How we reported on the Kupfer case

I usually enjoy using the space I'm afforded every other week in this column to make you laugh or otherwise entertain you. This is not one of those weeks.

I usually enjoy using the space I'm afforded every other week in this column to make you laugh or otherwise entertain you. This is not one of those weeks.

We had a very serious story striped across the top of our front page last week. It was about alleged misconduct by our school board and superintendent.

The story I wrote this past week was not a hasty rush-to-press article. The first interviews in this story came in early July. The lawsuit was presented to Wadena County District Court on Nov. 21, but wasn't officially filed until Nov. 27. We still held off on the story until the Dec. 6 issue to re-interview a lot of the parties involved.

We utilized a confidential source, which is and will be rare for this newspaper. We followed our own criteria for granting anonymity to a source: we couldn't get the information any other way, and we feared retaliation against the source if the name was used. We talked to far more sources than we included in print, just to make sure we had our facts right.

Some people have criticized us for weighting one side of the story (Kupfer's) more than the WDC board's or the superintendent's. That's a fair criticism, and we'd like to explain. We offered -- and in some cases urged -- the school board and superintendent to make a more substantial statement about these allegations. We contacted each local board member individually before a call was made to the board's attorney, to see if anyone wanted to offer any insight beyond the boiler plate response the attorney would offer. They all stood together. And we published the entire defense they presented by the fifth paragraph -- in an article that spanned 72 paragraphs. Every syllable they offered on the situation was published within the first 8 percent of the report.


We feel we gave the defense every opportunity in this story, yet many in the public are upset by their lack of response. We can assure you it's not from a lack of trying.

Consider our position. One side of this story tells us they're an open book, and we can ask every hard question in our arsenal to challenge their assertions. The other side says they'll tell us nothing, and will stonewall us.

Where does our obligation to our readers as a watchdog for this community end? Surely we could have just put in one side, put in the other side, and run away from the topic, not touching it with a 10-foot pole. We could have presented you with a confusing set of diametrically-opposed viewpoints, leaving the heavy lifting to you, the reader, absolving ourselves of anything difficult, and expecting you to search for the truth on your own.

We just won't do that.

You, the reader, told us a few months ago that we should be the watchdog for this community. That's a difficult and important job, but we accept that responsibility.

So we went beyond the typical he-said, she-said. We cultivated sources outside the current school board and administration. We recognized one side would tell you the world was black, the other side would swear to you it was white. And we realized we had an obligation to ask a few questions around town to help you understand just what shade of gray reality resided in.

We're still trusting you, the reader, to make your own judgements about how this situation affects you, and how you view the current leaders in the WDC district. Frankly, we've been so busy trying to dig up the truth, we haven't had time to consider how you, the residents of the school district, should react to all of this. And it's not necessarily our place to tell you what to think of all of this. As you have put your faith in us to dig up the truth, we will always place our faith in you to draw your own conclusions about our reporting and forge your own path.

We wouldn't presume we're smart enough to tell you how to think about the future path of the school district. We just hope we've done enough hard work to arm you with the facts you need.

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