PiPress explains running Bachmann commentary in news section


Alongside yesterday's front-page jump about the Rep. Michele Bachmann anti-American drama, the Pioneer Press ran a long piece written by the congresswoman herself.

MinnPost criticized the paper for rewarding Bachmann's refusal to do an interview with the paper by letting her write her own opinionated column about the incident.

Why did they do it? Editor Thom Fladung explains.

In the Editor & Publisher piece, Fladung defended the paper's decision:

According to Editor Thom Fladung, it was a matter of using available resources and, as he puts it, best serving the reader. Fladung said the first-person column was actually provided by Politico, the Washington, D.C.-based news outlet that has a content-sharing arrangement with the Pioneer Press, among other newspapers.

As print deadline loomed Monday night, the Pioneer Press, unable to get comment from Bachmann for its story, came upon the Politico piece at about 8:30 p.m., Fladung recalled.

"At that point, it seemed the better choice for readers was to give them the Bachmann piece and let them decide," he told E&P. "Here it is, unfiltered, and you can decide."

Noting some might see it as letting Bachmann's office off the hook after she declined to comment, Fladung said the paper's approach gives the readers as much information as possible: "Of course, I would always rather talk to the candidate than to the spokesperson. In this case, I would always choose to give the reader more."

The move brought some criticism, such as that from, which called the move "a bit of weirdness." But Fladung said it drew "virtually no reader complaints at all."

This view of commentary on news pages is an interesting one. Could this set future precedent for politicians who would rather have a whole piece written on their own rather than trusting the journalists to use their quotes responsibly? Or is this just journalists screaming at journalists?