Is the Strib unfairly targeting Black leaders?

The newspaper’s intent and objectivity are being questioned

Star Tribune Senior Managing Editor and Vice President, Suki Dardarian
Star Tribune Senior Managing Editor and Vice President, Suki Dardarian

Is the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s reporting on Black leaders and local Black organizations an intentional attack? The daily newspaper’s recent report on the Minneapolis Urban League (MUL) “of potential double billing” of the State and the Minneapolis Public Schools is part of a disturbing pattern that started last fall, says African American Leadership Forum (AALF) Executive Director Jeffery Hassan.

In a published commentary in last week’s MSR, Hassan complained that the Star Tribune’s April 13 report “casts aspersions” upon the legacy organization and its leadership concerning its educational programs, as well as that the state’s only two Black senators, Jeff Hayden and Bobby Joe Champion, now are lobbying for more funding for MUL.

Calls from the MSR to the MUL for comment were not returned by press time.

Hassan pointed out that the Star Tribune article, as well as others in recent months, “if read closely, is the undercurrent of references to Senators Champion and Hayden and their role in either lobbying for or passing legislation to fund African American organizations or initiatives. The newspaper has engaged in a non-stop series of character attacks questioning the integrity and credibility of long-established African American leaders,” such as Turning Point Founder-Director Peter Hayden and others, who Hassan believes are “being unilaterally condemned in the court of public opinion.”

As a result, the AALF leader and other community members have suggested that the Star Tribune has declared an “open season on Black leaders.”

“The Star Tribune and our reporters are not out to target any group or any group of people,” said Star Tribune Senior Managing Editor and Vice President Suki Dardarian when asked for comment last week. She told the MSR, “I’m concerned that people feel that way. It’s our duty to report on everyone.”

Dardarian added that her paper also has reported on other entities that received local and state government funding, such as sports stadiums, on whether “appropriate spending of money” took place.

Josie Johnson
Josie Johnson

Retired University of Minnesota regent Dr. Josie Johnson, however, said, “What shocked me as I read [the Star] Tribune’s report is the lack of any objective inquiry.” She said in an MSR interview last week that she wonders why the newspaper is “even suggesting that the [MUL and other legacy Black organizations] are unethical, or that our legislators who have worked so hard to try to be the voice at the table that is often void of the people who need to be heard.”

Seed Academy and Harvest Prep Founder, President and CEO Eric Mahmoud vividly remembers when the Star Tribune reported several years ago that he might have misused funds. “Number one, I think the reporter was acting on a tip from one of our bond holders who happened to be upset with us,” he explained last week to the MSR. “The reporter was reporting what he felt was an opportunity to put out a negative story. He probably wrote about seven articles [beginning in the summer of 2012].”

Eric Mahmoud
Eric Mahmoud

But when a State auditor later found no wrongdoing, “[The reporter] didn’t feel that it was necessary to correct the story,” added the local school leader. “I think it was personal for him. His editor didn’t stop him.”

KMOJ Station Manager Kelvin Quarles recalled, “There was a negative story in the Star Tribune about me and some of the decisions I was making at KMOJ. What concerned me was that no one from the Star Tribune thought enough to pick up the phone to call me and get my side of what was going on. If you do that and I say, ‘No comment’ [that’s different], but I didn’t even get a phone call.”

Negative reporting, especially if it’s unfounded, “is detrimental to our community and our kids,” stated Quarles. “Our kids and other people look up to these people, then find out later that these stories aren’t true, but the bad information is already out there. I think what concerns me more than anything else is that we have individuals in position and we have organizations that have been in the community for a long time and they are highly looked upon by a lot of people.

“It seems like a flood of negative stories, and I am not sure what their angle is,” said Quarles.

The Star-Tribune reporting “makes the general public think that Blacks are illegal, untrustworthy, and somehow doing something wrong,” said Johnson, who pointed out that the newspaper seemingly is following a nationwide pattern that began in 2008, the year Barack Obama ran and [was] eventually elected president. “The supremacy, lack of respect and just questioning…just throw [allegations] out there because the attitude as a whole is so negative, so questioning of us as a people and particularly our African American males, those in leadership.”

“People respect and read the Star Tribune, noted Quarles. You think you would have your reporters double and triple fact-check their stories before they put them out, because it definitely is ruining the reputation of individuals and organizations that are very vital to this community.”

Dardarian said that thus far no one has contacted her about any negative reporting being done by the Star Tribune, but she pointed out, “We’ve gotten a lot of responses from people who approve our coverage.”

If wrongdoing has occurred, it should be reported, said Mahmoud, who surmised, “I think the public should question whether the Star Tribune is [being] balanced in their reporting.”

“Once you put it out there, it’s out there — you can never put it back. Some people will believe the story that you wrote, even if it’s not accurate. It’s quite concerning,” concluded Quarles.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

One Comment on “Is the Strib unfairly targeting Black leaders?”

  1. Mr. Mahmoud has a selective and faulty memory when it comes to my reporting on him in the Star Tribune.
    He wrong in speculating about the source of my reporting on his school’s bond issues.
    He is wrong in saying that my coverage did not report on a state auditor’s findings. See: http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/169370196.html
    He is selective in forgetting that my coverage of his activities gave credit when credit was due. . See: http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/140661323.html
    But Mr. Mahmoud seems to believe that the newspaper should overlook his guilty plea in connection with a residential mortgage fraud case in Georgia, his use of school facilities and personnel to further his participation in that scheme, the missed payments to bond holders, and the questions about school finances asked by the school’s charter authorizer.
    Perhaps he is confusing the newspaper with a public relations firm.
    Perhaps he should read what I wrote.
    Steve Brandt

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