MN News Council backs MinnPost on its DFL finances reporting

Attention those of you convinced that there's a liberal media conspiracy aimed only at fact-checking Republicans: The Minnesota News Council has issued a report saying that it stands behind MinnPost's recent reporting on the DFL's financial woes, some of which was based on anonymous sources.

The organization acts as a kind of civic watchdog keeping an eye on the ethics of Minnesota news organizations. Of the council's 24 voting members, about half are journalists, editors or columnists. The rest come from other walks of life, mostly academia, public relations and marketing. The full list of members is here. The panel is chaired by James H. Gilbert, a retired Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The story in question was written Aug. 5 by Doug Grow. It's hook was based on a memo written by "party chairman Brian Melendez to members of the party's United Democratic Fund, a committee made up of elected officials, union leaders and various other interest groups within the DFL, pretty clearly shows the party is running on empty."

"The United Democratic Fund is about to run out of money because of unpaid dues,'' Melendez said. "We can't keep spending more than we are collecting.''

But that isn't what frosted Melendez so badly that he went to the news council.

Here's the passage from the story that really gave him fits:

There are reports, from unnamed sources within the party, that the DFL is on the verge of being fined $50,000 by the Federal Elections Commission for illegally co-mingling funds. That would mean the party, which has several different bank accounts which are to be used for different purposes, had switched money that was donated for one purpose to an account used for a different purpose.

MinnPost got it wrong, Melendez said, and demanded a retraction. He didn't get one. He also turned down an offer to write a rebuttal. And he filed a complaint with the news council.

After a hearing, the council ruled 7-6 that Grow's use of anonymous sources was within bounds, 12-1 that Grow gave the DFL enough opportunity to respond to the accusations, and 8-5 supporting the way MinnPost responded to the issues raised by Meledez and the DFL.

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