Facebook Campaigning Part II

It’s an oldie but a goodie.

Easily Leavenworth Street’s most popular story has now made it to the national news.

Back in October of 2006 we wrote the post “Facebook Campaigning” about KPTM’s Calvert Collins posting a photo of herself with 2nd District Congressional candidate Jim Esch on her Facebook page. She wrote “Vote for him on Tuesday, Nov. 7th!”

At the time, Esch wrote on his campaign blog:

Cal is a friend of mine and she posted a picture of us from a fundraiser we both attended on her facebook site. Anyhow, it’s amazing the comments people are making about it.
Ah, life in a fish bowl.

Well, now in a relatively major story, MSNBC.com’s Bill Dedman writes about how “Journalists dole out cash to politicians (quietly)” and includes the Collins-Esch tale. And Collins’ story gets a little trickier as well, Dedman writes:

A few journalists let their enthusiasm extend beyond the checkbook. A Fox TV reporter in Omaha, Calvert Collins, posted a photo on Facebook.com with her cozying up to a Democratic candidate for Congress. She urged her friends, “Vote for him Tuesday, Nov. 7!” She also gave him $500. She said she was just trying to build rapport with the candidates. (And what builds rapport more effectively than $500 and a strapless gown?)

Collins, a 23-year-old reporter for Fox station KPTM in Omaha, said that her father actually wrote the check for $500 to Jim Esch, the Democrat who lost a House race last fall.

“I had told my dad that I was friends with this man. He said, ‘Would you like me to make a donation?’ I said, ‘That’s up to you, but don’t do it in my name.'”

The reporter also posted a photo of herself with Esch on her Facebook page, with the note, “Vote for him Tuesday, Nov. 7!” After the photo was posted on a Nebraska political blog, she apologized but explained that “it is part of my job to build rapport with candidates and incumbents during election season.”

“I foolishly wrote, in jest, to vote for him, and forgot completely that that was on there,” Collins told MSNBC.com. “When my boss heard about it, I immediately removed it.”

“In a way, I’m glad this happened to me at age 23, and not 33,” Collins said, “and I will learn from it.”

Of course, MSNBC uses Collins and Esch photo for their story.

And now the MSNBC story is the main headline on the Drudge Report.

Life in the fishbowl indeed…

And KPTM went ahead and canned Calvert Collins


  1. Macombbob says:

    Who is Calvert Collins’ father? If he gave more than $2000 to Esch then gave $500 in his daughter’s name, as stated in the article, he is violating Federal Campaign laws.

  2. Eric says:

    I don’t have any problem with members of the media having opinions. It is naive to think they can be neutral about everything. I would appreciate it more if they donate however they want and then just disclose it. Or, don’t report on that issue/race/whatever. By acting otherwise, we’re left guessing if a reporter has a personal stake on every story.

    I’m more worried that Collins thinks donating $500 is part of her job and a way to build rapport. I could have understood if she just said this was a personal issue and she would fully disclose any conflict between this and her duties as a journalist.

  3. Street Sweeper says:

    I’ll publish your snarky comment, but if you read the ENTIRE article, Collins is quoted three times in three different sections of this lengnthy investigative piece. I took one of them. Feel free to read the entire thing to see her full explanation, which frankly doesn’t hold water anyway.

  4. 'sker says:

    SS on Drudge?! Congratulations on the important contribution. You provide a great service. I read that MSNBC article, and it’s just embarrassing how many D’s compared to R’s appear on the page. It’s a free country, but don’t sit there and pretend there’s no agenda in the institutional media. I’ve been keeping track of KMTV political stories in the past couple years, and I have pretty much decided they are the equivalent of the editorial or opinion page.

    Thank you for your work, SS.

  5. Street Sweeper says:

    Thanks for the kudos, but it’s not a direct link from Drudge. Our link is in the MSNBC story, which was linked.
    Always nice to get a few more readers though.

  6. David Brent says:

    Calvert Collins is a dedicated and hardworking journalist.

    She has covered countless political races, and the MSNBC article failed to cite a SINGLE example of bias in her reporting.

    Cal makes an effort to get to know candidates. Shouldn’t every political reporter?

    SS, congratulations on the exposure. Keep up the good work!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Ah, life in a fish bowl.

    Let’s think about this:

    1. He was running for office (Congress no less).
    2. She is a television journalist – supposed to be a objective journalist.
    3. They were at a public fundraiser.
    4. It was posted on the Internet on a social networking site.
    5. This objective television journalist posted on her site to “Vote for Jim Esch Nov. 7”.

    WTF was he complaining about?

  8. pat says:

    Hell, I’d run for Congress, too, if I could get a hottie like her to pose for pictures with me.

    Who cares about the money. It is the photo-op that plays!

  9. David Brent says:

    “Countless” races indeed. In her short career, Cal has covered multiple state senate races, a gubernatorial race (including a hotly contested Republican primary), a U.S. Senate race (and it’s Republican primary), and the other statewide races that were on the ballot in 2006. She also reported on ballot initiatives and referenda.

    Anonymous, your example of bias in her reporting?

  10. Don Kuhns says:

    I can see now that it was the reporter Bill Dedman who did the editing job. The full quote, which can be seen here should still be of interest to your readers. So here are the parts he cut out:

    “I would like to take a moment to set the record straight, Jim and I are friends, and nothing more. It is part of my job to build rapport with candidates and incumbents during election season. I have many friends in other campaigns… It is also important to note, I have NEVER covered the 2nd District Congressional Race, and have no plans to do so in the coming week.”

    “To those of you who have been offended by this incident, I apologize. My relationships with politicians have not and will not affect my reporting. I appreciate your understanding.”

    The photo was taken at a cancer fundraiser, she said. “We have a lot of mutual friends.” She said she posted it on her Facebook page where only her friends could see it. “I foolishly wrote, in jest, to vote for him, and forgot completely that that was on there. When my boss heard about it, I immediately removed it. Press people of opponents called it to attention.”

    “The irony is, if anyone had really done their research, I was a registered Republican. I have now changed to being an Independent, and I will stay that way my entire career.”

  11. SNOWBLWR says:

    Just another reason our major journalism schools are the new Cult of Mao for the Democrats. As a UNL J-School alum, I can tell you I was one of about three conservatives.

    Long live the blogs — may they send the Old Grey Lady (the N.Y. Times) and the rest of the mainstream media to their open and waiting graves…

  12. 'sker says:

    Ahem, Mr. Brent. No one is saying there is bias in her reporting per se. The story is that she and many others donate inordinately to Dem candidates. What causes you to bring up bias in her reporting? Ah, that “Vote for Jim Esch” line might lead one to doubt the objectivity of the news she is reporting. So you evidently made the connection – and you’re ostensibly one of her supporters. See the problem? Methinks it’s not rocket science.

  13. snowblwr says:

    Firing Collins would only be fitting.

    By the way, Sweeper, the Lincoln Journal Star gave the axe to cartoonist Paul Fell for donating $450 to Maxine Moul. His response? He doesn’t “give a rat’s ass” about the Journal Star’s ethic guidelines…

  14. Street Sweeper says:

    Yes, I saw that.

    I will say that it was never Leavenworth Street’s objective to get anyone fired. Though it’s also “curious” (chicken-sh**ed?) that KPTM only decided to act on this after the national press exposure.

    In any case, for more coverage on this media issue, Sean Weide has it wrapepd up over at the Omaha City Weekly Media Watch.

  15. m.a.h. says:

    It seems to me that Ms. Collins was probably fired for lying (or at least changing her story several times) to her bosses/employer.

    So, here’s the question: Did she, or did her daddy, give the donation and how did her name and not her daddy’s end up on Mr. Esch’s report? That, is what’s illegal. Maybe someone should look into how many other of Mr. Esch’s donors actually got the money they donated from another person who had already given the maximum amount. Or, maybe she really did part with $500 of her own paycheck for someone she was trying to build rapport with. By the way, was she just trying to build rapport with the Politician from Texas that her daddy gave to on her behalf. It looks to me like Old Cal’ was submitting a resume to Esch, just like her daddy was submitting a resume on her behalf just before graduating from college?!!

  16. Anonymous says:

    I believe I read she did actually donate the money according one source I read. Regardless, there’s no KPTM policy AGAINST donating to political candidates…why don’t you check out who Harry Pappas and his cohorts have given to in the last year or two?

    Maybe Calvert got fired for donating to the Dems? Maybe they’ll have to add “campaign contributions are only permitted if given to Republicans” into their employee contracts.

    I think we (and she) can all agree what she did was wrong. She accepted responsibility, apologized, so why is this STILL a story? This is OLD news, and she shouldn’t have been fired for such a ridiculous reason…I mean, she NEVER covered that race, so why should it matter who she donates to? She wasn’t advocating to vote for him over KPTM’s airwaves.

    While we may not agree with what was done originally, this is OLD news and we should find another journalist to get fired. I know I can think of a few: Joe Jordan, Mike McKnight? Anyone…

  17. Andy says:

    But who will be left to investigate if Mike McKnight is fired?!

    I agree with Eric’s comments. I believe reporters should be allowed to give to any cause/candidate they choose, but I would like to see more disclosure and I don’t think they should be allowed to report on anything related to what they gave money to.

    Congrats on the national mention. I found this blog via MSNBC and actually live in Omaha.

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