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Ask MPR Mailbag

October 05, 2006

How do you account for political bias?

Hi! I'm really getting rather outraged the way MPR is covering the Senate and House campaigns. What you're doing is showing blatant favoritism to one side: for example, October 2, 2006: airing an anti-Klobuchar ad during Kerry Miller's interview, and later in tonight's news, supplying the sound bite from Mark Kennedy, while giving only your summary of what Klobuchar has to say.

I suspected that there was a bias during the Coleman-Wellstone race, when Coleman was repeatedly interviewed and asked softball questions while Wellstone wasn't interviewed at all, but now I'm sure. How do you account for this? And do you expect any more money from DFLers?

St. Paul, MN

Dear Christine, During election season we get plenty of complaints about bias, from both sides of the political fence. That's something we're used to. The only thing we can do about it is what we've always done: shrug off the criticism and try to give voters the information they need to make an informed choice.

To answer your specific points: it simply isn't true that Paul Wellstone was denied the one-on-one studio interviews in the 2002 campaign. He was Gary Eichten's guest for two hour-long interviews in our Meet the Candidates series: the first time on May 2, 2002 and again on September 23, 2002.

I'm not sure what you mean by "airing an anti-Klobuchar ad" (we don't air political ads on MPR). Perhaps you mean that Kerri Miller's interview was too confrontational. The truth is, Amy Klobuchar is a professional and she is quite capable of answering tough questions. I assume Mark Kennedy and Peter Hutchinson are also capable of answering tough questions They'd better be; Kerri will interview each of them later.

As to the hourly newsbreaks: they are very short, so we can only carry one sound bite per newsbreak. If it's a contentious political issue we alternate: for example, we'll have a sound bite from Kennedy and summary of Klobuchar's statement on one newsbreak; then a sound bite from Klobuchar and summary of Kennedy's statement on the next.

I guarantee you that it all evens out in the end.

Michael Popham
Minnesota Public Radio Member Listener Services