Monday, November 26, 2012
11:21 PM | Posted by Chris | Edit Post
Journalists often use the phrase “burying the lead”. It means the reporter doesn’t mention the most important part of the story until the end. Two reporters from the two largest newspapers in Minnesota have done just that over the past few weeks. In fact, one of them has ignored the lead completely. Minnesota has hired a new big game program leader. The position manages the deer, elk, and moose programs. Leslie McInenly started her new position within the DNR on November 15. She was previously on staff with the Minnesota Forest Resources Council. Before taking that position, McInenly spent four years studying elk in Alberta. She majored in wildlife management and biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, one of the prestigious wildlife management schools in the country.
If we look at the above qualifications on paper, McInenly certainly deserves to be in the discussion for the job of managing the deer herd in Minnesota. But there is one big problem. McInenly has never hunted deer. Sure, there are sales managers that have never worked in sales. There is a good chance your boss has never done your job. But this is deer hunting. Hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans and several thousand non-residents hunt the state’s forests and fields for deer every year. Now their hunt will be managed by someone who has never participated in a tradition they live for.
The funny thing is both Twin Cities newspapers make readers work to find out about this apparently unimportant nugget. In fact, readers of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wouldn’t know about it at all. The writer never mentions it in his story. Dave Orrick of the St. Paul Pioneer Press does write about it but doesn’t bring it up until nearly the end of the story. Here’s the most interesting part of Orrick’s story:
"Actually, I don't hunt," she said. "Obviously I'm not at all opposed to it. My father died when I was 10. A lot of people get hunting from a family tradition. I didn't have that opportunity. Just me personally, I'm not someone who joins groups of people I don't know, and hunting, it's always appeared to me, has involved groups of friends and family going out together. I've never been invited to a hunt."
She’s not at all opposed to it?? What a relief. She’s not someone who joins groups of people she doesn’t know?? She just joined the fraternity of deer hunters whether she likes it or not. According to Orrick’s story, she was never asked whether or not she hunted during the interview process. That could be the most egregious statement in the story. Why wouldn’t that be part of the interview process? Isn’t that important? It is to deer hunters.
But the story gets even better. We’ve all seen political debates in which candidates are asked about specifics. Orrick does a great job of doing just that. When political candidates don’t know the answer or don’t want to be tied to one side of an issue they often side step the question. Here’s McInenly’s answer when Orrick asks about deer management specifics:
"I don't think I'm in a position at this point to talk about specifics. I'm still getting up to speed. I am really eager to see how the harvest data looks in a lot of these areas, like the antler-point restrictions."
I applaud Orrick for asking McInenly these questions when it seems that no one else was willing to. But I’m left to wonder why he waited until the closing paragraphs to reveal the answers. Orrick is the outdoor reporter for the Pioneer Press and as a beat reporter it is often difficult to be critical of those you will deal with on a day-to-day basis. Deer hunting probably isn’t as important as legislative issues or crime, but it is a big deal to many.
Perhaps McInenly will do great work in her new position. I hope she takes on the challenge of hunting for the first time. But until we see results, deer hunters should keep an eye on what is going on within the department. We may be the only ones who are.
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