Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Manipulation, Bias, or Ineptness - Gutknecht & KEYC

Question : Does Mankato’s television station have a favorable bias for Congressman Gutknecht? Or is it, the power of the incumbency that allows Gutknecht to manipulate the media in his favor? Or is it the ineptness of KEYC’s reporters?

Being a concerned citizen, I pay attention whenever the media presents a story with Minnesota politicians. Over time, I have noticed that Gutknecht and Coleman get a number of stories. I’ve heard WCCO’s Pat Kessler state that Coleman is on constant-press-release-overload while Mark Dayton rarely tries to influence the media. I do not see the same frequency coming from Gutknecht’s press releases on his website. But somehow, Gutknecht gets “good” coverage from KEYC – recently stories included: farm listening sessions; Kids for Hunger Relief; and yesterday, a “prescription drug importation hearing”. He shows up and they film him. These appear to be nothing more than an opportunity for Gutknecht to vocalize his position without any prodding or challenge from the “journalist”. A check of the KEYC website, indicates only one similiar story involving Tim Walz - a veterans benefit picnic in St. Peter - and as I recall, Walz was not interviwed.

I have sent an email to KEYC (see below). I have to wonder if the same activity is happening with other television stations? In a radio interview, the listener can judge the dialogue between the candidate and interviewer, but on TV it seems to be one-sided.

Mr. Dennis Wahlstrom
PO Box 125
N. Mankato, MN 56002
E-mail: tvdenny@keyc.com

Dear Mr. Wahlstrom,

After viewing Monday’s news report concerning Congressman Gil Gutknecht prescription drug importation hearing held at Old Main village, I have to wonder how does KEYC-TV distinguish between a campaign event and a news event?
Although it was advertised as a “hearing” it was not advertised on his website and it was held in a private residential facility. I suspect that the room that the “hearing” was held in can accommodate 60 people and from the new footage it did not look like the room was filled.
KEYC has been a great service to the community providing wonderful coverage to numerous events and activities but during the political season, I believe that judicious evaluation is required before running a story that may be more political than news. To me, the line is drawn once political advertisements begin, then promotion pieces must stop. Since Tim Walz has been running ads since last week, this story should have only been handled as a news event. As a news event, the reporter should have asked questions of the candidate not provide free access for the candidate to make a campaign speech. I believe that the reporter should have asked the following questions :
H.R.328 (Prescription Drug Importation) was introduced by Gutknecht on January 25, 2005 and has been sitting in committee for over a year-and-a-half. Despite 121 cosponsors, it has not been moved forward by the Republican majority. Why haven’t you started a discharge petition to get a vote on your legislation?
Your presentation points out the price discrepancies between US and Foreign prices on a select group of drugs as a reason to allow importation. But couldn’t the same be accomplished by aggressive negotiations. The Veterans Administration has successfully done this. There is legislation pending in Congress that would accomplish this – H.R. 376 which has 167 co-sponsors including Gutknecht. It was introduced on January 26, 2005 but is being held up by the Republican leadership. A discharge petition has been started; why haven’t you signed the petition if you support the bill?
Does it bother you that Amy Klobuchar has television ads running embracing the same proposal that you are endorsing ? Why cannot you convince your fellow Republican Mark Kennedy that your solution is better for the country?
If 38,000 packages have been siezed, should you be advocating that citizens be involved in a process that may be illegal? How should citizens react if they find out that their medicines are stopped by the customs bureau?
Those are the types of questions that are appropriate for viewers to consider when eveluating a candidate, but the KEYC story only provided a sound bite for a Congressman running for reelection. Was there any real “news”? Or, was this just an opportunity for Gutknecht to iterate a policy that he has been advancing for years and that the Republican majority has rejected.
My comments are addressing Mr. Gutknecht, but are applicable to anyone running for office after KEYC starts to accept ads.

Congressman Gil Gutknecht made a stop in Mankato today. Gutknecht held a prescription drug importation hearing at Old ain Village to address the rising costs of prescription drugs. He also discussed how Americans can get prescriptions from other countries for half the cost, but are being seized by customs. Gutknecht says American's are being held hostage and he's hoping to change that. With virtually every other product, we can go to Canada and but whatever we want, that's called NAFTA, but prescription drugs are held separately, a point of this hearing is to at least let people know that we're aware of this and to let them know what we're doing to try and stop the customs bureau from treating American citizens like common criminals. Gutknecht says between November 2005 and July of this year, nearly 38 thousand packages of drugs have been seized by US customs.

Looking forward to your reply,

McPherson Hall

No comments: