing, personal items and games are well stocked. Social Security, FEMA, Job Service, etc. are all in place and helping people. Volunteers are on laptops helping people find family and friends. People are very secure with police everywhere.

And then from Katie:

Once in Houston, Lodoen made his way to the Astrodome complex, which houses thousands of victims displaced from ravaged New Orleans. He was prepared to find chaos. Instead, he says, he was struck by how well-organized the massive operation was. "There was lots of food, and free stores stocked with clothing, personal items and games. Volunteers on laptops were helping people find family and friends." FEMA, Social Security and other agencies were out in force.

From Swanblog:

In fact one family spent their first four days in the stadium seats at the Astrodome after arriving in Houston because the cots on the floor were full. They slept in the stadium seats. I said, "That must have been terrible." She said, "No, it was o.k. I was just grateful to have food, air conditioning, lights and a roof over us."

Katie actually embellishes this one a little:

He met a family that had slept in stadium seats for four nights. "I said, 'That must have been terrible.' 'Oh, no,' the woman said. Instead of focusing on what they lacked, they were deeply thankful for what they had: food, lights, a roof, each other."


One husband/wife with 4 kids had both been working two jobs to buy their first house. The closed on Friday and stayed at the house that evening, moved in on Saturday, waited out the storm on Sunday and evacuated on Monday. They were grateful for the two days they had in their home. The father shared that all he does in life is about and for his family, and he needed to get them out. (His wife took me aside and shared that he is thinking that he did not do as much as he should have to protect his family so when he and I spoke I was able to give him a big pat on the back for saving his family, etc.) They left the house hand in hand with the two youngest on he and his wife's shoulders and walked through blocks and blocks of water up to their necks to a bridge where they waited for buses.


Another family told of fleeing their first home two days after moving in. The mother and father left hand in hand with their children perched on their shoulders, struggling through water up to their necks. They were awestruck at nature's power, and grateful to survive. Now, at night, the parents plan their future as their children sleep.

Actually, Katie, you got that last part messed up in the transcription, because Lodoen attributes the planning for the future while the children sleep on cots to a different family mentioned in a different post:

Michael said they try to go out for ice cream twice a week and that this was a real treat for them to do this again. His focus tomorrow is to try to get a job with a Houston division of the water delivery company he worked for and to work with his insurance company, etc. to see what their new beginning will look like financially. He and his wife are busy planning their future at night as their children sleep on the cots next to him.

And finally, commenting on volunteer help:

First Swanblog:

However, the kind words or hugs of the volunteers working for the charities, or a contribution "from some friends at Lindquist & Vennum in Minneapolis", does something more by letting people know someone--an actual person or group of persons--cares! That makes them feel special--like we are all in this together. And we are!!

And Katie:

Lodoen acknowledges that hurricane victims need government aid. "But volunteers can do something more. With hugs and kind words, they can let people know that someone -- an actual person or group of persons -- cares. "That makes the victims feel like we're all in this together. And we are."

Then, of course, Power Line has to get into the act:

September 14, 2005
Houston without CNN
My colleagues Gene Allen and Peter Swanson have been working overtime to get out the story of Jim Lodoen, the Minneapolis attorney who personally brought the generosity of the Minneapolis legal community to New Orleans evacuees in Houston. Peter is the proprietor of Swanblog and has written about Lodoen here, here, and here.
Our friend Katherine Kersten knows a good story when she sees one, and better yet knows how to tell it. That's what she does in her moving column in tomorrow's Star Tribune: "Gratitude, not anger, comes from Astrodome."
Posted by Scott at 11:14 PM

Actually, Scott, it appears that Katie only knows a good story when it comes up and kicks her in the ass."

Now ask yourselves, boys and girls, who did a better copy job, the editor or Katie? Let's see a show of hands. Who thinks Katie? Ah, most of you.

Spot called Katie's column to Kate Parry's attention, and this is what he got back:

I reviewed the allegation in the blog and brought it to the attention of the editor. He reviewed the blog posting alleging there was a problem, the original blog where the emails were posted and Katherine Kersten's column. Then he interviewed Kertsen and her editor, Doug Tice, about the reporting process for the column. Here is the editor's conclusion after that review:

The paper is always interested in criticism and takes complaints of any kind seriously. This is one of the reasons we have long had a reader representative position and hold every staff members to high standards of accuracy and precision. When we looked into the concerns raised about Katherine Kersten's column, we found that the complaints were without basis.

The column she wrote last week was based on three interviews with the subject, Jim Lodoen, who had also written down his recollections of the trip that he shared with Kersten and had posted on a website. Katherine drew from her interviews and used his written comments to compile the story of his trip. As is often the practice in our newsroom, she went over the quotes with Lodoen, as the primary source for the piece, before filing the story to make certain she had every word right.

The complaints about this column suggest there's something wrong with the work because the story is similar to the email notes. That would of course be the case, since both are coming from the same place. In at least one instance, Katherine's interviews with Lodoen cleared up some confusion in his notes, and she wrote the story as he determined it happened. Another suggestion is that there's something wrong with the column because parts of the story circulated on the internet before it appeared on the paper. Newspaper stories can originate in every imaginable place, including accounts on the internet. The job of the newspaper is to seek out what's happened, confirm its accuracy and run stories that our readers will be interested in. This is exactly what happened in this case.

Anders Gyllenhaal

If you have further concerns, please feel free to contact me.

Kate Parry
Reader's Representative

And so it goes; the cub reporter gets special treatment.

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