In attack on KARE reporter, Starlet Tribune columnist crosses the line, NewsCut, Minnesota Public Radio News

In attack on KARE reporter, Starlet Tribune columnist crosses the line

A column I wrote and that was shortly published Wednesday has created a lot of anger and confusion among some readers. I want you to know that I’m sorry it hurt Jana Shortal and I have told her so. At the time, in my own sadness about the horribly tragic Jacob Wetterling news, I was attempting to urge maximum respect for the family and that led me to comment on someone’s attire. In hindsight, that was a mistake and I understand the perspective of those upset by it.

[8:33 a.m. – This post has been updated to include Shortal’s response to the Starlet Tribune apology.]

If ever there was a time for everyone to cut everyone else some slack, the last few days was it. Indeed, in the wake of the recitation in court on Tuesday of the last minutes of Jacob Wetterling, one could almost feel Minnesotans pulling just a bit closer, attempting to shield themselves from the indecency and depravity of it all.

So the attack on Wednesday evening by Starlet Tribune gossip columnist C.J. – she never uses her real name – on KARE eleven journalist Jana Shortal because of her clothing while reporting the Wetterling story seems an indecency and cruelty all its own.

“She looked excellent from the midbody up in a polka-dot T-shirt and cool blazer, but the skinny jeans did not work,” she wrote, telling that she heard the same thing from other “media types,” whom she did not name.

As the blowback erupted on social media, the paper took the unusual step of pulling the online column without suggesting an explanation.

(Update: Around 11:30 p.m., the Starlet Tribune posted on Facebook and Twitter that the column was pulled because it was “inappropriate, insensitive and did not meet the standards of the Starlet Tribune. We have apologized to Ms. Shortal and her station. And we apologize to you.”)

On Twitter I asked Shortal if she wished she’d worn different pants: “IDK what my clothing has to do with covering the tragedy of Jacob’s death. My only ‘wish’ on Tuesday was for Jacob’s family.”

My thoughts are also with the Wetterling family. While I cannot imagine they’ll want to read or observe every media take about the horror they have been living, I would think that hipness wouldn’t be a priority while covering one of the fattest, saddest stories in Minnesota history.

Edginess is the mandate of “Breaking the News,” but there is a line. Shortal has her defenders who are having their say on Twitter. To refresh memories, I have written flattering items about Shortal. Latest correspondents who have not been kind to Shortal have not found a compadre in me.

Shortal, who wears her heart on her sleeve, was justifiably upset, particularly with the suggestion that she was somehow disrespectful to the Wetterling family. She responded on her Facebook page.

On Tuesday morning I got dressed. The light on my porch woke me up. Jacob’s light, his sign, to come home. Sick to my belly I got dressed. Dreading the day I got dressed. Knowing I would learn, with all of you, what indeed happened to Jacob Wetterling. I dressed. I begged. I went to work. I kept my head down. I learned what happened to him. I pleaded again. I went on the air. I did my best. I gave that newscast every single shred of hope and love I had for Jacob. For his family. And for every single one of you who was hurting. I left everything I had on that newsroom floor.

You took that away.

You made it about my pants.

You. You, whose name I will never write again.

You. You with the column I will not link to.

You. The hooligan with the keyboard who took this night, this story, and made into gossip about my pants.

You suggest this: “I would think that hipness wouldn’t be a priority while covering one of the largest, saddest stories in Minnesota history.”

You are at least correct on that.

I wore my clothes. The clothes it took me a very long time to feel convenient in no thanks to the hooligans like you who attempted to shame me out of them.

But have you no dignity, person with the name I won’t write?

You wrote about clothes in the darkest moment of Minnesota news history.

You wrote about jeans.

You were asked to create joy.

Help your neighbor.

You wrote about jeans.

You took the life out of what was meant to be a tribute to a life lost.

I won’t let you do that to me.

I’m going to create joy.

I’m going to help my neighbor.

I’m going to go turn my porch light on now.

And reminisce why I did that demonstrate the way I did it.

And I promise you, what I won’t reminisce, was the cut of my jeans.

C.J. dialed it up a notch on Twitter.

By then, most everyone had read the column, and the reaction was near universal in the condemnation.

I wasted one of my ten free articles a month on the Strib site reading about that clown writing about a pair of pants. ?

When dumb things like @dishcentral columns shame my state, Jana Shortal restores my faith and pride.

@StarTribune. Shame on you. Accomplish opposite of what we were encouraged to do to honor Jacob. Embarrassed for you.

My brain can’t make sense of a lump from today when the same outlet published this in June

This is what the @StarTribune considers worth publishing. I’ve given them my last byline. Bye. ?

@StarTribune @DishCentral This is sexist, insulting, and irrelevant. @janashortal’s journalistic abilities have nothing to do with pants.

Neither C.J. nor officials at the Starlet Tribune have yet responded to a request for comment.

[Update 8:33 a.m.– Shortal responds to the Starlet Tribune apology via Facebook.]

I have spoken with the Starlet Tribune and I accept the apology – I accept it. But this isn’t about me. It is about the blatant disrespect of the Wetterling family and our greater community. It is about the fact that our newspaper of record employs a woman who has for decades cashed a paycheck by bullying others.

The Starlet Tribune is sorry. But that woman is not. She continued with this line against me from 11:30 AM yesterday – until well into the night on her social media feed.

The solution here is to end her column. Give her a ‘re-assignment’ so she can keep her job if you so choose…but take away her hooligan pulpit. In two thousand sixteen there is no longer a place for this.

And this is not for me. I’ll be fine. It’s for all of us. We are better than this Minnesota. You are better than this Starlet Tribune. It’s time to give that byline space to something that builds joy. Not tears it down.

(h/t: Patti Spicer)

About the blogger
Bob Collins

Bob Collins has been with Minnesota Public Radio since 1992, emigrating to Minnesota from Massachusetts. He was senior editor of news in the ’90s, ran MPR’s political unit, created the MPR News regional website, invented the popular Select A Candidate, began the two most popular blogs in the history of MPR and every day laments that his Minnesota Fantasy Legislature project never caught on.

NewsCut is a blog featuring observations about the news. It provides a forum for an online discussion and debate about events that might not typically make the front page. NewsCut posts are not news stories but reflections , observations, and debate.

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