The two major daily newspapers in the Twin Cities played the story differently of a delegate to the Republican National Convention who was allegedly drugged and robbed by a woman he took to his room.
The Star Tribune played it straight, although it left out a key element -- the man was single -- that might've prevented a leap to the assumption that it was just another family values guy cheating on his wife and family.
However it also included this salient point: there is no indication the crime had anything to do with prostitution.
In other words, Gabriel Nathan Schwartz, 29, was the victim of a crime in Minneapolis, same as 203 others in Minneapolis at roughly the same time.
The difference? Their political beliefs weren't the story. In the St. Paul Pioneer Press this morning 14 of the 31 paragraphs in the story were about Schwartz's politics.
A paragraph in which Schwartz said he didn't want to comment on the theft "because the case is still under investigation" was followed by one which said, "During the convention, Schwarz wasn't shy about talking to the media."
The headline in the morning paper, "Republican by day, Romeo by night, robbed in the morning," was changed online (the online version initially used the original headline) to "GOP delegate's hotel tryst goes bad when he wakes up with $120,000 missing," a somewhat milder, less judgmental approach.
The story also cited a video of Schwartz saying the U.S. should "bomb the hell out of Iran," that protesters in St. Paul should "get a job" and that he donated $2,300 to John McCain.
Clearly Schwartz's views set him somewhat at odds with a number of Minnesotans (they're hawkish enough where you almost wonder if the guy was pulling the interviewer's leg) , but what was the takeaway: that getting drugged and robbed served him right?
If so, the paper's readers got the hint. A sample comment attached to the story said...
To me, anyone who walks around with $60K of bling is asking for it. My guess is that he chatted up his "friend" by making sure she knew how much everything cost... and he probably told her that he had lots more where that came from. And then she went to work doing to him what he clearly wanted to do to her.
...but not everyone bought into it.
I've never seen so much biographical information about a crime VICTIM in my life! The next time some woman gets raped, will the PioneerPress investigate who she voted for in recent elections, or what jewelry she might have been wearing? I'll admit the guy sounds like an overly outspoken jerk, but does that make him deserving of the ridiculous tone of the article? Wow.
The Associated Press, which distributed the story after rewriting it from the Pioneer Press, removed all references to the man's political beliefs.
Messages to the editor and reporter on the story have not yet been returned but I'll post their perspective when it's available.
Update David Hanners was kind enough to send along his thoughts in an e-mail this afternoon:
As I'm in the Minneapolis office, the only discussion I'm personally aware of was between my editor and myself, and I believe it is generally inappropriate to speak publicly about such in-house conversations. I don't know what discussions, if any, may have taken place between my editor and his superiors.
That said, I wouldn't agree with the supposition that it is "unusual" to see a crime victim's politics mentioned in an article. It depends on the article and the facts at hand. Every situation is different, and there are situations where it is wholly appropriate to make reference to the victim's politics.
In this case, the guy was in town because of the convention, and he spoke to the media while here. While the crime itself may not have been politically motivated (the public portion of the police report is silent on that matter) he was in town because of his politics. He seemed an interesting person.
Sometimes, we do articles on extraordinary events that happen to Average Joes, or we do articles about routine events that happen to noteworthy people. The size of the theft here was extraordinary, and he was somewhat noteworthy because of politics. Those circumstances added up to a story.
Update Thom Fladung, the editor at the Pioneer Press responds:
1. The reported loss of $120,000 in the robbery. That doesn't seem like a typical Twin Cities robbery to me. And as the Minneapolis police sergeant put it, such a loss is "very, very, very rare." Your story notes that Schwartz was the victim of a crime "same as 203 others" in Minneapolis around the same time. If some of those were robberies or burglaries that resulted in losses of $100,000-plus, I'd like to see us do stories about those, too. And did these other crimes involve convention delegates?
2. The victim was a delegate to one of the highest-profile events ever in the Twin Cities. As such, it seems to me, that further separated him from other crime victims.
3. A person who reportedly loses this kind of money at an event like a national political convention under these circumstances would then naturally seem to be an interesting person. We reported more about him, and his political positions and public statements about politics were part of that reporting. What's the relevance of his politics? That they added more background about the person. We also reported that he was single and an attorney. I certainly didn't have any "takeaway" from the story that he deserved to be drugged and robbed for his political views.
Update 4:04 p.m. According to the Associated Press, the victim has released a statement:
"It's embarrassing to admit that I was a target of a crime," Schwartz said in a statement Tuesday. "I was drugged and had about $50,000 of personal items stolen."
Schwartz said news reports that he had been taken for as much as $150,000 were inflated and based on an inaccurate police report.
"As a single man, I was flattered by the attention of a beautiful woman who introduced herself to me. I used poor judgment. If there is any good that can come from this humiliation, it is to caution others that date rape drugs can be used on men, too," he said.
Maybe this would be a good time to educate the greater public on how MPR selects its stories for broadcast and the web. Obviously with 203 crimes happening at the same time, this one seems to have been selected almost like they select a story for the supermarket tabloids.
Based on when the crime happened, it seems like old news too.
Is it possible that this guy may have inflated the value of what he lost so that it got attention in the paper? Like when you get a jewelry store appraise for an item - you really paid $1200 - but the store appraisal says $2500.
While the guy got taken, I wonder if he isn't making the most of it to get himself on the front page.
Although the attention given to the guy's political beliefs certainly is wrong, it's pretty sick that some ignorant piece of scum in the Pioneer Press went and made the comparison between getted robbed and getting raped. I've had both happen to me, and let's just say that being raped is about eighteen million times worse. Callous, misogynist statements like that can only come from somebody who has decided that women's bodies are a commodity, that being raped is only as bad as having money taken from you. You can't put a dollar value on human life, on a person's body. If you want to make a comparison, compare it to OTHER ROBBERIES. What an innovative idea, hey?
The Pi Press commenter's statement also reveals his or her incredible ignorance about how rape trials are prosecuted and covered in the media -- the treatment of this man is more along the lines of what a rape victim can expect to face. We're just shocked when it happens to a man who was robbed because robbery victims are understood (correctly) to be faultless, whereas rape victims are considered whores who were asking for it.
I don't think the commenter was making a comparison on the seriousness of the crime and I don't think he was saying that getting raped is the same as getting drugged and having your property stolen.
I think the point he/she was making was that a victim of a crime is a victim of a crime and not the perpetrator and that that changed -- journalistically -- depending on the gender and politics of the person involved in this case.
I think the politics only matter if they helped set him up to be robbed. Generally the street perception is that Republicans coming in for the RNC were much richer than Democrats coming in for the DNC. However if he did brag publicly about money, what can be said?
There were a number of reports about the "entertaining" type of workers coming in to the Twin Cities just for the RNC.
So his views on war with Iran has WHAT to do with his getting robbed?
"So his views on war with Iran has WHAT to do with his getting robbed?"
It wasn't so much about his views on Iran as his apparent earlier willingness to talk to the media.
That's clearly what the PiPress thought too, bsimon. But talking about your politics at a political convention really has nothing to do with talking about the circumstances as a crime victim.
As near as I can tell, he gave one interview to one organization (whose pedigree I haven't quite figured out).
Elizabeth Edwards hasn't answered any questions about her husbands affair (issuing only a statement). And yet she's given a speech and interviews on health care in the United States. How are those two possibly related? And, if one believes they are, where are the articles on the front page of the Pioneer Press criticizing her for not talking about her private life since she talked about political views?
I understand the point, and agree that the Pi Press made a poor editorial decision. But I also question the interpretation and/or implication that it was Mr Schwartz's political views that drove the decision. Where's the evidence of that?
It's not an assertion I made. I asked a question... what does the man's politics have to do with his being a crime victim. 14 of 31 paragraphs?
Thom's response seems to suggest that I don't think the crime is newsworthy and I didn't say that either. I asked why the guy's political views on Iran are half the story?
If his political views made him "an interesting guy" to profile, what political views would have made him UNinteresting?
The excessive coverage of his political viewpoints was completely unnecessary. Unless there is any proof that his political views were tied into the crime somehow, it is irrelevant what campaign contributions he made or what his opinions on foreign policies are.
The only political point that would be reasonable to mention was the fact that he was here for the convention.
For that matter, why was it necessary to list the cost of his hotel room? Is it a greater injustice to be drugged and robbed at the Hotel Ivy than it is at a Super 8 out in the suburbs?
Perhaps the circumstances did make for an interesting story, but that doesn't mean that all those details were needed. It seems to me, that the Pioneer Press was trying to find more of a story than was actually there.
BTW, my comment that this guy was a victim of a crime, same as 203 others in the same week didn't mean to indicate it wasn't newsworthy. It was meant to point out that the Pioneer Press didn't include the political leanings and their opinion of foreign policy of 203 other crime victims... and didn't refer on a front page to any crime victim as "Romeo."
I find the victim's statement revealing. He is correct, that date-rape drugs can be used on men, not only women.
I think I would have found it more interesting, and perhaps even more socially relevant, if the story had addressed this fact - that men can be sexually taken advantage of. (I don't imply that this should have been the focus, simply that it ought to have been mentioned.)
I find it likely that, had the victim in this case been a woman, the majority of the text would have revolved around sexual assault rather than politics, re-enforcing the idea that it never happens to men. And I am absolutely, without reservation, certain that the headline - assuming the victim had been a woman, would NEVER have implied or stated she was a "romeo" (or whatever feminine sort of adjective equivalent).
It's interesting to see the response of the journalists. The inner workings of how to present the news, and what to present as news, is beneficial to us, the news consumers.
sorry - my point was simply that when it comes to sexual crimes, adult men get the short end of the deal. The only time any 'big deal' is made about it is if the male in question is a minor. Even if it's only 1% of the sexual crime (I made the number up to emphasize it's rarity), it is still sexual crime no different than for a woman. With, I might add, far more social stigma than a woman.
My journalist colleagues with whom I communicate -- motly via Twitter -- see no problem with the story.
It must just be me...
Bob, only "tabloid" media whould include the victim's political views on Iraq in a robbery story.
Case in point:
My guess is the journalists, Bob, who see no problem in guffawing because a guy got robbed of $50,000 worth of property are the same ones who throw newsroom temper tantrums when their coffee mugs disappear.
Did you hear Steve Inskeep cover this story this morning in a sentence or two in the spot they reserve for amusing little quips on Morning Edition?
I think that's what Bob Moffitt's link was, Alison. NPR chortling at a Republican? Imagine.
Reminds me of a few years ago when Northwest Airlines went on strike. Linda Werthheimer called a small cafe in the airport in Duluth and talked to a waitress there about the lack of business.
To NPR, it was a giggly little story -- a waitress out in flyover country lamenting there are no customers in her no-doubt-cute restaurant.
To the rest of us -- especially those in Minnesota -- it was a real rootin' tootin' economic disaster.
So I guess the takeaway here is it's pretty funny stuff as long as it's not you or, in this case, not your politics.
Politics vs Victim.
Let's just keep them separate.
Listen to this guy, you can not make this stuff up.
It is like that there is pull string sticking out his back and when you pull it, out comes the major republican talking points.
But it's NOT separate. That's the point. At any time in the last two weeks, The PiPress, NPR, anybody COULD have done a story that said "hey, look at this dope with these stupid political views."
But they didn't. They did it instead under the illusion of covering a story about his being robbed.
The real story they wanted to do is "this guy has stupid political views," but they couldn't do that for -- fortunately -- obvious reasons. But doing it while pretending to be doing a story about a victim of a crime.
That's the inherent dishonesty of the journalism here. It requires a "wink." We all know what's going on here.
The bottom line? People don't like the guy. Fine. I get that. That's not a good reason to use when framing a story and I really don't see how any journalist can ever seriously deny there is a political bias in newsrooms while sitting on his/her hands on this quite obvious example.
Every single journalist I've talked to about this -- all of whom had no problem with the story -- has pointed to the guy's politics as a reason to ridicule him, but not a single one will acknowledge that it's a story about the guy's politics.
I don't see how you can have it both ways.
You have a point, Bob. Recently MY ox got gored by a couple of reporters doing stories on E85, which just happens to also be a pet project of Gov. Pawlenty.
I don't expect too much balance from the MinIndy -- it makes no bones about being anything other than what it is, a left-leaning online pub. But I expected better of the Star Tribune. Both seemed to bend over backward to declare the Pawlenty-favored program (a lot of DFLers like it too) a failure, even though MN leads the nation in outlets and sales grow by double digits every year.
BTW, "Raindog" at MNspeak has hurled insults at me, too. Kinda goes with the territory.
Those giggly little stories on Morning Editions more often than not drive me nuts. I think it was last month that they had to make a note the following day that they hadn't realized that the story they reported was something like 5 years old. I know their just trying to lighten the mood, but it seems like a good way to diminish the credibility of an otherwise well researched show.