Found In Al Qaqaa: KSTP's Integrity

The Hubbard family has done more than their share to ensure that George W. Bush and his Republican allies remain in power. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in the last two years patriarch Stanley S. Hubbard and other family members have doled out at least $143,000 in political contributions, primarily to Republican candidates.

During the most recent election cycle, members of the Hubbard clan have given $15,000 to the Republican National Committee, as well as $17,500 directly to the Bush re-election campaign. The Hubbard family's political largesse also includes making donations to high profile House and Senate races nationwide, such as John Thune's bid to oust Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota.

Given this level of support for GOP candidates, it must have been a bit galling for the Hubbard clan to witness last week's bombshell report on KSTP-TV (Channel 5) showing footage of the al Qaqaa munitions complex in Iraq. After all, at the time the report aired on the Hubbard-owned station, the Pentagon spinners were still pushing the theory that the cache of explosives--some 380 tons' worth--had been removed prior to the U.S. takeover. The KSTP footage, which showed soldiers exploring the sealed bunkers nine days after the fall of Baghdad, fatally undercut that argument. Within 48 hours, KSTP's report was being pimped in the New York Times and on Larry King Live.

Former KSTP news director Scott Libin argues that it's a testament to the integrity of the station ownership that the report wasn't smothered. "I think it underscores that, political passions aside, the Hubbards are in the news business and they don't let their ideology get in the way of their reporting," he says.

Yet it's more than a little fitting that the man of the moment, reporter Dean Staley, no longer works for KSTP. In recent years, the station has been beset by constant turnover and miserable ratings. The most recent upheaval occurred in July when nighttime anchors Harris Faulkner and Kent Ninomiya were given the boot.

Staley was already out the door by then. He left in March for a weeknight anchor gig with Northwest Cable News in Seattle. Sources both inside and outside the station insist that it was a largely amicable parting and that Staley simply jumped at a chance to be a full-time anchor.

"It was just an opportunity for Dean to climb into more of a solid anchor role," says Joe Caffrey, the KSTP photographer who accompanied Staley to Iraq. (Staley did not return a call seeking comment for this story.)

Current news director Chris Berg gets testy when asked if the station made any efforts to retain the reporter, who somewhat inadvertently captured KSTP's biggest national scoop in memory. "I'm not going to sit here and answer questions for a story about how we ran Dean Staley out of town," he says. "That's simply not the case. What we have here is an organization that is making national news today and Dean Staley was an important part of that."

 
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