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MinnPost skewered by commenters over conflict of interest controversy

Quite the controversy developed on normally staid MinnPost yesterday.

The kerfuffle was over a piece entitled, "How MPR's legal misadventure is driving up the cost of LRT line," written by Steven Dornfeld. Framed as a straight news piece, it summarizes MPR's now-settled lawsuit against the Met Council in response to concerns LRT construction could negatively impact MPR's studios, points out a variety of reasons why "MPR's case was particularly weak," and details how the legal wrangling may have added close to a million dollars to the Central Corridor project cost.

But in the version of the piece initially published, MinnPost editors didn't disclose that Dornfeld worked from 2003 until last year as the Met Council's director of public affairs, meaning he clearly isn't in a position to write a conflict of interest-free news piece on the legal battle between MPR and his former employer.

As comments criticizing the lack of disclosure mounted, MinnPost editors went back and added this paragraph: "(Disclosure: From 2003 to 2011, I was the Metropolitan Council's director of public affairs. See my full professional bio here.)"

Here's what some commenters said about MinnPost's ex post facto disclosure:

MinnPost skewered by commenters over conflict of interest controversy

Another:

MinnPost skewered by commenters over conflict of interest controversy

The backlash finally prompted Dornfeld to respond:

MinnPost skewered by commenters over conflict of interest controversy

But his response didn't go far enough for some:

MinnPost skewered by commenters over conflict of interest controversy

Commenters also skewered Dornfeld for snarkily writing that MPR's "annual 'pledge weeks' seem to roll around as frequently as Red Cross blood drives and often sound just as desperate" when his article sat right under a prominent banner imploring readers to "support MinnPost" with donations. Pot, meet kettle.

A thoughtful approach to news? Not in this case.


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