A Change Will Do Ya Good

I’d like to take a moment to talk a little more about the Senate Media Credentialing rules discussion from yesterday.

First – thanks to the working group, who did the vast majority of the work.  The group included (as noted elsewhere) David Brauer of the MinnPost, Michael Brodkorb (the Executive Assistant to the Majority Caucus, Rules Committee Executive Director Cullen Sheehan, Minority caucus communications director Beau Berentson and Senate Sergeant-At-Arms Sven Lindquist.

Now, here’s the important take-away; if the full Senate passes the change (it’s supposed to come up on the floor on Thursday), the Minnesota Senate will have the most transparent, open and non-partisan media process of any state government body in the United States.   Literally – there are a few legislatures that are in the same ballpark (Montana springs to mind) but there are none better.

And for that, I have to give my kudos to Michael Brodkorb – who in addition to being a mover and shaker in the MNGOP and the Majority caucus is a former blogging powerhouse, my former Northern Alliance colleague, and my friend.  He was the driving force behind the working group, which in effect makes him the prime mover behind the reforms.  The reforms themselves do nothing to benefit the MNGOP majority for which he works; as such, they could be fairly termed “statesmanlike” of the governing majority (and yes, it is a fact that the DFL members of the Rules committee supported the changes as well).  A good idea is a good idea, no partisan label needed.

Which made it interesting to flip through the comments in David Brauer’s original post on the proposal and the working group.  Brodkorb derangement syndrome is a real, serious issue among Minnesota’s comment-section keyboard warriors.

Brodkorb isn’t the only target, naturally;  Mark Gisleson, who to my knowledge has ever had a positive affect on anything, ever, wrote:

Don’t do it. If you do, you’re acknowledging that you are the equivalent of Mitch Berg, and that’s a libelous assertion because Mitch is a partisan blogger and radio host who will never cut a liberal an even break, whereas your work is objective, and not driven by liberal politics.

Gisleson is, to be tactful, raving and utterly un-based in fact; I was there to make sure the entire alternative media, left, right and utterly unaligned, could get access and be treated as “journalists” and reporters, with the same rights (and responsibilities) as the “real” ones.  I was there every bit as much to represent the likes of left-wing media like “The Uptake” and Minnesota “Progressive” Project as I was for True North and Minnesota Democrats Exposed and, for that matter, Shot In The Dark.

Not to push a “conservative” agenda. Period.  And Brauer, although he was added as “the token lefty”, was equally party-blind in his approach to the proceedings.

(And lefties should be a lot more careful about terms like “libel”; if being associated with me defames David Brauer, it would only be among people who are so deranged with partisan paranoia that the other key part of a libel charge, “damage to the victim’s reputation”, is pretty much a moot, if not negated, point.  Just my opinion, of course).

But enough of that.  The real message is that, if the Senate passes the bill (and from what I hear, even the DFLers who’ve been asked have approved), then the mission, to provide a better, more open, non-partisan means of access to our lawmakers to the New,  Alternative media – left, right or none of the above – and eliminate the old system that subjected the new media to the partisan whims of the sitting majority – is accomplished.

And that’s all that really matters.

Access, Part II

It was April 28, 2003.  I sat in the public gallery of the Minnesota State Senate, with a legal pad (this back when WiFi was kinda rare, much less Air Cards), scrawling madly on a legal pad, writing down the salient points of the debate going on below – the final debate on the (intial) passing of the Minnesota Personal Protection Act.

As I sat there, I knew three things as clearly as I could see Ellen Anderson theatrically donning a flak jacket:

  1. After 16 years of reading, study and activism, I knew more about this issue than most of the legislators on the floor, and any of the Capitol Press contingent – the Pat Kesslers and Laura McCollums and even Bill Salisburys – in the building.
  2. Had I been able to do what reporters were able to – go out on the floor after the close of debate, to interview the likes of Wes Skoglund and Ellen Anderson and Linda Berglin – I could have gone a long way toward presenting the public a much better, clearer, more complete accounting of the issue than they got from the mainstream media – which, to be fair, had come a long way, at least in terms of fairness, in the previous seven years.
  3. I would not get that chance – because I was not “the media”.  I was just a mere peasant with a blog.  And that just didn’t count, back then.

The media landscape has changed since 2003 – a lot.  And Minnesota has led the way; bloggers, especially conservatives, have blazed the trail for the rest of the alternative media, knocking down walls that had stood for generations between “media” and democracy.

But not in the Minnesota state capitol.

As of the beginning of this session, there were two ways to get media credentials to the Minnesota State Senate:

  • Be a reporter who worked for a short list of old-media outlets that were spelled out, word for word, in the Senate Rules; newspapers like the Strib and the PiPress; radio stations like WCCO and KSTP-AM, which hasn’t deployed a fulltime reporter to the Capitol since Cathy Wurzer worked there, back when I worked there, in 1986, and MPR.  The big TV stations.  And that was about it.
  • Get vouched in with the Sergeant at Arms by a Senator or caucus staffer.  These were usually “day passes” – short-term access to cover debates on hot-button issues.

It was both an anachronism – there is no mention of new media anywhere in the Senate rules – and a political football.  Things came to a head in the 2009-2010 session, as the DFL caucus gave credentials to “The Uptake” – a very liberal group videoblog – but denied them to Saint  Cloud conservative talk show host Dan Ochsner for being “partisan”.

The worm looked like it was turning this session; early on, the the Senate, now controlled by the MNGOP, denied credentials to all partisan news outlets, including the Uptake.

This was the road to madness – and, likely, litigation.

About this time a month ago, Senate GOP Caucus Communications director Michael Brodkorb – who is also the deputy chair of the MNGOP, a former blog star from his days running Minnesota Democrats Exposed, and incidentally my former “Northern Alliance Radio Network” colleague  – asked MinnPost’s David Brauer and I to participate in a working group to revamp the rules.  The goals were pretty simple; to…:

  • Remove the partisanship from the process of determining who was a “journalist” and, more germanely, which “journalists” got credentials.
  • Set up a fair, transparent, non-partisan process for apportioning these press credentials that both protected the interests of the legacy media (which have invested a lot of time and money in covering the Capitol over the years) with the imperative to legitimize and normalize access from the New Media.
  • Make the process fast, simple and inexpensive for the non-partisan Senate staffers – the Sergeant at Arms’ office, the Senate Information Office and the Department of Administration – to run, and to add no extra burden or, in these cost-conscious times, expense to the process of administering press credentials.

Brauer was there in his rather unique capacity as both a vet of the  mainstream media and a reporter for a site that is a little bit old and a little bit new-media.  Me?  Although I’ve worked in the MSM, I was there mostly to represent new and, I suspect, explicitly partisan media.

On both the left and the right.

Last week, the working group – Brodkorb, Brauer, Majority Caucus staffer Cullen Sheehan, minority-caucus staffer Beau Berentson, Sergeant-at-Arms Sven Lindquist and me – had its last meeting, and handed off our final recommendations.  The recommendations went through the (non-partisan) lawyers, past us for one more round of making sure the lawyers were saying what we thought we were saying, and, today, to the Senate Rules Committee where, if all goes according to plan, Brauer and I will be testifying later this afternoon.

Brauer on the results:

Here’s what would happen if Senators approve our recommendations:

The Sergeant-at-Arms — a nonpartisan staffer — would administer the credentialing process. Senators and partisan staff are expressly prohibited from intervening unless a journalist appeals his or her rejection. (More on that in a bit.)

Believe me, nobody — not the politicians, not the Capitol press corps — wants to define who is a journalist. However, because Senate space is limited, we decided on a fairly low bar: Applicants for a session-long credential must include three pieces in any format in the past year on “matters before the legislature.” That can include blog posts, video, etc.

The proposed rules state “any opinion in such pieces is immaterial” for credentialing. Does this mean more “ideological” journalists will get credentials? Almost certainly yes.

Count on it.  I’m going to make a note to file next year.

But the Minnesota and U.S. Constitutions don’t limit freedom of the press to perceived non-ideologues.

However, publications “owned or controlled” by lobbyists, political parties and party organizations “shall not be granted credentials.” Lobbyists are currently barred from the Senate floor.

The entire proposal, post-counsel, is here.

Credentialing, by the way, means…:

  • You can get in line for one of the six seats on the Senate floor (stage-left from the podium), or ten seats reserved for media in the Gallery. Four of the floor seats are reserved for the “mainstream” media that rents space in the Capitol basement; the other two are “first-come, first served” seats for any other credentialed media.  Four of the ten gallery seats are reserved for TV cameras from the lessees downstairs, if they show up.
  • You can get material – agendas, roll-call votes and so on – from the Senate Information Office.
  • After the final gavel, you can go on the floor to interview Senators – provided that you follow the decorum rules and the Senate’s unwritten dress code (.  This is one thing that media people can do that the general public can not.

The most important part of these changes?   There is no partisan input into who is a “journalist”, or who is granted credentials.  The entire process is run by non-partisan staff, working to standards that leave the process open to pretty much anyone who wants to cover the Senate and who can make a fairly minimal commitment – writing three articles, not being a lobbyist or a party employee, following the decorum rules – to just about the lowest-possible barrier of entry to the term “journalist”.  You’ll need to apply for your session pass thirty days before the session kicks off.

And unlike the current system, there is recourse if you’re denied.  Brauer notes:

The Sergeant’s office has 14 days to review an application. That means if you want to cover opening day, get your application in by mid-December. It also means you can’t just drop in on the Capitol and declare yourself a journalist. (There’s a separate provision for day passes.)

If the Sergeant’s office rejects an application, the reasons must be spelled out in writing. One legal advisor strongly suggested having an appeals process. Therefore, the matter would go to the Senate Rules committee, which must issue a decision within 14 days.

This does bring politicians into the mix. The concept is that the Senate is the final arbiter of its rules (short of the courts, where applicants can always turn). Could Senators bum-rush an applicant they didn’t like? It’s possible. But unlike the current process, the debate would occur in public and be governed by their rules, which again, forbid consideration of opinion.

The upshot:  bloggers, talk-radio hosts, videobloggers, and traditional news media will be considered journalists, for purposes of getting credentials, if the Rules Committee and then the Senate passes the proposal.  Partisanship will not be either a disqualifier or a factor in apportioning access.

Having a good alarm clock, however, will.

I think it’s a fair trade.

Access

The ongoing squabble over access to the floor for media – partsian alternative media as well as the traditional kind – has been an ongoing battle at the State Capitol for a few years now.

The rhubarb flared up again as the session started earlier month, as left-leaning group-blog “The Uptake” was denied “floor credentials”.

Now, “floor credentials” aren’t the beginning and end of capitol journalism.  David Brauer notes:

While credentials aren’t needed for Capitol press conferences, floor passes are about access. Conversations are only permitted before or after a day’s session, but the immediacy of interviews before lawmakers scatter is as valuable, as is the candor that occasionally results before marching orders are received.

It’s not the be-all of reportage: Senate Sgt-at-Arms Sven Lindquist says press seats on the cramped floor are frequently unoccupied, except during big votes. Still, it’s a tool for the journalistic toolbox.

And it’s a tool that pretty much everyone wants – just in case.  Including The Uptake.

Now, the power to grant credentials, as Brauer notes, used to be a non-partisan activity:

Sgt-at-arms Lindquist says the power to review and grant credentials used to be handled by himself and Senate Secretary Patrick Flahaven. But in recent years, Lindquist says the power moved “elsewhere” — to the majority leader’s office, which is, by definition, partisan.

It’s obviously an issue needing some resolution.  Which is where this piece starts.

Earlier this month, a source close to the GOP’s caucus leadership told me that, while (as Brauer notes) the rules don’t bar “partisan” media, the decision was made to deny credentials to all partisan media, pending the development of a policy.

A few weeks ago, Michael Brodkorb – who handles communications for the majority GOP caucus in the Minnesota Senate, in addition to being the deputy chair of the Minnesota GOP – called me to ask if I’d be interested in working with a group of DFL and GOP staffers, as well as MinnPost writer David Brauer, on coming up with a more or less comprehensive policy on granting floor credentials.

Every state has a different solution to the issue – ranging from free access to the floor to credentialed media in Rhode Island and Montana (and credentials are pretty much given for the asking) to Illinois, which requires a vote of the applicable chamber to allow the  media to take pictures, much less get on the floor.

The goal – near as I can tell so far – is to come up with a transparent policy that’ll give fair access to the Senate floor to media organizations, while coming up with some sort of balance between the establishment media’s vocational need for access and the alt-media’s right to a place at the proverbial table.

I’m honored to have been asked.  My goal is to try to help this group come up with a policy that fairly and transparently gives all media a fair, clear means to cover our Senate, for the good of the entire electorate.

I’ll keep you all posted.  Because even if I didn’t, Brauer certainly would.

Hey, Wait!

Hasn’t the Twin Cities media – especially the “alternative”, liberal version – been barbering for years about how Rep. Michele Bachmann just doesn’t do “mainstream” media?

Why, yes – they have

But – did I hear Michele Bachmann doing an extended interview with Cathy Wurzer on MPR’s Morning Edition this morning?

Why, yes I did!

Someone tell Andy Birkey!

No, don’t.  Rather, tell Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, all of whom I’ve invited onto the Northern Alliance Radio Network in the past two years, none of whom have so much as responded.  (In the interest of completeness, note that Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak appeared, as did “Growth and Justice” majordomo Dane Smith.  We had a great time talking with both of ‘em, because – shibboleths about conservative talk radio aside – Ed Morrissey and I will put our cross-aisle interviews up against anything in the commercial or public media today in terms of civility and fairness (while allowing that we are, in fact, conservative).

So whatdya say, Reps Ellison and McCollum?  How about it, Senators Franken and Klobuchar? 

For that matter, we’ve had an invite out to Common Cause Minnesota for six weeks now – submitted on this blog, via email, via a voice mail message, and on Twitter.  Not a word.

How about Denise Cardinal of “Alliance for a Better Minnesota”?  Perhaps she could come on the show and discuss the Dayton-family-finance slime campaign she orchestrated?

For that matter, howzabout we get an invite to Mark Dayton?  I’ve heard Tom Emmer do a center-left show; d’ya suppose Dayton’s got the gumption to go across the aisle…

…like Representative Bachmann did?

Help Wanted

I participated in a conference call with Chip Cravaack and his campaign yesterday; it was where he officially released the news that his internal polling shows him in a statistical tie with 17-term representative Jim Oberstar.

And Cravaack quipped that while he’s trying to run a local campaign with local activists, he noted that all of the bloggers on the call – Ed Morrissey (CD2), Derek Brigham (CD3), Gary Gross (CD6) and I (CD4) were from outside the district.

And I thought – wow.  Could it be there are no conservative bloggers in the Eighth District?

If so, that needs to change.

If you are a conservative blogger up in the Eighth District, and you’ve been covering the Oberstar/Cravaack race, drop me a line, either in the comments or on my email address.

And if you’ ve ever wanted to start a conservative blog up there in Duluth or Two Harbors or Virginia, there’s no time like the present.  Go to Blogger.com, and take two minutes to set up your blog, and devote twenty minutes a day to writing something about politics in the Eighth District, and when you’ve got a week or two and half a dozen articles in, let me know; the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers and True North will set you off in style.

Perhaps you can become that alt-media elite.  (There are more than a few leftybloggers up there.  You should do juuuust fine).

Kaus & Effect

Blogging hits the ballot in California.

On Tuesday, voters in the Golden State will chose nominees for the state’s U.S. Senate general election.  And while most of the media oxygen for the race (already fighting for air against the uber-expensive GOP gubernatorial primary) has been sucked up by the Republican electoral 3-way, Democrats must thin their herd as well.  Only two Democrats are saying “no ma’am” to another term for incumbent Barbara Boxer: a disheveled, quixotic blogger and a vainglorious Hollywood “producer” whose campaign seems to be an excuse to post pictures of him with famous people.

Guess which of the three scored a profile by the New York Times:

No, this is not your typical Senate campaign command center; but then again, [Mickey] Kaus is not your typical Senate hopeful. His lair speaks more to his career of the last 10 years — prolific blogger and professional curmudgeon — than the one he’s currently aspiring to. As the one-man show behind Kausfiles on Slate, Mr. Kaus was one of the first political bloggers, after a print career that included stops at publications like Newsweek and Harper’s…

“If you’d asked me is he ever going to run for Senate, I’d say, ‘Are you crazy?’ ” says Michael Kinsley, editor at large of The Atlantic Wire and a longtime friend. “He seems like a classic blogger — someone who is happier in front of his computer than he is out kissing babies.”

But Mr. Kaus has thrown himself into his quixotic campaign with surprising earnestness, undeterred by his prospects (grim) and general diagnosis (insane). He is the first person to admit that he has absolutely no chance of becoming California’s next Senator, but contends that this is not really the point. He says he is running as a protest candidate in order to draw attention to his pet issues.

California has often been viewed as political laboratory – from recall elections and an ever-expanding list of constitutional propositions - even if most of their creations have taken on a Frankensteinesque quality in recent decades.  So it might as well be that the strengthes and limitations of the first fully blog-based candidate be demonstrated on a West Coast ballot.

Much like the blog, Kaus Files, that launched him into prominence within the punditry, Mickey Kaus’ candidacy has been rife with political paradoxes.  Instead of focusing on areas where he agrees with the Democratic base, Kaus is solidly running to Boxer’s right on unions and immigration.  Attacked as a closet Republican, Kaus invokes Paul Wellstone is his campaign’s sole TV advertisement.  Treating his campaign as a Dave Barry/Gore Vidal joke candidacy one minute, the next Kaus is writing serious political manifestos.

Yet it’s hard to escape the feeling that had Kaus taken himself – or his campaign – more seriously, his spoiler candidacy might have done more than simply garner a few memorable press clippings for his scrapebook. 

If the mood of the electorate is hostile across the country, California voters appear ready to find the nearest Bastille.  Every single major party candidate has their approval/disapproval numbers upside-down, including Boxer at 37/46 – and that’s relatively healthy compared to most of the other statewide candidates.  And whether California Democrats wish to acknowledge it or not, Kaus’ pet issues of unions and immigration are two big parts of the mosaic of problems that have painted the state forever in the red.

When even the LA Times refuses to endorse the incumbent, you know the political climate has turned stormy.  But the limitations of Kaus’ own personality precluded him turning the non-endorsement to his advantage.  Or as the paper put it: “But we can’t endorse him, because he gives no indication that he would step up to the job and away from his Democratic-gadfly persona.”

Blogging has certainly give Kaus an leg-up otherwise undeserved by his campaign.  What other forum would allow a candidate with a $36,000 budget, no visible support and with such blunt honesty about his chances that he was deined a speaking slot at the Democratic convention, as much media fanfare as Kaus has enjoyed?

But persuading an electorate is world’s away from simply unleasing opinions into the ether of the internet. Even recognized as one of the Founding Fathers of internet journalism and blogging, the height of Kaus’ popularity was 40,000 unique visitors each day – a tremendous audience in blog terms but a pittance in political value.

“The Kaus blog speaks to a very smart and important influential niche, but it’s still just a niche,” says the conservative blogger Jonah Goldberg, who has supported Mr. Kaus’s campaign in the National Review Online. “The universe of bloggers is a hell of a lot smaller than a lot of bloggers like to think.”

UPDATE: So much for the New York Times. Kaus was demolished, as expected, but surprisingly finished in 3rd - 55,000 votes behind Hollywoodd hanger-on Brian Quintana for 5.2%.

Connect The Dots!

Salem Communications – which owns both Townhall.com, America’s leading online conservative clearinghouse and Salem Radio, which in turns owns the radio station on which my radio program airs – has apparently purchased leading conservative site Hot Air, owned by Michelle Malkin and which employs my radio colleague Ed Morrissey, and its million daily pageviews.

Someone notify the media! The barbarians are at the gates!

Democrats: Criminalizing Dissent

Democrats Diane Feinstein and Dick “Turban” Durbin – who have long been the Dems’ official trial-balloon-floaters for assaults on free speech like the “Fairness Doctrine” – are proposing an amendment to a Senate bill (S.448) clarifying the press shield law.

And it’s aimed squarely at citizen journalists like you and I.  Via RWN, here’s the amendment text, with some emphases added:

AMENDMENTS intended to be proposed by Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself and Mr. DURBIN )

Viz:

In section 10(2)(A), strike clause (iii) and insert the following:

[a "journalist" is shielded if he/she] (iii) obtains the information sought while working as a salaried employee of, or independent contractor for, an entity

(I) that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, 1or other means; and

(II) that—

(aa) publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical;

(bb) operates a radio or television broadcast station, network, cable system, or satellite carrier, or a channel or programming service for any such station, network, system, or carrier;

(cc) operates a programming service; or

(dd) operates a news agency or wire service;

In other words, you need to be an employee of a news business.  All of us hobby hacks in our pajamas in our basements are out in the cold.

In section 10(2)(B), strike ‘‘and’’ at the end.

In section 10(2)(C), strike the period at the end and insert ‘‘; and’’.

In section 10(2), add at the end the following:

(D) does not include an individual who gathers or disseminates the protected information sought to be compelled anonymously or under a pseudonym.

This would seem to be aimed at the likes of James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles – provided they’re not employed by a Major News Outlet, of course.

Leaving aside the obvious indication that this is the Democrats’ way of circling their wagons around ACORN – this is a fascinating look into the authoritarianism of the Democrat party at work.

The conservative blogosphere is dominated by independents who cover their fields of expertise, whatever they are (this blog: music, financial planning, wine, tomatos and Minnesota politics) for the pure, unadulterated love of the game.  From Power Line (which covers all they survey) to Speed Gibson (who patrols the ramparts of northwest-suburban education), we mostly do it because we want to, money be damned. 

The left, on the other hand, has built up a network of “business” entities and non-profits, from the pseudo-newspaper-y “MNPost” to the not-very-covert propagandists at the “Center for Independent Media” (parent of the Minnesoros “Indepdendent”), at exquisite cost; one might now presume that this money was spent to get ahead of the legislative curve that the Feinstein/Durbin proposal represents, as a further attempt to shut down independent, non-government-vetted thought in this country.

This is Obama’s America.

Since Our Congress Won’t Do It

Something for all you conservatives (and people who care about free markets and being able to get decent health care in this country) on Twitter:

I’ve been @ messaging folks but hopefully you can give this some
traction: Suppose you tweet the following:

Please RT — select any number of pages from health care bill
http://is.gd/4rxIr, read them, & post results at #crowdread

Nobody said it would be easy, of course:

I already have a (half-a**ed — I can’t read that s**t!) entry…

This would be one of those areas where conservatives’ domination of Twitter could be a very good thing.

I may do it on the blog, here, too.  Presuming I can make heads or tails of any of it.

Just A Reminder

I’ll be joining a few thousand of our closest friends at the Minnesota Tea Party in a few hours. 

It’ll be at the Minnesota Capitol Grounds, starting around 5PM.  I’ll be joining a list of other speakers - Constitutional lawyer Marjorie Holsten, Doug Dahl, KLTK personality Sue Jeffers, Free market majordomo and AM1280 host David Strom, Healthcare reform powerhouse Twilia Brase, Dennis Madden, Doug Malsom, and KTLK-FM host Chris Baker, along with Bradlee Dean from “You Can Run International” and AM1280′s “Sons of Liberty”.  KKMS’ Lee Michaels hosts.

Me?  I’ll be speaking bright and early; just like when I was playing guitar in the bars, I’m the opening act.

And it’s gonna be fun!  See you there!

A Parliament Of Grasshoppers

I’ve been blogging for seven and a half years; I was a couple of years ahead of the “fad” curve, for once in my life.

And when it comes to political blogs, I think the various blog cultures reflect their owners.  Liberals, being primarily herd creatures, are very hierarchical in their blogging; if you follow a lot of leftyblogs (and I do), you can almost see the memes starting with Kos and Atrios and the Huffpo, and work their way down through the ranks (and I use the term “ranks” intentionally).  Conservatives, being basically decentralized (one could almost say “rudderless”, at times in the past half-decade) have approach blogging in a much less organized way – but the underlying current among conservative blogs has been less to serve as a political engine than as a form of “samizdat” alternative media to outflank what conservatives perceive (correctly) to be the bias and in-the-bag nature of the mainstream media.  That is, of course, a much more scattered approach.

And for people who make their living at this, it’s a distinction that matters.

Of course, the mainstream media is the last group of people that can really understand that, but when organizations like CNN try to write about the subject:

“While it is obvious the progressive blogosphere is superior, we are being out-organized on Twitter,” said Gina Cooper, a blogger who helped organize Netroots Nation, an annual gathering of online liberal activists that met last week in Pittsburgh. “There is some catching up to do on the progressive side.”

It took me a moment push  my skull back into my head when I read that – but once I did, it made sense, in context (where “context” means “with the parameters of the discussion shoved into a nearly meaningless corner”).  Liberal bloggins is superior, as a medium for delivering votes to Democrats.  Until the likes of the Center for “Independent” Media and other “Progressive” groups started pouring money into leftyblogging, either directly or via providing cushy full-time blogging jobs for leading leftybloggers, the lefty blogosphere was a morass of banal, unfocused, Bush-deranged rage.  With money and leadership, the leftysphere became a tightly focused array of banal, Bush-deranged rage aimed at raising money and turning out voters.

Of course, in the leftyphere focuses on opinion and organization, not on serious analysis or reporting.  There is no leftyblog analog to, say, Powerline’s shredding of Dan Rather’s hit piece on President Bush’s Air National Guard record.

But viewed purely as organizing?  The piece has a point.  For conservatives, the blogosphere is largely a replacement for the morning newspaper. Most of us are not fundemantally politcal people – we want government out of our lives, not at the center.  So keeping our “organizing” down to 140 characters or less makes perfectly good sense.

Of course, being CNN, there has to be a certain aspect of “they have now idea what they’re talking about” endemic in the piece: 

“Twitter is a news funnel,” she said. “Conservatives are very tightly knit and getting their message out very well.”

“Conservatives are tightly knit?”  That, of course, is madness.  At this juncture in American history, “conservative” is about as meaningful as, say, “caucasian”; just as any descriptor that covers everything from Icelandic people to Berbers, from Slavs to Spaniards is basically so broad as to be meaningless, so “conservative” is today.  Any label that covers the fiscal moderate but evangelical pro-life Mike Huckabee and the tax and immigration hawk Tom Tancredo, or the fiscal conservative but socially pragrmatic Tim Pawlenty, lacks a certain degree of focus.

But the piece has a point; whatever conservatives lack these days in terms of ideological congruency, we are (finally) making up, after two slack cycles, in paying attention and waking up and smelling the coffee and getting out and into politics again, not because of but in spite of the leadership we’ve had – or lacked – in the past six years or so.

And – hopefully – realizing that no matter what your key issue, having any conservative in office, even a conservative that is imperfect on your pet issue, is going to be a better bet than having even the “best ” (hypothetical) Democrat.

The conservative twittersphere is more than adequate – as the article notes – in saying “show up” and “send money”.  As to the “why?”

Well, for that we still have the long-form blog.  And at that, the CNN piece notwithstanding, the conservative blogosphere still excels alone.

Overreach

Starting about November 5, I figured that Obama, and especially the Congress’ Democrats, after being thwarted for almost thirty years, would not be able to resist overreach.

Hugh Hewitt, writing from the road on his “100 Days Tour”, writes:

The energy of the tea parties and which we see on our tour of the country may not be a majority movement yet, but it clearly indicates that the new president has blown off the idea of a new politics and a new bipartisanship, and that the signal has been received loud and clear. The unaligned voters of America thought they might be electing a post-partisan, post-ideological president but already know –and will learn again and again– that what they actually got was a hard left ideologue with a wonderful reading voice. Bait-and-switch has never gone over very well with Americans.

By the way – do try to make it to the “Obama’s First 100 Days” get-together at the Convention Center, a week from tonight.  Go here for details.  I hope to see you there.

Start The Rally Without Me

I hope you can make it to the Tax Cut Rally tomorrow!

I will not be there – the NARN show falls smack in the middle of the rally’s time slot so it’d be dicey (and it’s pretty much a project of a competing radio station, not that I’d boycott it, per se; I just dance with the one that brung me, if you catch my drift). 

Anyway, check here for the details.  And feel free to call into the NARN between 1 and 3PM with updates; we’d love to hear how many Minnesotans have had enough.

Jason Lewis – the host I always wanted to be when I grew up, even if he works for a lesser station today – writes:

In fact, Minnesota Democrats have already proposed over $2 billion in new taxes, notwithstanding the state may receive billions in federal stimulus money. By the way, the stimulus money coming from Washington is part of the greatest spending binge in history. This has resulted in unprecedented federal borrowing as well as massive new tax increase proposals.

Because of this fiscal crisis, we are ratcheting-up our plans for this year’s TAX CUT RALLY. We have expanded the number of activities to include more booths, more points of interest, and even kid-friendly activities such as food, music, and refreshments. We might even have a prize or two for the best sign!

Don’t forget to bring a food donation for metro-area food shelves, sponsored by Hope for the City.

So bring a radio and tune in the NARN while you’re there!

The Fix Is In

When you’re a conservative blogger, especially in Minnesota, you get used to being actively insulted and derided by the state’s dominant political/media class.

But ignored?

Bear in mind, Minnesota’s center-right blogging community is, if not the most active and vital political blogging community in the nation, easily among the very short list at the top of the heap.  From the bigs like my friends at Powerline and Hot Air, to erudite generalists like TvM and FreedomDogs, to acerbic, focused niche-bloggers like Nihilist in Golf Pants, Speed Gibson and True North and many, many more (see the MOBroll, leave out the non-conservatives and you get the idea), Minnesota’s center-right blogging underground is big, passionate, and disporportionally influential. 

So when Chris Cilizza at the WaPo started a list of the “Best State Political Blogs”, state-by-state, nationwide, it was reasonable to figure that while it’d probably overrepresent leftybloggers (packs of dogs will sniff each others’ butts, no doubt about it) – but you’d think they’d have some fodder with which to impart balance.

Trusting the MSM, of course, is always a long walk to a short splash.  Behold, “Baghdad Chris” Cilizza’s “Best Minnesota Political Blogs”. 

Ahem:

* MN Publius
* Minnesota Campaign Report
* MN Blue
* Politics in Minnesota
* Polinaut

Polinaut is an institutional MPR production; it’s good and useful, to be sure, but not exactly an organic part of the local blog scene.  Politics in Minnesota is a great aggregator of regional political thought; their daily run-downs of the “best of Minnesota blogs” has treated Shot In The Dark and True North very well; they also routinely run four leftyblog links for every overt conservative blog link.  Que sera sera; it’s a game effort…

…compared to the rest of Chris Cilizza’s risible list.

MNPublius is OK; they’re a DFL flakblog; they’re like Minnesota Democrats Exposed, only without the regular game-changing scoops.  Minnesota Campaign Report is earnest but comical. 

MNBlue (Note, Mr. Cilizza; they’re called “Minnesota Progressive Project” these days)?  Well, when they’re not letting Grace Kelly regurgitate her tingly-fingered Obama worship or her addledpated 9/11 conspiracy theories, they’re broadcasting risibly-obvious lies from anonymous hacks with curious axes to grind. In other words, they are the single dumbest blog in all of Minnesota.  Bar none.

In the meantime, you’ll look in vain for Minnesota’s real influential political blogs; Powerline and Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, homegrown productions that are among the most powerful blogs in the world; for MDE, which made headlines in the NYTimes and was perhaps more responsible than anyone for erasing Barack Obama’s coattails for Al Franken; for the scads of center-right bloggers that get better traffic and more credibility than at least two of Cilizza’s choices.

It’s a polling thing, of course; liberals read the WaPo, and if you read leftyblogs from Kos and Atrios on down to Minnesota Progressive Report, it’s pretty obvious the typical leftyblog commenter does nothing but sit in his mom’s basement and crank out dyspeptic screeds eighteen hours a day; stacking the votes in a poll like Cilizza’s is child’s play for that pack of loonies.

But otherwise-savvy commentators are passing Cilizza’s story on as if it’s a legitimate commentary on Minnesota’s blog scene.

Not half the story?  Try “not a tenth”. 

(By the way – Rachel Stassen-Berger?  Why does “Political Animal” not take comments or post an email address?)

Small World

First things first; congrats to the MinnPost’s David Brauer on having his first ambulance ride end fairly benignly.

And yes – it is certainly a small world. Brauer called an ambulance after experiencing shortness of breath and chest pains:

The Minneapolis fire guys were there immediately; their quick read of my vitals didn’t scream heart attack. A minute or so later, the ambulance crew was on the scene. After being appraised of my non-demise, the crew’s paramedic asked me a question I wasn’t expecting:

“Hey David, do you recognize me?”

He did look vaguely familiar.

“Duke Powell.”

I laughed even though it hurt.

Although we’ve never met face-to-face, Duke and I are Twitter friends. Via @dbrauer, I follow him at @dukepowell.

The saga, to an extent, did play out on Twitter over the weekend.  Duke is a longtime friend of this blog, a former GOP representative from the Burnsville area who lost a heartbreaker of a race in 2006.

Burnsville’s loss is the first-responder profession’s gain, of course, as Brauer found:

Of course, politics doesn’t matter much when you’re strapped to a gurney and wheeled through the snow. But it was definitely reassuring to have a member of my social network be part of my survival network…Duke expertly threaded my IV (the nurses would later marvel at the precision), gave me the short course on nitroglycerin (a precaution; headaches approaching) and kept it light but not unprofessional. In short, his actions buttressed the trust we’d already established.

Brauer waxes just a tad philosophical:

Our politics are as different as can be (Duke was a conservative Republican legislator from Burnsville), but we’re both Coleman-Franken junkies. For some reason, Twitter has been a place where lefties and righties can actually talk to each other; perhaps it’s because the medium is young, or you pick who you follow.

There’s something to that – although Minnesota is blessed with many forums where people can talk across the aisle:  the Northern Alliance Radio Network earned kudos from Mayor Rybak for our interview with him; the MDE/MNPublius Happy Hour last summer was a lot of fun.  And this Saturday’s MOB party should be like all previous ones; a fun, utterly civil time for everyone involved.

Oh, yeah – there’s more good news; Duke’s finally blogging:

If you want to read Duke’s version, check out his new Ambulance Driver blog. I’m Patient #5 on Feb. 27. Don’t worry; Duke doesn’t violate patient confidentiality here — I’m the one outing myself.

Hope both Brauer and Powell can show up on Saturday, and re-enact the scene – substituting Guinness for the nitro, natch.

Our New Passive-Aggressive Majority

Strap yourselves in, Republicans across America.  You’ll get to live life the way we lived it here in Minnesota for decades; liberal supermajorities who believe your earnings belong to government first and foremost, backed by a media establishment that portrays dissent as one degree of depravity or another.  Oh, and about the portrayal of Republicans – remember how for the past eight years Chuck Hagel got more mic time than the rest of the GOP caucus put together?  Two words for ya; Lori Sturdevant.
Worse?  The alternatives that the opposition provides will disappear down the memory hole – or at least they will as far as the mainstream media is concerned.

Of course, we have an alternative media now (until Congress or the Administration sneak the “Fairness” Doctrine back in the door).  And the truth will be there somewhere.

Last Saturday, I talked with Michele Bachmann’s New Media director Dave Dziok.  He’s behind a new project – The Majority Tracker, which aims to drop a videocam down the memory hole.

What is the GOP doing?  Well, you’ll find out there.

Romp Not Lest Ye Be Romped

Note to Twin Cities’ Leftybloggers:  Please, please try to get your facts straight when you want to try to noodle about with issues I genuinely care about.  You might get Haugenned.

Fair warning.

Liberal in the Land of Conservative writes:

HOLY CRAP, the Democratic leadership in Congress is pushing the Fairness Doctrine. Who are the magical creatures that can pass a doctrine without nary a bill in existence?

Dear LITLOC:  Congresspeople, thanks to the miracle of “voices”, the “First Amendment” and “the Media”, can say things outside the context of “bills”.  For example, they can tell a reporter “It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine. I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”  That’d be Dick “Turban” Durbin.  Bear in mind, he said that without authoring a bill on the subject.

Yet.

And – just so’s you learn something, LITLOC – let’s be clear; Congress needn’t pass a single bill to reinstate the “Fairness” Doctrine.  If Obama puts three pro-Doctrine members on the FCC Board, the “Doctrine” can become fact again by executive fiat; no legislation will be needed, beyond confirmation hearings.  This, indeed, is the most dangerous scenario for supporters of free speech; Obama (and the smarter Dems) don’t want to pee on the third rail by legislating censorship – but how much political capital do you think Obama will burn getting in the way of an allied bureaucracy doing it for them?

Seriously, I thought Mitch Berg was supposed to be the smart one.

Among conservative bloggers?  No. I’m the cute one.

Compared to Twin Cities’ leftybloggers?  In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Do your homework, kids.  You’re gonna need to.

Ethics For Ye, But Not For We

As far as the mainstream media is concerned, there is one standard of ethics for Republicans…:

In 2001, President George W. Bush nominated Chavez to a post in his cabinet as Secretary of Labor. Chavez was soon forced out because it was alleged that she had employed an illegal immigrant 10 years earlier. Subsequent investigation uncovered that Chavez had not, in fact employed the woman in question, but had sheltered her and given her some emergency assistance because the woman was threatened with domestic abuse. The woman, Marta Mercado, is now a U.S. citizen.

…and another for Democrats:

Contrast the political uproar and media storm over Chavez’ nomination with the quiescent reaction of our electeds in the halls of Congress and our pals over at CNN and the New York Times regarding President-elect Obama’s nomination of Timothy Geithner to be the Secretary of the Treasury.

Geithner, you may recall, is the man who may soon be in charge of trillions of our tax dollars who thinks paying taxes is only for the little people. While working for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from 2001 to 2004, Geithner failed to pay self-employment taxes totaling more than $45,000 including interest. Interestingly, the IMF, an international entity, pays its employees’ taxes and even sends them a notice regarding the taxes owed.

“But it’s not really the same kind of thing!”

Well, yeah.  It’s actually more than the same:

Just to ram the point home that laws are meant for some and not for others, Geithner also employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper (“Haven’t we all?” the U.S. Senators conducting the confirmation hearing must be thinking to themselves.)

You might be saying to yourself “News flash, Berg; duh.  Of course there’s a double standard!”.  And you’d be right.

My real question:  under these circumstances – where the major media refuses to point out ethical lapses (to say nothing of double standards) on the part of the incoming administration, can you imagine them not trying to shut down talk radio and the blogs, the conservative alternative media that are the only people that ever really question Obama on anything?

The Eternal Game of Telephone

One of the reasons I always liked being a solo blogger (until Johnny Roosh joined the staff last summer) was that miscommunications among contributors were pretty rare.

Of course, with bigger blogs, it’s not always quite so easy.

Over at True North, I comment on a flap between two of my favorite regional bloggers; my friend and NARN colleague (for the rest of the week, anyway) Michael Brodkorb, and Col. Joe Repya.  The flap grew into a few questions about how True North does business – partly with the prodding of some Twin Cities leftybloggers who, like addled kittens who see a shiny bit of foil, are trying to romp and cavort about the “story”.

I try to answer them.

Paging Max Headroom

I finally got around to reading David Brauer’s two part interview with Tom Mischke (parts one and two), about his exit from KSTP and his thoughts on the future of the business.

More on that in a bit.

———-

I remember walking into KSTP the night I filled in for Bob Davis, on January 23, 2003.  It was the first time I’d set foot in a radio station in ten years; the first time I’d done a talk show in almost sixteen.

I felt a little bit like Rip Van Winkel.  When I’d left radio, shows were recorded on cassettes; audio editing and production work was done on twelve-inch reel to reel tapes; commercials, songs and dropins came on “Carts” (which looked and worked like eight-track tapes, for those of you old enough to remember them).  At my last previous radio “job” – as a volunteer news guy at KFAI – they’d just installed a computer to download the AP wire and allow a little rudimentary editing.

At KSTP (and AM1280, which followed about a year later), everything was on computer; commercials, dropins (on a slick touch-screen array), commands to switch between recorded, live and satellite programming, even the recorded programs themselves. 

And that was the least of it.  As I’ve noted many times in the past, when I left KSTP-AM, it was the poor cousin of the Hubbard empire; Hubbard Broadcasting had been trying to sell KSTP-AM for years, with no luck – because rumors had it that AM was dead, and the band was going to get decommissioned eventually.  By 2003, that was in the past; KSTP-AM was financially carrying Channel 5, Channel 45, KS95, Estrogen 107 and the rest of the Hubbard operation.

A number of things hadn’t changed, though.

  • When radio management wants you gone?   You’re gone.
  • If you give Hubbard Broadcasting a silk purse, they’ll not only find a way to make a sow’s ear out of it, but in such a way as to make the observer wonder if sows can be on meth. 
  • ———-

Mischke on exactly why Hubbard told him they’d gassed his show:

On the day I was fired, I was handed a transcript of a conversation I had with my producer two weeks earlier. I remembered the conversation. I had been curious to know where the jingle for [Hubbard-owned] Channel 45 had come from. It’s the little sing-song way they say “45.”

I wanted to know who came up with it, how many other ways they thought to sing it, what talent they hired to deliver the jingle and how many different takes there were. I suppose I just wanted to learn the backstory behind a modern corporate jingle.

I asked my producer to call them and ask them, knowing full well these are fellow Hubbard employees. My producer refused. I think he was just tired of me having him do various things while he was busy trying to answer the phone.

So I picked up the phone and called them myself, on the air. I phoned downstairs, a receptionist answered, and I asked to speak to someone at Channel 45. She said, “Just a minute” and put me on hold. I then put the entire call on hold and asked my producer if he’d now please speak to them off the air so as to get a sense of where that jingle came from.

That’s what I was fired for. Making that call to the receptionist without getting her permission.

[David Brauer]: Isn’t such a call an FCC violation?

A: They told me it was indeed an FCC violation.

Back in 1986, Don Vogel caught wind that the afternoon guy at the old WLOL-FM, a chucklehead named “Doctor Dave”, was lifting a bit of Vogel’s (a takeoff on radio tele-shrink Dr. Harvey Ruben) on WLOL’s wacky afternoon zoo.  He told me to get “Dr. Dave” on the air.  Via a contact or two, producer Dave Elvin had their studio line number handy.  I called “Dr. Dave”, and Don put him on the air, live.  Of course, being a newbie to talk radio, I didn’t know there’d be a problem; Don, a fifteen year vet of Chicago talk, didn’t know either.

There was.  There is an FCC regulation whose number I could, until recently, recite from memory, saying that radio stations can not put someone on the air without them having a realistic expectation of knowing they are being put on the air.  You have to tell people they’re going to be on the air, we were told, by an irate station counsel who’d just gotten an irate phone call from an irate general manager at WLOL.  We spent the next day wondering if we were going to get fired.  Our own GM, Scott Meier, saved the day, basically saying that we’d forget their plagiarism if they’d forget our stunt.  It blew over.

You’re thinking “not only does every half-assed FM morning show in the world do ambush calls for yuks, but Mischke’s made an art form of those kinds of calls”.  And you’d be right.  Heck – we had a long-running bit on the Vogel show, “Random Call”, where we’d pick an area code and dial a random number, often to hilarious results (like Christmas Eve, 1985, where we got a hold of the Nome, Alaska Police Department squad room, with predictably deadpan-hilarious results).

And beyond that? Back in Mischke’s early years on evenings – one of the first times I listened to him, in the early nineties – I heard him struggling to get someone on the air, live and uninformed.  I called the studio; my old friend and colleague Joe Hansen - aka “The Jackal”, at that point – answered, and I told him about my near-miss on Vogel.  They waved off on the bit – that time.  Naturally, Mischke followed through on the bit the next umpteen jillion times.

Do you think this was news to KSTP-AM’s program director, Steve Konrad, or to his various levels of management?

If so, I have a tape from Willie Clark that I’d like to try to sell you.

———-

If you can say one thing for Mischke, it’s that he’s a comedic genius with a flair for using radio, with all of its foibles and limitations and traditions, as a tool in his comic toolbox.

If you can say one more thing for him, it’s that he’s always seemed to keep radio, with all of its foibles and limitations and corrosive dysfunction, in its place. 

Mischke said, and believes, all sorts of things that separate him from the mainstream (i.e. successful) parts of talk radio, but make it safe for the likes of Garrison Keillor to be an “out” fan.  Still, it’s hard to work in commercial radio (outside of Air America) and not understand what actually works out there these days:

I watched many people attempt radio shows over the years. I saw talk hosts come and go. In all my years at KSTP, I saw only three shows succeed — truly succeed. The only three programs to ever generate any kind of decent ratings at all were Rush Limbaugh, Jason Lewis and Joe Soucheray. That’s it.The rest of us never offered anything in the way of mass appeal. So any talk host, outside of those three, should walk away, following a firing, feeling lucky to have been given a shot.

Three hosts; a populist conservative, an intellectual conservative, and a culturally-conservative-to-the-point-of-reactionary curmudgeon. 

Mischke clearly understands something that KSTP-AM’s management does not.

[Brauer]: Where do you think KSTP is headed? The talk around town is about terrible numbers, save for Joe, and a pricey Twins contract that might not pay off, since it was signed during good times but now must be sold to advertisers during bad times. This is a strange time in radio and there’s something to say here.

A: Radio, as we’ve known it in this country, is dying. I don’t envy anyone trying to make the transition to the next stage in media. The Twins gamble has not paid off for KSTP. It has not affected ratings.

That has been very disappointing. It was a coup to steal them from ‘CCO, but oh, the cost.

You add that to the fact that Soucheray is the only talk host over there driving home each day feeling good about his ratings and you have big worries. Tack on the dismal economy with its bleak advertising picture and you have more than just worries.

But after all that – especially after my “Rip Van Winkle” riff at the beginning of this long post – we get to the interesting part; the future of talk radio. 

It’s overly obvious to say that “things have changed since Mischke and I got into the business”.  The interesting part is, “where are those things going?”

I was pondering that as Ed and I did the NARN2 show last Saturday; while talk radio was years ahead of the traditional dead-tree and showbiz-broadcast media in incorporating interactivity – phone callers with their own points to add – it was all still very hierarchic.  Callers passed through a screener to get to the host, who was the center of attention.  And that’s changing, I thought, as Ed and I worked the webcam, kept up with the chatroom and the Twitter thread and the incoming email and, by the way, did a broadcast show.  The audience’s relationship with a talk show host is changing in an analogous way to the changes the Blog brought to the reader’s relationship to the newspaper; the host isn’t necessarily in charge of the conversation by sole virtue of having the microphone. 

It’s not bad – indeed, being a blogger, I’d be dumb to do anything but embrace the change.  But it is different. 

I think every radio station in town has to pray to God they have a visionary on their staff. This is the time for change and innovation. A dramatic shift needs to occur.

I hope to end up somewhere where this idea is fully grasped, where the ideas move to the Internet, websites, video-blogging, music, live streaming. I think what is about to rise out of the ashes of the old radio model is far more exciting and interesting than what has come before. Some station in this town is going to be the first to fully exploit this. To those folks go the spoils.

The future is out there.  I sincerely hope – and believe – that Mischke is a part of it.

Among others.

When Monks Speak, Professors Nod Their Heads And Carry On Their Way

My quicker take on Brian Lambert’s take on Katherine Kersten’s departure from the Strib:  He’s irredeemably wrong, for reasons that are largely due to personal and vocational myopia.

I told you it’d be quick.

But that’s not all that satisfying, is it?

———-

A couple of points, just as background. 

  • I used to be a reporter.  I was a decent writer, and could cover a story, but I never really had the urge to immerse myself in making it in the field.  My career began and ended as a freelancer, in between radio jobs.  I was perfectly fine with that then, and even moreso now.
  • Most “journalists” honestly believe that they are objective, or at least detached.  With that in mind, they also believe that the organizations for which they work, individually and institutionally, are too. 
  • Many “journalists” also believe that they are part of a higher calling.  The journalist’s trade has a collective mythology about it, studded with catchphrases like “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” and “Woodward and Bernstein” and “keeping an eye on the powerful”, and “fairness, clarity and balance”. 
  • These catchphrases animate a lot of “journalists” through the lean years of what is, for most reporters, a lean, niggling, awful career that, even when times were good, usually didn’t pay all that well or lead to any particular distinction.  The attitude is the same one that drives people in a lot of spartan, tenuous careers – religious monks and policemen jump to mind.  All fo them voluntarily immerse themselves in a spartan, aescetic life in pursuit of what they see as a greater good.  Few people get rich in any of the fields; most careers are nasty, brutish and brutish and, while monks and cops can retire from the field, reporters rarely do. 
  • With that immersion comes a sense of exceptionalism.  With exceptionalism comes an “us against them” attitude.  With “Journalists”, that attitude is expressed via a belief that journalists are “high priests of knowledge”; that only a trained, qualified journalist can really tell a story clearly, truthfully and effectively.

And a couple more:

  • An aphorism for you:  From Sacramento, Boise is “way out east”.
  • Keeping the above in mind:  if a conservative orders a pizza in the woods, and a “sacramento” liberal is there to hear it, the liberal will hear “racism”, “whining”, “extremism” and “hate”.  Among other things.  Simultaneously.
  • Oh, yeah; the latest meme:  No matter what their tone (to say nothing of facts), a conservative pointing out any anti-conservative institutional bias is always “whining”. 

Now, it’s been over twenty years since anyone mistook Brian Lambert for fair, balanced or non-partisan.  For years, he carried water for the DFL as the Pioneer Press‘ broadcasting columnist, until he went to work (very briefly) as then-Senator Mark Dayton’s short-lived re-election campaign.  He’s been bouncing among the Twin Cities’ online publications (and a stint as the liberal point to Sarah Janecek’s counterpoint on a short-lived KTLK-FM afternoon drive show).  He’d be one of those “from Sacramento, Boise is far east” liberals; from his perspective, the Star/Tribune probably does seem stodgy, establishment and “conservative”. 

And like most Twin Cities’ lefties, he’s happy to see Katherine Kersten leaving the Strib.  Like most journalists, he probably figured the Strib was pretty fair and balanced before all those meddling kids conservatives showed up.

In this case, the Powerguys:

The “boys”, Scott Johnson, John Hinderaker and Paul Mirengoff are worth mentioning here because they have played a critical role in this latest episode of self-abasement by Minnesota’s largest news organization

Editorial balance is “Self-Abasement”, when a conservative is involved.

While the Strib has always been attacked by right-wingers, usually for not adequately parroting the same talking points read off by Jason Lewis, Hugh Hewitt and the rest, the Power Line trio, Hinderaker and Johnson in particular, put a snake rattle in Anders Gyllenhaal’s head.

You can chalk that statement up to any number of things; I’ll chalk it up to Lambert being in “Sacramento” while Anders Gyllenhall is in “Boise” (as I sit in my office in Pittsburgh talking to most Americans, who are somewhere between Des Moines and Chicago).  But I keep trying to ask left-ish media types – can you show me where the Strib’s editorial/op-ed pages have ever been fair, to say nothing of sympathetic, to any of the principles of the center-right?  Forget about the hot-button issues like abortion and gun control; can you remember ever the Strib’s editorial board presenting a balanced view of, say, social security reform?  Government growth?  Local Aid to Government?  Cutting deficits by cutting spending rather than raising taxes?  School choice vs. the untrammelled power of the teachers’ union?  Parental notification? 

Can you remember the Strib doing a hatchet-job that benefitted anyone but a DFLer?

Get back to us on that one.

And when you do, tell us how that “balance” would actually be “parroting Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt and Jason Lewis”. 

Their legalistic, grad-school punditry, high standing among echo chamber “base” Republicans, combined with Time magazine declaring them “Blog of the Year” after their assault on Dan Rather…

“Assault on Dan Rather”.

You read that right.

Pay no attention to the forged dox, the impossible scenario, the implausible backstory; Dan Rather was the victim, says Brian Lambert, on his way to his inevitable (indeed, boilerplate) conclusion that conservatives are whining.

Now, it has never been proven that it was Power Line specifically who pushed Gyllenhaal to commit himself to a conservative “counter balance” to Nick Coleman, but Coleman himself aside, I’ve yet to hear anyone at the Strib doubt that that’s the way it went down.

So?

What if it’s true?  Indeed, it should be true; it was Nick Coleman’s gutless, factually-vacant assault on Scott Johnson that brought the issue to a head; it was the sheer feckless factlessness of it all, one might think, that convinced Gyllenhall, the Strib‘s former editor, that he had a real problem on his hands.

There are idiot ranters who don’t give a damn about facts and fairness. They can be ignored. And then there are well-educated, well-connected ranters who craft cleverly parsed, fact-like assertions and make demons out of those who show them no respect. Those are more difficult to ignore.

Question:  Why would one “ignore” the case that Powerline built against the Strib?  Over the course of almost seven years of writing, and countless articles detailing with lawyerly precision the crimes of Jim Boyd, Anders Gyllenhaal, Doug Grow, Lori Sturdevant and Nick Coleman against truth (to say nothing of balance and fairness), what’s to ignore?

Oh, yeah.  “They’re not journalists”.

That may not be exactly how Lambert would put it – “it has never been proven that Brian Lambert thinks only journalists are qualified to criticize journalism”, to paraphase Lambert – but really, what else could be behind it?

The point here is that Power Line in effect created the conflict that required the Strib to hire a Katherine Kersten and then pretty much delivered Kersten herself as the solution.

Powerline created decades of institutional bias?  They “created” the arrogance and incompetence that led Jim Boyd to slander them?   That led Nick Coleman to take a personal, defamatory (not remotely factual, certainly not “journalistically valid or ethical”) swipe at Scott Johnson?

Remember – Lambert is one of those lefty pundits that accuses conservatives of playing the victim.

———-

Let’s go back to the background points:  Journalists often see themselves as a class above and beyond the hoi polloi; they have a higher calling; they “paid their dues” in the “trenches” of the field, telling the truth when nobody else can; they often see themselves as being in the world, but not of it. 

I use the term “high priests of knowledge”.  Any given reporter may dispute that term, but it’s usually a difference of degree, not accuracy.

Kersten’s big problem, other than conservatism itself?

She’d never taken those same monastic vows:

Her arrival on the metro pages sent a clear message. Here was a purely partisan pundit with no reporting experience whatsoever. Moreover she was being set in place, with instant equal standing to a couple old dogs who had spent decades covering every imaginable facet of local culture…

So?

Nick Coleman spent decades covering city council meetings and one-car accidents, learning (let’s be charitable) to write clearly and effectively, just like every “journalist” does when “paying his dues”. 

And then, he became a columnist.  Someone who markets not fact, but observation, “insight”, and opinion.  One whose opinions led him to get a job as a talk show host on the local Air America affiliate, Lambert doesn’t trouble to add (he was a regular guest on Coleman’s abortive trainwreck of a morning show).

One has the right to ignore Coleman’s immense ideological baggage, and focus myopically on his “old dog”-ness as more of a qualification than Kersten’s background (academia and punditry).

But you’ll wait in vain for a defense that goes into greater depth than “because he’s a journalist, dammit”. 

Kersten became the ying-to-Coleman’s-yang, the quid pro quo, the internal countershot.That’s another way of saying that Nick saw Kersten for what she was, and for who and what she represented, (right-wing journalism haters and Power Line, who to be clear, delight in vilifying Coleman) and Nick rose to the fight, caution be damned. (Nick is Irish. He can’t help it. It’s an ethnic curse.)

Part of that ethnic curse, perhaps, is that our Scandinavian anscestors used to loot, pillage and dominate Coleman and Lambert’s Irish anscestors with little more trouble than Johnson and Hinderaker chewing up Coleman’s writing.

Here’s the big finish:

As I tried to get across in the Rake piece and in countless blogs since, I had no quarrel at all with the Strib hiring a conservative metro columnist. They needed one. The problem was hiring a conservative columnist who was first, foremost and solely a partisan voice. Had they found someone on staff or around town who had the breadth and depth of experience Nick Coleman and Doug Grow had acquired from years of covering the full spectrum of culture;

 And now we’re into the interesting stuff. 

Several questions, Brian Lambert:

  1. Given the relentless “progressive” nature of the field of Journalism, where would a conservative candidate come from?  Countless surveys show that less than 15% of reporters vote to the right of center.
  2. Most editors – certainly most Strib editors – aren’t all that far to the right of Brian Lambert.  They’re “Boise” to his “Sacramento”.  Which of them is going to promote a “Chicago” to the opinion page? 
  3. Given the dearth of conservatives in newsrooms that proceed to “old dog”-itude, where does one find conservatives to serve in that role that you, yourself, acknowledge above was needed?
  4. Why do you assume that only an “old dog” reporter can tell a story?

Lambert is – consciously? - echoing Nick Coleman’s infamous, pedantic, supremely arrogant justification for his own position and status

But that’s my defense: I show my face in public. I have been a reporter longer than most bloggers have been alive, which makes me, at 54, ready for the ash heap. But here’s what really makes bloggers mad: I know stuff.

I covered Minneapolis City Hall, back when Republicans controlled the City Council. I have reported from almost every county in the state, I have covered murders, floods, tornadoes, World Series and six governors.

In other words, I didn’t just blog this stuff up at midnight.

Nick Coleman “knows stuff” – because he was a reporter.

Top-flight lawyersEconomistsCareer guys and keen observers?  Divorced guys on their third careers?   Ivy-league trained thinkers?

If they didn’t spend thirty years sitting in City Council meetings (or writing about TV shows, apparently), then they are not of the order

It’s not the ability to observe, to build a case, to tell the story, to make sense.  It’s that thirty years of ticket punching that really counts. 

I don’t think anyone outside “the order” buys that anymore.

All that said, it is a giant, groaning pity Gyllenhaal’s successors chose to wipe both Kersten and Coleman off the company ledger. But then it’s break-up-the-furniture-for-fuel time at the Strib. The only thing that’ll add loud, resonating insult to injury to this move is if Avista Capital Partners’ newsroom managers keep … a gossip columnist in place instead of two people who, say what you will, waded into serious, relevant issues and provoked constant reader reaction.

Well, I never said that Lambert was always wrong.

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