SPJ Calls on KSTP to Disavow “Pointergate” Story

Event planned to bring the community together to discuss the story.

The Minnesota Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is deeply concerned about the story that aired on KSTP-TV on Nov. 7, 2014 alleging that Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges appeared recently in a photo flashing a gang sign.

The Twin Cities chapters of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association join MNSPJ in expressing their concern and calling for KSTP to disavow the story.

The story was fundamentally flawed and based on a faulty premise — that a silly gesture made by the mayor in a candid photo amounted to a gang sign. The SPJ code of ethics urges all journalists to never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information. This story did just that.

Although KSTP is able to attribute the accusations to identified police sources, in airing the story KSTP failed to exercise its journalistic duty to ensure that the stories it airs are worth telling. Instead, KSTP allowed itself to be used by one political group to make points against its political opponent.

We have watched the reaction to this story with deep concern, but with appreciation for the challenges journalists face. We had hoped KSTP would realize this story never should have aired and take steps to acknowledge its mistake. But more than a week later, we feel compelled to speak out. KSTP needs to apologize to Mayor Betsy Hodges, the other person in the referenced photo, and to the public that relies on accurate, relevant information about public officials.

We do not suggest that reporter Jay Kolls or KSTP are driven by an agenda in reporting this story. In fact, both have made invaluable contributions to the local journalism community through years of solid reporting and good journalism. But this story missed obvious clues about the motivations of the sources proffering the information and cannot be defended. In addition, Kolls’ characterization of the other man in the photo merely as “a convicted felon” creates the appearance that the reporter is a mouthpiece for members of the police force who have an axe to grind with the mayor’s office.

Kolls and his editors should have applied much more skepticism to the elements of this story as it was presented to him. Again, the SPJ Code of Ethics says, as journalists, we should acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. This story was deeply flawed, and KSTP and Kolls need to acknowledge that.

MNSPJ, in collaboration with AAJA, TCBJ, the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law and the Minnesota Journalism Center, will host a public forum on the ethical issues raised by this story at Cowles Auditorium on the West Bank campus of the University of Minnesota — on Dec. 8, 2014 at 7 p.m. Panelists, who will include journalism professors and media professionals, will discuss how to avoid airing a similar story in the future, as well as other questions this story presents about our community. Members of the local law enforcement community, Mayor Hodges and representatives of KSTP will also be invited to participate. The public is encouraged to attend.

For more information, please contact:

Jonathan Kealing, Minnesota SPJ president-elect

Chris Newmarker, Minnesota SPJ president


You’re Invited!


Historic Moments: Timeline of SPJ’s History

SPJCheck out the new online interactive history of SPJ that was recently added to SPJ.org. This cool feature allows people to explore the amazing history of SPJ in a way that is more interesting than a static list of events and presidents. The timeline is the work of Jennifer Peebles, an SPJ member in Virginia and a dedicated volunteer. She undertook the project at the request of former SPJ president John Ensslin. The result is a lasting online resource that SPJ can add to and amplify as time goes on. Great work, Jennifer!

-SPJ Leads

A Lesson in School Data

MnCOGI Ed data cogitationTuesday, October 21
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Rondo Public Library

Register online now!

Minnesota SPJ  is pleased to co-present a panel discussion on accessing Minnesota education information featuring journalists, FOI experts and representatives from schools.

  • What information about students and teachers is public?
  • How do you ask for public data from school districts?
  • What can you do with data once you get it?

Tuesday, October 21 11am – 1pm. LUNCH IS PROVIDED.

Rondo Public Library, 461 N Dale St, Saint Paul (Dale and University).

The event is free, but registration is required.

Sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information and Minnesota SPJ.

Can You Beat Your Fellow Journalists at Shuffleboard?

sisyphuslogoTwin Cities journalists–SPJ members and nonmembers alike–are invited to compete in some shuffleboard and simply have an all around good time at Sisyphus Brewing, near Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis.

A Sisyphus co-owner says there even will be an ever-so-modest prize for our shuffleboard winner.

When: 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 22
Where: Sisyphus Brewing, 712 Ontario Ave W, Minneapolis

Event is free. All journalists and friends welcome.


Hot off the presses: Get your new code!

If you haven’t already heard, the Society of Professional Journalists passed a new Code of Ethics for the first time since 1996 on Sept. 6 at Excellence in Journalism 2014. To celebrate updating the code, and to spread the practice of using ethics in everyday journalistic work, SPJ wants its members to have a copy of the new code.

Here are the three ways you can get your own copy:

  • You can download two sizes of the printable copy here,8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17, and print it on your own, along with the two-sided bookmark.
  • You can log on to SPJ’s J-Mart and buy a blown-up 23 x 35 poster of the Code of Ethics for your newsroom, classroom or organization.
  • You can email Communications Coordinator Taylor Carlier at tcarlier@spj.org and request an 11 x 17 poster and/or Code of Ethics two-sided bookmarks for your organization. Please put the address you want the items sent to and how many of each you would like. Mailing of these posters and bookmarks will begin in mid-October.

Whichever way you choose to get your copy of the Code of Ethics is fine with us. Just take this opportunity to get a copy, take the time to read it, refer back to it frequently and continue to uphold the high journalistic standards the Code of Ethics has been helping journalists achieve for 88 years.