This is Robyne Robinson's last day at Fox, which almost certainly means there will be an on-air celebration tonight of her 20 years in a market. I think the party should be canceled.
Let me first say that I like Robyne, both as a person and a personality. In the time I've spent with her, she's always been warm, witty and hip. There might not be a more natural, at-ease broadcaster in the state. Personally, I like an anchor with some more investigative and reporting chops -- I can't think of a major news story that Robyne reported herself -- but I give her props for putting the rich Twin Cities arts world front and center for two decades, more than any other TV anchor I can think of. I have taken issue with the fact that Robyne is also a player in the arts world, which smells of a conflict of interest. I think Robyne would say that by being embedded in the arts community, she's better equipped to cover it.
That's a sound argument. Her latest is not.
Robyne said earlier this week that she's been asked to run on the gubernatorial ticket with Democrat Matt Entenza. She says she's seriously considering it. (Entenza's campaign says no one has been asked, a strange contradiction.) She and her station say there's no conflict of interest until she officially announces she's a candidate. Bull. The minute she said openly that she'd think about it should have been the minute Fox officials thanked her for her service and showed her the door. Here are some reasons that was the only way to go:
1) Robyne has been making the rounds since Monday talking about her love for the Twin Cities. In an excellent MPR interview Tuesday, she was asked about her interests, and she mentioned her work with the arts, teen pregnancy and education. That would all be fine if she was simply reminiscing about her TV career, but that's also the spiel from a politician selling their image. It's a CAMPAIGN, even if hers hasn't officially begun. That's a major breach of ethics, whether she's signed the papers or not.
2) Robyne has answered questions about her interest in taking the political plunge to a degree that makes a lot of us feel like that's a bigger priority than talking about her two decades at Fox. Of course, that's what journalists want -- it's a juicy story -- but she's played right along and one senses that her anchor job is not top on the list. Case in point: On Tuesday, Robyne missed her 5 p.m. broadcast because her MPR interview ran late and she was caught in traffic. Why she didn't do the interview by phone -- or why she did it at all at that time -- is a mystery, unless she thought it was more important than doing the most important thing an anchor must do: BE ON TIME. If her bosses didn't take her off the air on Monday, they should have done it after she was tardy.
3) By aligning herself with Entenza, even tenuously, she has shown her political colors as a Democrat. Any news figure will tell you that's a no-no for an anchor who is supposed to be non-partisan. That has to be uncomfortable for colleagues -- and it should make Robyne uncomfortable, too.
And while we're on the subject of crossing the line: I'm concerned about the relationship between Robyne and her publicist Kate Iverson. Robyne has openly praised L'Etoile magazine, which just happens to be run by Iverson. A few months ago, there was a story in City Pages about Robyne designing jewelry for Beyonce written by, yep, Iverson. The story desperately needed fact checking (insiders say it was greatly exaggerated) and an acknowledgement of their personal relationship. Neither happened.
These are issues that should concern local media involved these matters. I'm disappointed that it hasn't appeared to be a priority.