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This week, the Fox 9 TV anchor spontaneously reinvented herself as a lieutenant governor candidate
Former Fox 9 news anchor Robyne Robinson was the talk of the town this week as she considered whether to accept Democrat Matt Entenza's invitation to be his running mate in the race for Minnesota governor in 2010.
"Robyne has been offered a lot of cool opportunities since she announced she's leaving Fox 9," said Kate Iverson, Robinson's publicist, "but she's still considering all her options."
Jeremy Drucker, deputy communications director for Entenza, wouldn't confirm or deny that Entenza was courting Robinson for the job.
"We have a bunch of folks who we're talking about," Drucker said. "She could be on there, or she could not be on there, I can't say."
Drucker maintained that a pick had yet to be finalized. "As far as I am aware, we have not made a decision."
Fox 9 News Director Bill Dallman referred a call for comment to a corporate spokeswoman. "I can't comment on anything," says Dallman.
The spokeswoman did not respond immediately to calls.
Robinson recently announced that she would be leaving her longtime position at Fox 9, effective this Wednesday—which just happens to be the day Entenza plans to announce his running-mate pick via Twitter.
Robinson cited her growing business designing jewelry as the reason for departure.
On Sunday night, Robinson updated her Facebook status, suggesting big news on her horizon: "The best is yet to come," she wrote.
Robyne Robinson appeared on her regular Fox 9 news spot at 5 p.m. Monday but made no comment on Entenza's offer—even during a story about DFL candidates' running-mate picks.
When asked about Robinson anchoring tonight during a story about Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Mark Dayton's running-mate picks, a spokeswoman for Fox 9 said, "There is a clear difference between being invited to be a candidate and announcing you are a candidate."
But on the 9 p.m. newscast that night, Fox 9 acknowledged that the departing anchor was considering an offer to be the running mate of Entenza.
Co-anchor Jeff Passolt referenced Robinson's unique position during a story about Entenza's press secretary, Bridget Cusick, leaving the campaign.
Robinson herself did not comment, other than an off-screen acknowledgment of Passolt's quip.
"You're just full of surprises," joked Passolt.
"Aren't I?" muttered Robinson.
This all raised an obvious question: Was Robinson's appearance on the nightly news a conflict of interest?
The answer is yes, according to Kelly McBride, journalism ethics expert at the Poynter Institute. And the solution is simple: "While she's making the decision, take her off the air, especially since she's publicly known," says McBride.
Robinson did not narrate the story about other lieutenant governor picks, but the appearance of a conflict of interest is still there, says McBride. "In the audience's mind she's connected to the report."
McBride says Robinson—and Fox 9—should have strongly considered hastening the reporter's retirement.
"Once it's out that she's considering it, I think she owes it to her audience to make up her mind quickly," says McBride.
Cusick's announcement that she was leaving Entenza's campaign came on the day news broke of Robinson's new role.
When asked via Twitter if her departure had anything to do with the leak to the media, Cusick made clear the two events were unrelated.
"Definitely not," she wrote. "Mutual decision made this a.m. All is well on both ends; I'll help the campaign any way I can in coming weeks and months."
Her successor, Jeremy Drucker, said something to the same effect. "It has nothing to do with any media stories going on," Drucker maintained. "This was in the process."
Aside from being a veteran news anchor, Robinson has also been named a Hubert H. Humphrey Public Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota and Humanitarian of the Year by Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
Entenza will face DFL-endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher and former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton in the August primary election.