In the Spotlight

News & Features
A Gubernatorial Counseling Session
By Lynette Nyman
October 14, 1999
Click for audio RealAudio 3.0

Governor Ventura's chief spokesperson says he's trying to repair the bad relations between the local news media and the governor. Speaking today before journalism students in Saint Paul, John Wodele said there is friction, but still believes Minnesotans are getting the information they need to stay informed about Ventura's policy positions.

GOVERNOR VENTURA'S director of communications, John Wodele, found himself in something of a lion's den at the University of St. Thomas journalism forum. Wodele faced a panel of four Capitol press-corps reporters, a group with which, he admitted, relations have been icy lately.
Wodele: I think a lot about how we got where we are today, and I'm not sure why we're in this relationship. I wish to God that we were not. I can tell you that sincerely. I do not think that it's a good situation for any of us.
At the same time, Wodele believes the people of Minnesota are not being cheated out of news on the governor. He said the citizens are still learning about Ventura's positions.
Wodele: I think in spite of this environment that we have created, it is getting out, and that is in a large part a credit to media that's covering him on a day-to-day basis. They find ways to make news, but also give Governor Ventura credit for getting his message out in unconventional ways.
Wodele pointed to Ventura's book and other interviews. Many of those were given to national media outlets such as Newsweek, the New York Times, and ABC Television. This inequity between local and national media access troubles Capitol-based reporters the most.
Kessler: There's a local media blackout.
WCCO's political reporter Pat Kessler was on the panel with Wodele.
Kessler: Our last interview with the governor was on May 18th.
Wodele: Your last one-on-one interview with the governor was on May 18th. During that time I'll venture to bet Patrick has had hundreds of opportunities to talk to the governor.
Kessler: For which most of those times he'll deny comment.
Wodele explained he helps the governor make decisions about what interviews to accept. He wouldn't reveal the reasons that go into making those decisions, but even he has limitations as the governor's press secretary.
Wodele: If I can get an interview with a reporter I'm going to take it. I don't care where they're from. If I go into the governor, and say I get "no, no, no, no, no," and I say, "How about the New York Times," I'm going to encourage it, absolutely.
As far as Wodele is concerned, it doesn't matter what outlet conducts an interview as long as it has a Minnesota audience. So a local newspaper doesn't carry more weight than the New York Times, which has a sizeable Minnesota readership. In fact, the governor favors national outlets because he believes the local media, especially the editorial pages in newspapers, have treated him unfairly and he questions their news judgement. Wodele said he spent the morning talking with the governor about granting greater access to local media.
Wodele: We haven't achieved a relationship that is mutually beneficial at this time. I'm not giving up.
Several solutions on the table include access "off the record" and interviews with "ground rules," both things reporters and editors aren't likely to agree to.