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KSTP story gives Blue Earth ‘black eye’

By Staff | Jun 19, 2010

Did Blue Earth get a black eye in a recent television newscast?

Some people sure think so. One of those is the editor of a regional magazine published in Oregon, Wisc.

Midwest Flyer Magazine includes a column written by Editor/Publisher Dave Weiman, entitled, “Television Promo Reads: ‘Barely Used Minnesota Airports Getting Millions in Tax Dollars To Expand.”

The column refers to a May 13 broadcast of a KSTP-TV (Channel 5) news story concerning rural airports getting millions of dollars to expand their runways.

Featured prominently in the story was the Blue Earth Airport. The KSTP reporter, Bob McNaney, interviewed Blue Earth resident Rodney Anderson and councilmen John Huisman and Les Wiborg.

Also interviewed was the airport manager in Jackson, and a city administrator in Buffalo City.

Editor Weiman’s point was that the entire newscast was biased. The reporter, he writes, was working off the premise that the rural communities did not necessarily need to improve their airports, but the money was available and so they were ‘greedily’ grabbing the tax dollars.

“Reporter Bob McNaney apparently did his best to load his questions and edit the broadcast to fit the story he and the station wanted,” he writes.

To prove his point, Weiman, quotes extensively from a part of the interview of Jim Hanson of the Albert Lea airport – which was cut from the broadcast.

Hanson says he told the reporter all of the facts, such as where the funds come from, why they are needed, and why general aviation airports, such as Blue Earth, need the assistance.

But, Hanson’s remarks did not fit the story angle the reporter was after, so none of that interview aired as part of the story, says Weiman.

I agree. The story was obviously slanted. From a journalists perspective, it lacked a lot of objectivity. Maybe you saw it.

Whether you agree with the plans to make improvements to the Blue Earth Airport or not, it would be hard not to agree this particular story was one-sided.

No where in it were the reason for the improvements. The safety issues of having a new taxiway, or the fact that there are cracks in the runway big enough to fall into.

Or the biggest fact of all – that no individual tax dollars are included in the funding. The Federal Aviation Authority has this money from fees on sales of airline tickets and airplane/jet fuel.

The feds pay for 95 percent of the project. The local effort of five percent (around $300,000) will come from a bond issue. Payment of that bond will mainly come from airport fees.

If Blue Earth is to own assets such as parks, buildings, streets and airports, they need to be maintained.

The airport needs maintenance, and it doesn’t come cheap. But, with the help of the FAA, it can be done at a reasonable cost to local governments.

The Midwest Flyer Magazine quotes Albert Lea’s Jim Hanson as saying, “I can’t speak for Blue Earth, but for Albert Lea, the time has simply come when repairing our existing airport was no longer economical. We got 10-12 years out of our airport than any other local airport built at the same time.”

Weiman himself writes, “Unfortunately, the reporter ignored Jim Hanson’s comments, and excluded him from their broadcast. Featured instead was a farmer who lives next door to a rural airport; someone from a city council; a city administrator, a pilot and an airport manager – all of whom were either ignorant to the needs of their local airport, allowed the reporter to put words in their mouths with loaded questions, or who were quoted out of context.”

Here is a link to the KSTP story, in case you wish to check it out for yourself: kstp.com/news/stories/S1559234.shtml?cat=1

It sure seems to make Blue Earth look bad. They seem to be saying there are no planes flying in or out of the airport here, and the city is simply greedy, trying to latch onto money to fix up an airport that doesn’t need it.

Wonder what the average Twin Cities resident thought of Blue Earth after seeing that broadcast? What kind of a small, hick town do they think we are?

My guess is they think it is one that has a small, unused airport that doesn’t need to be improved.

The truth is, it is much, much more than that.