Yesterday we mentioned the absolutely terrible Fox 9 (KMSP) idea to cruise around Edina and see if kiddos would be dumb enough to talk to a stranger in an unmarked SUV. The story got a lot of buzz locally and the reporter involved in the story fought back against false elements of the postings online.
While she didn't deny the idea existed and she contacted the police department about the it, she says the station never went out cruising and dropped the story idea before emails were sent out to parents warning them of the "news" story Fox was working on.
Our post never suggested the pedo-mobile was out in action as the reports on that were conflicting and not confirmed by the station, but the comments contained in the emails from police and the school principal were misleading.
Van Pilsum commented on the MinnPost piece, claiming there were false statements included:
One would think that a columnist who adopts such a holier-than-thou journalistic tone would, at the very least, attempt to meet the most basic standard of reporting, which is to get the facts correct. David, your column is riddled with errors. A simple call or email to me, or any of the parties involved, would have helped you tell an accurate story.
Here is the problem I have with David's column. He reported that FOX 9 drove around Edina asking kids for directions as part of a story. That is not true. It never happened. It is just one method we discussed as part of a story illustrating that kids are not as prepared as parents often think they are to deal with the issue of strangers. It was never our intent to approach kids without the permission of parents. We did talk with Edina police about this realizing that even if we worked with parents on such a scenario, a passerby might raise questions. A deputy chief expressed his concerns that, no matter how carefully executed, a test of this kind might be upsetting because of the recent incident there. We took those concerns to heart, although several parents, including some from Edina, had previously told us they would be interested in knowing how their children would respond. We also discussed among our staff our own concerns that it would be too difficult to locate parents ahead of time. We considered the impact on all the stakeholders as well as our goal to minimize harm in any story we do, even if the overall goal of the story is to achieve a greater awareness of a pubic safety issue. We decided not to go any further with that part of the story. That decision was made hours before school officials sent parents the inaccurate information that we were driving through the neighborhoods and hours before parents began contacting the station. The school district has ackowledged it should have checked with me first. As has David Brauer.MinnPost's David Brauer did a follow-up post this morning, giving Van Pilsum a chance to tell her side of the story. She said the story was still in planning stages and they had always planned to get parental permission before doing anything. She said the idea came from parents she spoke to to test kids in a real-life situation. Read the full explanation here.
So our main point still stands: Fox 9 might not have actually gone through with the story, but it clearly went beyond a crappy brainstorming meeting. Van Pilsum was actively contacting people in the community about the idea, and contends the story would still be an important one to do. We'd disagree and her defense doesn't change the station's bad sweeps story idea riddled with fear-mongering tactics.