Minneapolis-St. Paul television reporter Jennifer Griswold had a hot story in early 2009: Cheryl Blaha had come to the station claiming that Susan Anderson, a naturopath, had told her to get off an anti-anxiety drug, which led Blaha to threaten suicide. Griswold stormed onto Anderson’s ranch, camera in tow, demanding answers. Anderson told the reporter she couldn’t talk about her former patient unless she signed a waiver. The station began airing promos for the story and interviewed Anderson hours before the broadcast, and only after a lawyer friend protested. And, as it turned out, Blaha’s story wasn’t supported by her medical records.
Last November, a jury awarded Anderson $1 million, the largest defamation judgment in Minnesota history. City Pages’ Gregory Pratt lays out how the station earned that distinction, including Blaha’s bizarre deposition and Griswold’s testimony that the story was accurate. Anderson’s attorney, Pat Tierney, ties the story’s production and packaging to what Pratt characterizes as a “broader problem with television news”:
“Every time you watch an investigative report nowadays they try to get the same video clip of the person running away from the camera, ducking, not wanting to be interviewed,” Tierney says. “It all makes for great TV, but are those reporters trying to get to the truth, trying to find out what really happened? I don’t think that’s how you do it.”