Updated: Shortly after the Star Tribune reported that the faith-based Riverview Community Bank had been shut down by the state, we – like others – noticed that the paper’s online report deleted a reference to Mary Kiffmeyer, the sometimes controversial former Secretary of State and current state representative who has close ties to the bank.
And, according to Lexis-Nexis, the Pioneer Press’ online story was also modified since publication Friday to remove mention of the Big Lake Republican. Why?
Strib business reporter Chris Serres says it’s a “relevant question” that has a “mundane answer.”
“We had very tight space in Saturday’s paper and had to cut information on the story that ran online, so I cut out Kiffmeyer,” he told the Minnesota Independent, adding that it was his choice, rather than an editor’s, what got cut. “The online version was updated to match the latest print version of the story.”
But the deleted line appears to have saved only 18 words (here’s a pasted-in version of the piece at a Google Group; the story doesn’t appear in Lexis-Nexis), and the first version of the story, which ran at 419 words, is actually much shorter than the 554-word piece that’s available at StarTribune.com.
To that, Serres said he wanted to focus more on the “God stuff,” instead of Kiffmeyer’s ties to the bank, which he feels fewer people know about. A Federal Reserve Bank agreement, signed by Kiffmeyer on Oct. 9, lists her as president and director of American Eagle Financial Corporation, which owns and controls Riverview Community Bank.
“I thought that stuff was more interesting than Mary Kiffmeyer,” he said. Then, noting the dozen or so complaints he got, he added, “given the number of phone calls and emails, there’s a pretty good argument it could’ve been in the story. Relevance is often in the eyes of the beholder.”
However, as I prepared this post, I noticed that the Pioneer Press has also removed mention of Kiffmeyer from its story. According to Lexis-Nexis, this innocuous-seeming line was removed from the online story: “Mary Kiffmeyer, former Minnesota secretary of state, was on the bank’s board of directors, according to the Minnesota Bankers Association’s bank directory.” (In one instance, the line does appear in an AP-syndicated version of the story.)
PiPress reporter Nicole Garrison-Sprenger has not yet responded to my email and voicemail queries on the topic. I did call Serres of the Star Tribune back to ask if Kiffmeyer or her representative called him to request modifications to the story.
“No. Absolutely not,” he told me. “I never got a call from anyone at the bank, a board member, anyone, period.”
But he seemed less certain when I again asked him if he – not an editor – removed the mention of Kiffmeyer. He twice replied, “I think I took it out.” Finally, he replied, “I had to cut stuff out of the story to make it fit. Yeah, it was my call.”
Update: Garrison-Sprenger emails that the Pioneer Press has two versions of the story. The first one, which didn’t include Kiffmeyer’s name, was published before she’d looked into the bank’s ownership and board members; the newer one, which ran in the print edition, includes mention of Kiffmeyer.