Sunday, August 28, 2005

MSM Coverage of SIU & Kodee Fraud

Since we are moving into a new and secondary stage of the SIU - Kodee fraud, I thought it would be appropriate to continue the coverage via a new post. As titled, this post will focus on the MSM coverage of the story as well as the new media coverage of the story.

The post with the breaking information on the story can be found: here

There are as of today, basically two offerings out there in the MSM offering post-break coverage. The Chicago Tribune which uncovered the fraud and the AP. The starting point of both sources could not be more different at this point.

Here is what the Tribune had to say today:


The article from 8/27, basically reports the facts and the first wave of fall-out SIU is facing as well as the interest level from other press organizations being very high. It gets into the possibility of criminal charges for impersonating a military officer, but leaves the question of “why” it happened open. Since the Tribune broke the fraud I think they will be a pace setter on how the rest of the media covers the fall out.

The AP however jump on what they seem to have decided was the “why” with this offering that is being ran by most of the MSM newspapers that I saw covering the story today. Via USAToday the AP line:


The early fault for the fraud via the AP:

Kim Treger, owner of a women's shoe and accessories store, said she followed the story from the start but was not surprised to learn it was fake.
"As long as people dig those sentimental stories and have that yellow-ribbon mentality, there are going to be these hoaxes," she said.

Yes the AP out the gate is going with a pro-war motive rather than an anti-war motive which based on the facts is the early indication of what drove this fraud. I’m not surprised because with the heavy coverage of bad news that all MSM organizations have angled their coverage towards Iraq, the outright fraud centered on negative Iraq emotions must hit very close to home and must make lots of people in the MSM very uncomfortable. That said how anyone could read the letters that show a heart broken little girl who’s daddy got deployed to Iraq and the President Bush letter that was very anti-war and come away with anything other than indications of an anti-war agenda is puzzling to me. To come away with a pro-war agenda after reading the letters I think is an offensive move to protect a biased agenda.

The coming coverage of this story is going to tell us a great deal about how the MSM operates and their mindset as it relates to covering Iraq. The first attempt by the AP shows a bias that I expected but also shows almost an offensive move to try and move the facts and redirect the consumers of their news in a very eerie and disturbing manner.

Based on the information that we know thus far, if there is an agenda driving this fraud it is clearly anti-military and anti-Iraq. It may turn out that none off the people responsible for this fraud had a political agenda, but by choosing the story that they choose to tell, it became an anti-war story and that I think is equally as bad and telling.

The AP spin is disturbing and it will be interesting to see just how hard they spin and what results from it. I think this could become a very damaging story for the MSM if it is not handled correctly and reported correctly. When you have a 28% credibility rating, you had better handle a story like this the right way………………


Not much in the news today on the Kodee – SIU fraud, except this editorial from Meta Minton of the “Southern Illinoisan:


In the editorial Minton ask the question that lots of people want to know, that being:

In the circles of journalism, the big question seems to be - was the former editor of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale student newspaper "in on it"? Did he know Kodee was a phony as was her story about a father fighting in Iraq?

Did Brenner fall victim to a Jayson Blair version of fame-seeking and like Jayson Blair crash and burn instead?

For the moment, Brenner is enjoying his five minutes of fame.

Minton recaps his conversations with Brenner and reports out:

In the last of many phone conversations I had with Brenner on Friday, he told me that he had committed to be on "Good Morning America" and "Nightline" on Monday. ABC had won the battle of the networks. According to him

Nothing on the Good Morning website so I’m guessing Brenner got bumped for hurricane coverage, and it’s a fair guess that if he was scheduled for Nightline tonight that too will get bumped for hurricane coverage.

Here was Minton’s summary, which I found interesting:

Why did the people who played roles in the hoax get involved? What was the motive?

I spoke to a lot of fellow journalists who have been poking around in this case and most of them seem to be willing to give Brenner the benefit of the doubt.

I am still skeptical.

Here's my problem: One moment, Brenner says he's distraught. Then a second phone rings (he was juggling two phones most of Friday afternoon) and his voice turns giddy.

Frankly, he seems flattered by all of the media attention. Rather than draw the curtains in shame and retreat (as did Colleen Hastings/Jaimie Reynolds on Friday) Brenner seemed to revel in it.

So you have the editor of the local non-student newspaper saying that at this point per his interviews with Brenner there appears to be some reveling in the attention by Brenner. Milton is not convinced that Brenner did not know about Kodee.

Well its one hometown editor’s opinion based on his interviews and we will see how it all pans out. It will also be interesting to see if the MSM is in fact as interested in the Kodee - SIU fraud as earlier stories have reported or if this will be a short term appearance on their radar…….


Meta Milton editor of the Southern Illinoisan is a female not a male.

Update II

Here is the Daily Egyptian follow-up interview with former editor Michael Brenner who is in the center of the storm on the Kodee fraud:


From this article my opinion of whether Michael Brenner was the mastermind of this fraud has strengthened, Here is why:

Brenner said he was blinded by a semester of good stories and accolades, and "really wanted to go out with a bang." The story of Kodee Kennings would light the fuse.


Brenner said he was proud of the story, enjoyed the recognition he received from it and was disappointed the piece did not win any state or national student journalism awards. For years, Brenner, who said he graduated in December 2004, has included the story with his resume while searching for jobs and internships.


"Enjoying the response doesn't make it a crime," Brenner said. "I thought it was a damn good story. I always knew I was a better writer than a reporter."


Basic fact checking would have caught the lie.

And especially here:

He also admitted to other mistakes at the beginning of his career at the Daily Egyptian.

In his Dec. 9, 2004, farewell column, Brenner wrote, "I've made some mistakes in my time here" and described himself as "generally untrustworthy for a while."

On Saturday, he said these statements referred to a tape recorder he would hide early in his reporting career while talking to sports contacts, which is illegal in Illinois. Brenner said he knew it was wrong, but when he first started as a sports reporter in spring 2002, he could not get sources to talk to him.

Furthermore, in "Forced apart," several misrepresentations were made...................

"I know it was wrong, but that was my writing style at the time," Brenner said.

Here as well:

Reynolds contends she went along with the deception because Brenner threatened to commit suicide and leave her name in a suicide note. Brenner said he has attempted suicide once and may have revealed that to Colleen Hastings during the course of their correspondence.

Based on what I have read, Michael Brenner has some very serious flaws as a journalist let alone an editor of the paper. It is reported that he published several of the letters as the editor without any review by anyone else on the staff. A journalist, student or other wise who did the things that have been reported above is without a doubt capable of creating the Kodee fraud.

Was it politically motivated? Looks a bit less like it was at this point the political agenda of an activist but we still don't know. What we do know is that someone chose a story line that was anti-war and one that would evoke sentiment for the story. It was a story line that would be embraced by the media and would be given a wide range to work with, and it was. It would be a story that lots in the media would want to be believed and obviously that was the case. If Michael Brenner is responsible for this fraud, it is possible that he had no political activist motive. It is possible that he was simply interested in furthering his career if he is in fact the mastermind. That said the subject chosen I think was done so with great thought of who he needed to fool, and it worked like a charm....................................

If the facts pan out that Michael Brenner created the fraud, had no political axe, but choose this political theme because he knew it would sell, then I say the fraud is more about the media than it is about Brenner at that point.

I exchanged emails with reporters from Marion Daily Jaimie Reynold's home town who say they are running stories from interviews with Brenner and Patrick Trovillion ( played Kodee's father - the fake Sgt. Dan Kennings) tomorrow. I'll post them after I have read them. They can't get Reynolds to talk to them. This story is smelling worse and worse...................