Fargo Forum: "Real Journalism" Means Shooting The Messenger

In an editorial today, the Fargo Forum takes pot shots (not by name, naturally) at myself and my good friend Jay Thomas (of the Jay Thomas Show on WDAY AM970 in Fargo) for our focus on the email controversy at North Dakota State University. “Credible answers have been elusive,” writes the Forum, “but traditional in-the-trenches reporting – not political blogs or ratings-driven talk radio – eventually will get answers. (And then, of course, bloggers and talkers will ride for a few days on the work of real journalists.)”

Then, after another shot at the “irresponsible role of modern media,” the Forum goes on to give credibility only to answers for what happened to over 45,000 emails in President Dean Bresciani’s inbox the day he got an open records request that exonerate Bresciani.

According to the Forum, Bresciani was set up by Hamid Shirvain. Or some unnamed university system employee. Or a cabal of “livid” legislators (one of whom the Forum calls a “coward” for requesting an Attorney General inquiry anonymously).

“Thus far, the legislator who requested the system attorney to investigate the email deletions is hiding behind a tissue-thin lawyer-client veil,” writes the Forum. “The identity of the lawmaker can go a long way in determining if it’s a stealth vendetta or a legitimate investigation of an open records law violation.”

In other words, the identity of the legislator(s) involved would go a long way toward helping the NDSU apologists at the Fargo Forum shoot the messenger. And anyone else notice that none of the questions the Forum asks are pointed at Bresciani himself? Must be some of that “in the trenches” journalism.

For the purposes of deciding whether or not President Bresciani broke open records laws in the face inquiries from the legislature, the identity of the legislator(s) asking that question is irrelevant. But on a related note, it’s humorous to watch the Forum ridicule people such as myself (anyone else remember their fat joke?) from behind an anonymous editorial by-line. It’s common knowledge that editor Jack Zaleski writes the editorials, and it would make him less of a hypocrite if he had the courage to put his name next to his childish insults. Or, you know, actually name the people he’s talking about.

As for the Forum’s other speculations, it’s true that there could have been some nefarious plot to set Bresciani up by deleting his emails, and it’s valid to ask those questions but that speculation seems unlikely. Remember, as the original letter from Legislative Council to Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem indicated, Bresciani is not the only president from which data was requested. But he was the only president for which over 45,000 emails seems to have disappeared contemporaneous to an open records request being made.

The ball is now in the court of the Attorney General, who has the sort of resources available to him to investigate this sort of digital caper. From him we will hopefully get answers. Until then, we know that the Fargo Forum is anything but an objective observer/reporter in the matter.

Discussion question: What do you think the odds are that the deleted emails in question contain a few between Bresciani and certain editors at the Fargo Forum? You know, since we’re speculating.

Update: Jay Thomas responds as well on Facebook: “Sounds to me like there’s some jealousy here because a one man crew, (Rob Port) broke the story and continues getting the info on it before the ‘traditional in the trenches’ journalists.”

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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