Minnesota has never had a governor who has been the media magnet that Gov. Jesse Ventura has proven to be, so it's not surprising new situations arise in his dealings with print and broadcast journalists.
Sen Ember Reichgott Junge, DFL-New Hope, asked WCCO Radio to provide lawmakers with air time to rebut comments the governor makes on his hour-long, weekly "Lunch with the Governor" show.
The station agreed to the request, although it's not clear how much time the lawmakers will get. The legislators' air time could come as early as Friday.
Ventura's show has included feel-good interviews by the governor of guests he has invited on to the show and discussions with phone-in callers. Adversaries of the governor have not been invited.
If it were just a folksy, fireside chat with the governor perhaps there would be no need for rebuttal. However, Ventura, a former radio talk show host, is a skilled broadcaster who has never shied away from using his gubernatorial radio show to blast critics. Unfortunately, when the governor uses the air time to blast his opponents there is no one there to correct his misstatements. Last Friday, for example, Ventura erroneously detailed how the Senate had handled an ethics complaint against a senator last year.
WCCO should be commended for providing lawmakers the opportunity to respond to the governor. The radio station was apparently under no legal mandate to do so since the equal access laws relating to broadcasts apply only to candidates competing in a campaign. There was, however, a fairness issue, and WCCO wisely noted that and acted accordingly.
While the lawmakers who are chosen to respond to Ventura (a balance of Republicans and Democrats) might not be as colorful as the governor behind a microphone they serve a useful purpose in reminding listeners that what Minnesota's famous governor has to say about state government isn't the final word.
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