Strib snubs source in Target “Rounders” piece


There’s irony to be had in the Star Tribune’s front-page story Saturday about Target riling bloggers with its undisclosed practice of rewarding teens for promoting its stores on Facebook: By not crediting the local blogger who broke the story, reporter Jackie Crosby showed the same kind of transparency as Target — that is, very little — while ticking off at least one local blogger in the process.

This entry from Paul Schmelzer’s blog, Eyeteeth, also ran in the Minnesota Monitor.

The story about Target using “Rounders” — Facebook users urged to keep quiet about the fact they’re earning points to talk up the big-box retailer — wasn’t really news when Ed Kohler got to it. That is, by the time the Minneapolis blogger learned of the practice, the story was already over a month old, so he says he didn’t “put much” into his first post.

When he realized “everyone in the Twin Cities missed this story,” he did more digging. By the time the Star Tribune got wind of Target’s practice, Kohler had a pretty good overview, which he shared with reporter Jackie Crosby when she called. He got the impression Crosby wasn’t very web savvy, so he pointed out his sources and suggested she get in touch with 21-year-old University of Georgia senior Rosie Siman, who first revealed that Target advised Facebook members to “keep [their work as Rounders] like a secret,” by either emailing her using her Flickr profile or leaving a comment on her blog.

When the Star Tribune published its story, headlined “Bloggers seeing red over Target’s little secret,” the whole tale was laid out, but with one missing detail. The role of Kohler and his blog The Deets.

On Saturday, he wrote:

Come on, Jackie. You called me about this on Thursday afternoon. We discussed the story, I pointed you to sources where you could find more info, including the email of one of the sources you quote. You told me you’d mention The Deets in the article.

It’s fun to see the story get some more attention, but it comes across as rude to be snubbed like this. Why should I answer the phone when the next time the Star Tribune calls?

It is odd. Given the Strib’s vaunted “local-local” approach to journalism, why not cite Kohler? And given the topic — bloggers irked over Target’s obfuscation about online relationships — why not be upfront about how the story came in? After all, without Kohler’s post, Crosby wouldn’t have had a story at all.

Crosby hasn’t responded yet to my email, but she did leave a comment on Kohler’s blog, blaming print journalism’s limited newshole: “If I’d had one more paragraph I would have shown readers the path it took to come to my attention.”

She continued:

To be fair, I did credit the original source of the flap: The teacher from the University of Georgia. She put it out there. The bloggers, including you, just linked to her work… Reporters talk to people all the time who don’t get quoted every time we write stories. (And, I’m quite sure I didn’t promise that you would be quoted.)

“While I ‘just linked,’ all she did was ‘just rewrote’ a story that was already written with a couple fresh quotes,” Kohler wrote me in an email. “Nothing wrong with that, but it’s nothing different from what I do.”

Should the story of Kohler’s help — above and beyond the call of duty, if you ask me — and Crosby’s failure to credit him spread across the blogosphere, the reporter’s lede might come true.

Only it’ll be Crosby, and not Target, who “is learning the hard way that life in the blogosphere can put you right in the bullseye.”