A Tale Of Two Shows

The last couple of weeks have seen big news in the local talkradio community – albeit for very different reasons.

This week, former KSTP host and cult object Tom Mischke will start an internet-based talk show, affiliated with formerly-readable boutique freebie ‘zine The City Pages.

David Brauer at the MinnPost writes:

Of course, Tommy Mischke is a rare bird; for two decades on KSTP-AM, he somehow blended content and advertising in a way that generated fierce listener and advertiser loyalty. But when Mischke was fired from AM1500 and disowned commercial radio, few thought he could replace his radio income on the Internet.

Without getting into specifics, let’s just say he did amazingly well. But it didn’t happen without help from a much-mocked legacy medium: print.

Internet advertising alone wouldn’t pay the freight for a 2-4 p.m. weekday show (beginning March 4 at citypages.com). But advertisers did pony up enough for a print-web combo that Mischke secured a one-year deal. He’ll also do a weekly column in the paper.

The benefit for City Pages? It was able to get around a corporate hiring freeze because most costs were covered on Day One, and its reps now have a new selling opportunity.

To someone who’s been in media, off and on, for most of his adult life, it’s a bit of a departure.  In traditional entertainment media, the “owner” of the show bets long – produces and airs a program (including hiring and, indirectly or directly, paying the air and support talent) based on the potential for ratings and the money they might bring.

Mischke’s model is different; he’s bringing his advertisers – some of his big backers from his long-running KSTP show – with him.

Will it work in the long term?  Does internet narrowcasting draw enough ears to make it work?  Has the City Pages – a fairly pathetic shell of its former self, journalistically speaking – got the mojo to serve as the fiscal and demograhic bedrock for a cult figure like Mischke?

Given the singular history and qualities of its namesake, the “Mischke Model” may be tough to replicate, and its long-term success remains unknown. But it does show how old and new media can be woven together. The Strib, PiPress — hell, the local edition of the Onion — might’ve pulled this off. Perhaps they can rig up something like it.

Perhaps they can – yes, indeed.  We’ll come back to that.

I am, of course, a big Mischke fan.  I’m a fan, of course, because he’s a real original, wildly creative, and just plain fun to listen to.

For a good chunk of the Twin Cities intelligentsia, of course – the likes of Garrison Keillor, Brian Lambert and, if I may be so bold, David Brauer – Mischke is more than that.  He’s a thumb in the eye of the “establishment” in talk radio, standing defiantly against the tide of conservative programs. And in some respects, I can even go along with that; while I disagree with whatever politics Mischke likely believes, I much preferred “The Mischke Broadcast” to the likes of Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck; Mischke clobbered the lesser ranks of conservative hosts in all ways that matter to the likes of Keillor, Lambert, Brauer – that is, everything but ratings and revenue.
“But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how’d you like the play?”

Brauer’s point seems to be that to get anything “interesting” on “the air”, one needs to get creative.  Outlets like City Pages are floundering; shows like Mischke’s, long KSTP run notwithstanding, have always been fish out of water in the radio industry.

And there might be something to that.  Outlets like the Pioneer Press might do well to ally themselves with other media outlets; a content and advertising alliance between, say, the Pioneer Press, AM1280, and one or more internet content and video operations (like “The Uptake” and “True North”, to pick out some random examples) would provide some interesting cross-media possibilities, not only for advertising and opinion content but – cue the drum roll – journalism.

So, if you take Brauer’s piece at face value, it’d seem that “interesting”, “creative” media’s future is going to depend on a concerted do it yourself effort.

Unless – Brauer doesn’t go into this in his piece on Mischke – you operate in a format that’s actually succeeding, even despite the current advertising economy.

Salem Radio Network’s ad inventory is reportedly pretty well sold out.   Rush Limbaugh’s salary is greater than the Paraguayan military budget. And long-time local radio fixture Jason Lewis is, as of last week, in the big show: That’s worth a separate article.

Anyway, the lesson – as filtered through the lens of the “progressive” “alternative” media, is this:  the current media landscape requires creativity to survive.  Unless you’re a huge success, in which case we ignore it all.

From Sacramento, Salt Lake City Is “Way East”

Steve “Mister Furious” Perry, who spent many years as one of the Twin Cities’ better journalist while the editor of the City Pages, several months as a lone crank at The Daily Mole, and about a year editing a bald-faced propaganda mill at the Minnesoros “Independent”, has not only gigged up, but done it in some style, landing both at the MinnPost  and at Sarah Janecek’s Politics in Minnesota.

Congrats, Steve Perry. Let’s hope you can get back to form.
David Brauer reflects (dimes will get you dollars) the mainstream view among the Twin Cities’ landed punditry in this MinnPost bit that proves that Brauer is from Planet Dinkytown:

It’s great news on several fronts. Perry is a polemicist of the best sort, equally at home excoriating ideological Republicans and hypocritical Democrats.

I suppose when your perspective is from as far to the left as Brauer’s it’s possible to say that with a straight face.   And as I’ve noted probably more than any other Twin Cities pundit (certainly more than any on the right), Perry has had his moments; indeed, a 1994 City Pages piece on concealed carry (which, if memory serves, Perry wrote) was just about the first genuinely balanced look at the subject in the Twin Cities mainstream media.
But let’s quit blowing sunshine; Perry would never have gotten a job at a George Soros propaganda mill like the “Independent” if his record had been anywhere close to genuinely balanced from the point of view of someone closer to the mythical center than Brauer.
“But Mitch – how far is Brauer from that mythical center?”  Read on:

(Indeed, his willingness to do the latter is a big reason he separated from his last bosses at the harm-no-progressive Minnesota Independent.) With an ideological governor, a so-far-cautious DFL legislature and a gaping budget deficit, Perry’s insights have never been more timely.

Pawlenty is ideological?

Never mind…

Not to be underestimated is the entertainment factor. PIM publisher Sarah Janecek’s last pairing with a true lefty — her KTLK radio show with Brian Lambert — ended in Aykroyd-Curtin bickering that was epic and horrifying to watch.

The show was kind of a mess – I wrote about it a few years ago –  but not because of the ideologies involved; while Lambert makes Brauer and Perry look like Scoop Jackson and Sam Nunn, Janecek – a good friend of this blog and the NARN, by the way – is no hard-line conservative.  A great writer, a force of nature, one of Minnesota’s great political personalities, yes, but she’s no Ann Coulter (whom I’d pay to  hear co-hosting a show with, and flensing, Lambert).

Like matter and antimatter, this latest strong-willed combo could end up annihilating the universe, but would be a clickfest before the world explodes.

“Annihilating the universe?”  Wow – y’all are hard-up for ratings!

Have no fear; the online world is a lot more controllable than radio.

Anyway, best of luck to Sarah and Steve and the whole PIM crew.

If He Were The King, I’d Be The Revolutionary

Brian Lambert, on what he’d do if he were king.

I’ll hold off on jokes about “every liberal’s inner authoritarian” for now:

ONE: Restoration of The Fairness Doctrine. When The Fairness Doctrine was abandoned back in the last hours of the Reagan administration it took about a week before 500 dweebs who couldn’t get dates in high school decided they could become as rich as Rush Limbaugh just by telling misanthrophic nerds like themselves that liberals were the reason why they spent Friday nights playing Donkey Kong instead of making out with a cheerleader. In an instant the public airwaves were choked with enough ad hominem vitriol and persistent errors of fact to drive any self-respecting copy editor to alcohol-assisted suicide.

For starters: Way to avoid the “ad hominem vitrol”, Mr. “can’t get a date on Friday night”.
Second:  Condolences to the survivors of all of Lambert’s old copy editors; Limbaugh’s success cut down the number of people in the business.  They just made spectacularly more money at it.

At least, the ones that succeeded did.  That doesn’t include Lambert, who – unlike the whole conservative format – didn’t exactly connect in the market as a talk show host.  (Note to the copy editor who may not have known about Lambert’s past, and thus couldn’t pass it on to the audience; don’t do it.  Life’s still worth living).  [*]

The in-coming Obama administration has no interest in requiring people holding radio licenses to provide counter-arguments to the likes of Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Jason Lewis, etc. (Perhaps because time and events have effectively marginalized that cast of characters to a still profitable-but-truly-dingbat core audience.) But as King, I order that each troll-kissing radio jock be required to defend his bumper sticker logic against a live, equally well-remunerated liberal for 15 minutes every hour. And we’re not talking Alan Colmes. Think more like Glenn Greenwald or Katrina vanden Heuvel across the desk from El Rushbo three times every show. Tell me that wouldn’t be fun? (And the King likes fun.)

Tell Glenn and ‘Trina to come on the NARN with us.  Or maybe drop by yourself sometime; you’ll be “remunerated” equally with Ed and I.

You can explain where there’s any shortage of opinion out there, among other things.

No, really.

Oh, it gets worse:

FIVE: A non-profit news consortium shall take control of Minnesota reporting and commentary functions. The King is busy with many other aspects of state — war-mongering and arranging marriages — otherwise he would act as a one-person consortium and make all significant news decisions. And he may yet. But first he will test a system whereby a modest state “information tax” is imposed to staff an organization at least the size of the Star Tribune circa 2004, with no fear of commercial penalties if they investigate the fortunes of local HMO tycoons, football team owners or close friends of any public official. Editorial control will rest in a rotating triumvirate of demonstrably talented journalists. We will begin with MinnPost publisher Joel Kramer, ex-City Pages editor Steve Perry and U of M prof Jane Kirtley.

So in other words, welfare for people who can’t make it in the real world.

No, Mr. Copy Editor!  Back away from the ledge!

SIX: MPR with jokes.  Whatever happened to intelligent satire? …But come on. Can’t we do better than fart jokes on morning drive radio? The King decrees a new radio format be foisted upon the vassals — “Some College Education Required News Talk … with Jokes”. Imagine if Kerri Miller were permitted to play with her guests, needle them and tease them to effect?

Good times.

Good times.

The kingdom will be a better more peaceful place for all this.

Just like  Ukraine  in 1933. Continue reading

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.


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…


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.

Continue reading

Aren’t We All?

Zach at MNPublius is a giddy as a little girl over Katherine Kersten’s exit from the Strib:

I’m sad to see Coleman go, but (sorry Nick) if it means Kersten gets the ax, I’d dump him everyday of the week and twice on Tuesday.

You hate dissent and disagreement that much?


By the way, I hope the Strib plans on having at least one conservative voice in their paper. I just hope its not a race baiting lunatic like Kersten.

Let’s take a step back.

From 2000 through about 2007, John McCain was, for umpteen million Democrats, “the ONLY Republican I’d vote for” and “the ONLY rational Republican“. That comity lasted until he was a contender, when he became “just like Bush”, “extremist” and “ultra-right”. To Democrats, the only good Republicans are either irrelevant or indistinguishable from Democrats.

So I’ll make you this guarantee; in the (unlikely) event that the Strib hires another conservative columnist, no matter how acceptable local lefties would have found him or her Twin Cities lefties might find that conservative today, once that person got into print, he or she would become the dumbest, craziest, most “extremist” writer they could think of at the moment.

In other words; when they actually matter in terms of influencing policy, every Republican, no matter how cerebral (and remember, Kersten’s background is mostly academic; she’s no talk radio brawler) becomes a “race baiting lunatic”.
Next up – Brian Lambert’s piece.

The Two-Way Sluice

When I cast my first-ever conservative vote – for Ronald Reagan, in 1984 – I didn’t tell anyone. Part of it was that the whole conversion from mushy-left to right was so very recent. Part of it was that I was still feeling my way around an unfamiliar place.

And a big part was that I really just didn’t want to be associated with “those” conservatives.

In the media of the day, “out” conservatives were pretty much portrayed as smug fundamentalist televangelists, warmongering caricatures or malthusian skinflints. I edited a college newspaper at the time, and our syndication service – the “Campus News Service” – fed us a constant stream of anti-conservative, anti-Republican propaganda in written and cartoon form, all of it based on the three stereotypes above and the notion, constantly hammered in story after story, cartoon after cartoon, that President Reagan was

a) a doddering buffoon
b) a warmongering psychopath
c) both.

I got over it.

I graduated, moved to the Twin Cities – and it got worse. The media of the day ranged from left-leaning (it was the golden age of Jim Klobuchar; Nick Coleman was just getting started as a columnist) to falling-over left. Just before I started my old KSTP talk show, I remember reading a piece in the City Pages about some counselor/”artist” type in some political action group saying – unchallenged – “liberalism is the only intellectually acceptable philosophy”.

The attitude one perceived could have fairly been called “contemptuous” against conservative people and ideas.

And on the issues? Well, it was at KSTP in 1987, in a discussion on handgun control, where I first heard the old chestnut “I think people who think they need guns are…[brief pause as a verbal wink and nudge] compensating for something…”. It is, of course, the standard line for anti-gunners who want to believe they’re bringing the forces of soft science to bear against their opponents without actually understanding any. And it is nothing if not contemptuous. And it’s not the only issue where conservative substance has been met for decades with ignorant contempt.

To sum up: Twenty years ago, the contempt for conservatives was everywhere.

One thing that was not everywhere was avenues for response. This was before the market drove talk radio to the right. This was before conservatives had any written outlet, short of the National Review and the odd token George Will or Cal Thomas column set into the OpEd page like an exhibit at a zoo. The Strib’s letters to the editor, then as now, published only the most carefully-bowdlerized selection of conservative opinion (seemingly selected for sounding the least coherent, at times)

Today, of course, it’s a different story. Conservatives have voices – and those voices pretty well crush the opposition (which is why the Democrats are talking about bringing back the “Fairness” doctrine). Conservatives have outlets, and they’ve become influential out of all proportion to their size, which is why George Soros and his deep-pocketed friends are trying to buy a share of the blogosphere; it’s not really working (which is why the left has already tried to regulate blog content).

At any rate, in the last twenty years – and especially the past five years or so – people on the left, especially people who remember what life was like back when the conservative in the street only got to speak at the bar and around the table and every couple of years at the polls have had to learn that there really are more than one side to an argument.

The masthead of Charlie Quimby’s blog reads “How Can People Disagree And Still Build a Decent World?”; it’s a good question, one that I ask a lot in this blog and – rather more often – in personal conversation. It is important, and not merely because I’m a conservative with a mother who thinks Jane Fonda is a reactionary.

Charlie poked a little fun last week at the selection of Republicans getting credentials at the Convention next month. The common thread he found: “From Ladies Logic to Grizzly Groundswell to Pair O’Dice you’ll find at least one thing in common: a fairly strong contempt for liberals.”
Over the weekend and still on the subject (having gotten some pushback from a couple of the bloggers he’d names), he asked:

It is possible to separate personal relationships and politics. The success of any free political system depends on it. But over the past 20 years or so, it seems to be happening less and less. Contempt — not just philosophical disagreement — has been ratcheted up and real tolerance for human differences over policies is given the sort of smirking pro forma observance we see between Hannity and Colmes…

The difference, I suggest, is that over the past twenty years contempt and ridicule (and the guys behind their respective curtains, ignorance and fear) have become two-way streets. There’s not more contempt and ridicule; you can just see it. And if you’re a Twin Cities’ liberal, you can see it aimed at you for the first time.
You don’t have to read Nick Coleman or Lori Sturdevant or Brian Lambert all that terribly long to realize that Minnesota liberals of a certain age just aren’t used to being questioned, much less criticized, to say nothing of being the objects of contempt. I’m going to venture that not one of them, growing up in acceptably-lefty households, coming up through a left-leaning academic establishment, and working a career in left-leaning newsrooms, has ever heard someone say “I don’t know why people need pay-equity laws, unless they’re compensating for something, nyuk nyuk”.

Or bloggers and their invisible moonbat/wingnut friends. Which is why here I try to make those exchanges real and open, aimed at understanding rather than refuting the other.

Contempt is the tip on the iceberg of ignorance and – toward the bottom – hatred. I try to avoid it, and seek out conversation with the rare liberal blogger who’s not too stupid and sodden with fake intellectual entitlement…

…oh, crap. Let me start over.

Contempt is the junk food of rhetoric; it’s cheap, easy, and sometimes all you have in the cupboard. It’s easy to say “I don’t use it”; everyone knows better. There are times when it’s the easiest way to respond to the gaffes and slights and sins of the “other” side. It was the same thing twenty years ago; if Hubert Humphrey and Ronald Reagan are the respective egos of the left and right, “guns are compensating for something” and “liberalism is a mental disorder” are the respective ids. And we all balance these in different ways.

At some point, contempt for ideas and values becomes contempt for a group becomes contempt for a person, as the bones in mass graves the world over attest.


But a lot of things have changed in the last decade or two. Liberals in the Twin Cities are having some inevitable growing pains realizing that there is more than one point of view in this world (just like conservatives in Austin Texas and Chapel Hill North Carolina have been having to do).
It’s just all out in the open now.

The only real question now is how people deal with it – a question people have to answer whenever there is more than one side to a debate.

Which is why it’s such a new thing in the Twin Cities.

A Funny Thing Happened At Billy’s

Two things did not happen at the MDE/MNPublius Happy Hour at Billy’s on Grand last night:

  1. Nobody started singing Kumbaya. In the presence of each other’s “operatives”, nobody apparently converted to their respective dark sides. Left stayed left, right stayed right, and though the twain met, it did not turn into an Ophrah episode.
  2. Nobody started throwing punches. Everyone got along just fine in the presence of a roomful of the other side’s “operatives”. The lion didn’t lie down with the lamb, but they did share nachos and buffalo wings with each other.

Who did I meet? It was such a blur; I met Mary Lahammer from Channel 2, and found we shared some time in the North Dakota broadcasts wars. I met the MNPublius guys – Matt and Sean, whom I call the “giggly fratboys”, but all in good fun (Michael Corleone: “It’s not personal. It’s business), along with (naturally) the co-host of the party, my NARN colleague Michael Brodkorb. Gavin Sullivan was there, along with Jeff Rosenberg from MN Campaign Report, Joe “Learned Foot” Tucci from KAR, one of the fellas from “Liberal in the Land of Conservative” (nice guy, albeit a poor judge of “smack“), Sara Janecek and her colleagues from Politics in Minnesota, Dane Smith, Shadow from the “Urban Renaissance Coalition“, Brian McClung from Governor Pawlenty’s office, Anne Mason from the Erik Paulsen campaign, “Two Putt Tommy” (who’s graduating from being a comment section gadfly to writing for “MNBlue”; honestly, he could do better). I’m told even Charlie Quimby braved the flood of “anti-progressive operatives” and showed up, although he disappeared before I could work my way over to that corner of the bar.

And of course, I saw Brian Lambert, now with Minneapolis Saint Paul Magazine…

…at whom I’ve taken my fair share of shots over the years.

And at whom I’ll no doubt take many more.

But – here’s the fun part – I had a blast meeting him. He’s sort of like a political photonegative (a polinegative?) of Bob Davis; quick, glib but articulate, just erudite enough. We haven’t actually met face-to-face since he sat in for Geoff Charles one day at KSTP in 1985 – and I have to say that I had a great time talking with the guy.

I know. Stifle the “Kumbaya” stuff, dagnabbit; I’m gonna keep dinging on all of their politics! I mean, let’s be clear – nothing about the event was, as Charlie Quimby put it, “a symbolic show of bipartisanship — which is people who’d like to stab each other in the back pretending they won’t”. There was nothing “bi”-partisan about the evening; we all knew what sides everyone was on, when we were talking politics at all. It was multipartisan and nonpartisan (and let’s be perfectly clear; I only stab people in the face).

But as I noted earlier this week – one of the great joys of events like these is that you start to see people with whom you spar (constantly!) as people, rather than as collections of cliches and stereotypes. Which makes arguments, debates and discussions more difficult and, ultimately, much more rewarding.  And which some, unfortunately, find threatening.

Kudos to Matt, Sean and Michael. We gotta do it again sometime.


Facts Are For Wingnuts

I’ve been waiting with bated breath to see how the local Sorosphere would react to the news that their conclusion that the “No New Taxes” crowd all but blew up the 35W River Bridge was wrong.

And while Lori Sturdevant is the gold standard for Tic PR flaks in this area (and Nick Coleman is the DFL’s trained organ-grinder monkey), there is no better barometer of the Twin Cities’ left’s smug, entitled gestalt than Brian Lambert.  I’ve beein waiting for his take on what is – for most of us – the good news; the news that bad design, rather than depraved malfeasance, led to the collapse.

Was I to be disappointed?

It’s Lambert.  He’s the most reliable source of material in town.

It was 6 p.m. Tuesday when I first heard of the NTSB’s “preliminary” finding that a design flaw—too thin gusset plates—was the cause of the I-35W bridge collapse. By 6:07 p.m., I had received a copy of an e-mail Star Tribune bete noire, Dan Cohen, had fired off into the teeth of Eric Ringham and Tim O’Brien of the paper’s editorial page and columnist Nick Coleman.

Read Lambert’s piece for Cohen’s letter and [the parts of Cohen’s] background [that express Lambert’s bias].  Summary:  Cohen, like me, was jumping on Nick “the Monkey” Coleman’s many, loathsome, premature assignments of guilt.  (A detailed fisk of Coleman’s “the dog ate my logic” column will follow, probably tomorrow).

And to start with, Lambert puts on his big-boy pants and takes his medicine:

Those of us who shared Coleman’s view—that penny-pinching by craven politicians fearful of the wrath of the cynical “small-government crowd” bear a responsibility for the collapse—aren’t exactly buoyed by the NTSB report.

I’m trying to imagine how “buoyed” one would be by circumstances that led to 13 deaths.  But in the interest of discussion, I’ll let that one slide. 

But this one is “preliminary.” It is not the last word, and myriad issues remain, all supporting more comprehensive inspection and maintenance of government-owned infrastructure, something that requires significantly more cash than will ever be generated by a piddly five-cent-a-gallon tax increase…

 …and all of which would be more useful than the billion plus dollars we’re going to spend on a light rail line from nowhere to noplace – which seems to be completely inviolate in the world of Brian Lambert and Nick Coleman. 

Moreover, although Cohen and his “no-new-taxes brigade” have distilled this to Coleman and the Star Tribune vs. Republicans, Carol Molnau and Govenor Pawlenty in particular, Coleman at least was pretty clear at the start that blame should be placed at the feet of both political parties with the Republicans just happening to be running the show as the thing fell into the river.

This is, of course, buncombe:  it was aimed squarely at Pawlenty, fiscal conservatives (and the handy dandy group that serves as our lobbying body, the Taxpayers League) and anyone that doesn’t claim to channel the spirit of Walter Mondale.  Which would be Minnesota’s right – Republicans and the thin film of fiscally-responsible Tics. 

Read it and judge for yourself.

There is actual good news in Lambert’s column, though.  That’s right – those of us who believe Coleman has less “gatekeeping” and “editing” than any self-respecting blogger are also vindicated!

In the interest of both fairness and putting on a quality show for the reading public (who always loves a good scrap . . . not to mention the sight of newspaper elitists eating crow), I called…Coleman, who, at a little before 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, was banging out a column that he doubted the paper would ever run. (Have I buried the lede here?)

When I asked what he was going to say to the Dan Cohens of the world, Coleman replied, “I’ve been strongly advised not to even try.”  Word, he says, had been passed along down the editing chain that nothing from him on the NTSB  finding was wanted unless he could come up with a new, fresh “reported” angle, maybe, you know, another variation on some victim’s story. (Can’t get enough of that, can we?) But his columnist’s opinion on the report? Apparently not, according to Coleman.

Did I mention he was writing one anyway?

No, and since the suspense isn’t killing you either, gentle reader, here it is

That’s why I like the guy. He’s a public asset. I think it’s the Irish thing. Born to brawl and all that. When you have some insulated, dweeby editor wringing hands over . . . ooohhh “contentiousness” and “needless provocation” . . ., you want a guy who basically says, “[Bleep] off, and go back to your pod.”

Did the “insulated, dweeby editor” mention anything about “jumping to conclusions” and “acting on facts not anywhere in actual evidence?”

“Responsibility as a reporter?”

“Writing to a standard higher than the bloggers who standards Nick Coleman couldn’t meet if he had to?” 

 I used to think that was what good Metro columnists did. Especially when they had the acute theatrical sense to know that everyone following a story as rich as the Strib‘s (entirely warranted) “Get Molnau” series wants to hear his response to what appears to be a damning official declaration that he and his colleagues have been wrong, and his apology to the poor beknighted Ms. Molnau. (Believe me, that last part ain’t happening.)


He was wrong!  The engineers have (preliminarily) scuppered Coleman’s arrogant, purplefaced, wrong conclusion!  Empirical fact has beaten emotional demigoguery!

And Coleman’s empirical, considered, “journalistic” response?

As for Cohen, Coleman says, “I like Dan. Hell, I agree with him on about 90 percent of his criticisms of the paper. But he’s full of gas on this gusset thing.”

“Full of gas”.

And yes, [Strib letters editor and leftyblog starboinker Tim] O’Brien says reaction to the NTSB report is already building with righties demanding to know when the paper is going to apologize to Carol Molnau.

Maybe publisher Chris Harte will run over to St. Paul hat in hand. I don’t see Coleman making that trip.

A better guess: like all good high priests of knowledge, they’ll withdraw to their inner sanctum until the peasants go elsewhere.

We’ll get to Coleman in a bit.

Just To Be Perfectly Clear On Things

 Paul Schmelzer took understandable, mild umbrage over the “Shootie” award I gave the Minnesota Monitor yesterday. 

He might not be entirely wrong.  But we’ll get back to that.

Let’s go waaaay back to the spring of ’06.

Back before the Minnesota Monitor even started publishing, I got a tip from a source that said the “Center for Independent Media”, a group that “rented” office space from the George Soros-funded Media Matters for America, was going to be funding “grassroots citizen media” outlets, and was looking for reliably liberal bloggers to write for them.  So – going back to the summer/fall of 2006 – I and quite a number of center-right bloggers, in the interest of clarity, started asking the Monitor and its management (at that time, Robin “Rew” Marty of Powerliberal) where the money came from – who, indeed, were the “liberals with deep pockets” that were fronting the Monitor writers’ “stipends”?

For the better part of a year, “we” asked, and asked, and asked again.  The Monitor, when it responded at all, said that, appearances aside, the Hungarian-born currency speculator and leftymedia sugardaddy had nothing, nothing to do with the Center for Independent Media or the Minnesota Monitor.   We asked the Monitor’s editor; I emailed the Center for Independent Media and asked directly.  The CIM didn’t respond at all.  Robin Marty went further:

To clarify, the Center for Independent Media is not receiving funding from Media Matters.  The only financial arrangement they have is to rent office space.

Cleverly, carefully worded. 

Except “Media Matters” wasn’t the crux of the debate; money from George Soros was.  Robin’s response was that if one didn’t see an armored car labelled “Soros International”  unloading bags of currency labelled “Media Matters” at the CIM offices, it didn’t count! 

Never mind that many – especially Joe “Learned Foot” Tucci at Kool Aid Report and this blog’s regular commenter Master of None – did the digging and found the links.  The Monitor’s party line, and the line from its supporters, remained unchanged.

And so – given that the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results each time, we moved on, mostly; we took shots at the obloquy and apparent disingenuity of the denials, but figured there were bigger fish to fry.  The Monitor’s critics assumed the site was a “Soros” (among many others) front; its supporters stomped their feet and demanded to see the photos of that armored car and those bags of money.

And then, Eric Black went and admitted it all

Now, I have been unstinting in my regard for Paul Schmelzer and his work at the Monitor.  In a region that’s become accustomed to the likes of Brian Lambert as a media “reporter”, Schmelzer has done a great job; he’s head and possibly shoulders above the pack at the Monitor (in some cases, toss in knees or ankles).  He took over as editor in August.  I think he’s done a decent job – and I freely admit in deference to Schmelzer and his predecessor, Robin Marty, that I could certainly not run a big group-blog like the Monitor.

Schmelzer has noted – in private email to me and in this comment thread in the Monitor, that nobody since August has asked him about the Monitor’s funding, and that he’s being up-front about it.

Which, to be fair to Schmelzer, is true; most of us had given up and settled into our beliefs, pro and con, on the subject. 

So Schmelzer is correct in that he is being open about the Monitor and CIM’s funding, albeit under intense questioning from Tom Swift (see the comment section).

But there is plenty of history here.  Kudos to Schmelzer for being up-front about it – but, to be fair (to us), it’s not like it didn’t take well over a year of trying, accompanied by a lot of rhetorical abuse and tittering from the Monitor and its defenders, to get to this point.

Does it matter?  On the one hand, not really.  I mean, I don’t begrudge the Monitor’s staff their paychecks; if you love to do something (and blogging is rarely more than a labor of love), it can be mighty nice to see some payback.  And if George Soros or any other fatcats with deep pockets want to spend their kids’ inheritance on propaganda organs – well, it’s their money!  I know I’d jump on a check from Richard Mellon Scaife or the Heritage Foundation with both feet.  I’d also disclose, completely and immediately, the fact that I had gotten the check, rather than tapdancing and misdirecting and denying the source of my support – I’d just as soon let the reader accurately and completely know, and let them assign or deduct credibility accordingly. 

Just as most of us have done with the Monitor.

It’s not that complicated.  Or shouldn’t have been, at least.

 PS:  My wise old grandpa always told me “don’t listen to lectures about “embarassment” from people who seem unable to feel it themselves”. 

Words to live by!

Fun With Lambert

Someone emailed me to ask what I thought about Brian Lambert’s take on the latest round of ratings.

What the heck; it’s always good entertainment.

I’ll ask you to remember one thing that, for some of you (and you know who I’m talking about), might seem counterintuitive; while I am a conservative host (part-time, anyway), I’m also very, very clinical about the business itself. [Pacino on] It’s not personal. It’s business. [/Pacino off] As I’ve noted in the past, I could probably do a better job of making the local Air America affiliate successful than whomever Janet Robert has doing it now.  Not that I’m going to; I’m just saying.

So let’s go to Lambert (whom the Rake has absorbed, along with Deb  Caulfield-Rybak):

In response to thunderous demand for radio ratings statistics — a task I find strangely titillating — the Slaughter offers these snapshots of what Twin Cities listeners say they were tuned to over the past summer.

The disclaimer I will always issue is that as they are currently handled, by volunteers filling in written diaries, the Arbitrons have about as much scientific validity as The Flat Earth Society. The game will change dramatically when the so-called Portable People Meters, devices that accurately record what people are actually listening to, as opposed to what they remember, or prefer to think they were listening to, hits this market. But until then, the radio industry lives and dies by these things, and the patterns — even with constantly shifting volunteers — are pretty static.

True.  With one important caveat; Arbitron’s method is notoriously…no, notoriously fickle with stations with smaller numbers.

Here are the rankings for the top 15 local commercial stations, among adult listeners 25-54.

Continued advertisement


KQRS ………….11.1…….11.0

It truly amazes me what a juggernaut KQ has become…


…or that KS95 is hanging in there at all, much less this far up the rankings.


Wow.  Great job, Clear Channel!  Gassing Mick Anselmo did you a world of good!


On the other hand, that makes me happy.  Jack is my favorite “conventional” music station (although I’ve found myself listening to MPR Classical more and more lately)
The Evil Talk Empire continues its post-Limbaugh languish…:


With its consultants’ view that “conservative talk is dead” still undisturbed in its’ cabinet at Hubbard HQ, I betcha the winter book, sans the Twins (not to mention next summer, with a rebuilding team) is going to huuuuuuurt.


This astounds me; WCCO is unravelling.

And this…:


KTLK fired program director (and my old KSTP colleague) Doug Westerman; I can’t imagine that dropping “The Limbaugh Station” into freefall made ’em very happy (although sources tell me Westerman didn’t have much more actual programming authority than did the manager of the Caribou across the street from Clear Channel Twin Cities’ studios).

Finally, the important part:

(Tie)Air America…0.6……..0.7
(Tie)The Patriot…1.2……..0.7

So.  After three years, the Patriot and AAo’M are tied.

Except we’re not.  Remember – this is radio inside baseball, so I am, in fact, very clinical in my approach.  My apparent bias toward the Patriot (where I host a show) applies a lot less than you might think:

  1. A tie may not be a Patriot win, but it’s a loss for AAo’M from a “physics” perspective.  Both stations are 5,000 watt AM operations; AAo’M is a 950 Kilocycles, while AM1280 is, obviously, at 1280Kc.  The lower an AM station’s frequency, the more range and clarity it has per watt of power; AM950’s signal should cover – very conservatively – 50% more area than 1280’s.  And AM950 broadcasts from the heart of the überliberal 5th District.
  2. As we noted above, Arbitron numbers this far down the standings are notoriously fickle.
  3. When the numbers are this fickle, it makes no sense for a station to take Arbitron ratings to potential advertisers.  They have to rely on demographics and results.  So compare advertisers and inventories; by that measure, the Patriot is creaming AAo’M.
  4. Oh, yeah – to the extent anyone cares about the numbers, the first “Trend” numbers after the summer book show the Patriot up, and AAo’M down.  Just saying.

The Patriot has problems; as noted in this space (by many, many commenters as well as me), it’s had a series of frustrating technical glitches leading to hours of dead air, doubled-up commercials and other problems.  When those get fixed (and while I don’t want to go into inside-station details, big changes are underway there), it’ll  be a huge improvement.:

On the downside, K102, Twins-less WCCO and The Patriot took tough slides in audience levels. Speaking of the Twins though, KSTP-AM can’t be thrilled that their expensive “partnership” with the Twinkies netted them only a meager 0.4 increase in adult listeners. That ain’t good.

It’s worse than that; apparently whatever numbers they got from the Twinks didn’t transfer to any of the station’s regular programs.

Now, to the fun part – drive time:

KQRS ……..22.9 (Barnard)

Say what you will about Barnard, his personality, his show’s teenage-boy orientation – but speaking purely clinically, it’s kind of fun to be able to watch one of the industry’s most enduring phenomena, year-in, year-out.  Barnard is the Walter Peyton of radio; year after year after year, he just continues to dominate.

KS95……….9.3 (Greg & Cheryl)

Not speaking clinically in the least, it’s great to see Greg Thunder (the first Mr. Eleanor Mondale) score.  I knew Greg nearly 20 years ago; he’s one of the good guys.

Speaking of good guys:

The Patriot…1.1 (Bennett/Ingraham)
KTLK……….1.0 (Hines/Conry)
AirAmerica….0.5 (Press/Miller)

All of the usual caveats about numbers below 2 points still apply – but this is just plain fun.  Forget about Bill Press and Stephanie “The Liberal Laura Ingraham” Miller – the fact that the syndicated Bennett is beating the local legend (and expensive but pointless host)  (UPDATE:  Ex-host, actually) John Hines is a sign of how badly Clear Channel is handling KTLK.  And it’s reportedly worse after 8AM, where the syndie Laura Ingraham is reportedly body-slamming the local (and, honestly, not-bad) Dan Conry in the mid-morning slot.

Now, let’s move to afternoons:


AM1500…5.3 (Soucheray/Thomas)
KTLK…..2.3 (Hannity/Lewis)
AirAm….0.8 (Hartmann/Heaney)
Patriot..0.5 (Medved/Hewitt)

Lewis’ performance is counterintuitive; he should  be dominating the late-drive slot against the limpid sportstalker Matt Thomas.  Forget Clear Channel – his numbers are a disappointment to me – Lewis is the host I always wanted to be when I grew up.

As to the vital AAo’M vs.Hewitt battle – that’s an interesting question.   The Mark Heaney show has expanded to two hours, which merely makes Heaney twice as excruciating. Remember – I’m being pretty clinical here.  Heaney is boring enough to be on MPR, but smooth and professional enough for KFAI.

On the other hand, Hewitt’s numbers lately are pretty terrible.  Part of that, no doubt, can be chalked up to the inter-election slump that always bedevils conservative talk.  Part of it is the Patriot’s technical bugaboos, which seem to be worst in the afternoon (and have even made me tune out).  And part of it, perhaps, is that Hugh Hewitt might, perhaps, overestimate the fascination the American people have  for the inner workings of the legal system; as someone who is not only a big fan but an acquaintance (whose own radio show owes a lot to support from Hewitt in the first place), there’ve been times where even I get tired of endless insider-noodling about appellate court decisions.  Hewitt will benefit when both he and the audience switch into election mode (provided the Patriot gets its’ pernicious technical bugs squared away).

The next year, with a national convention and a presidential election, is going to be the real test.

And (not speaking clinically at all, now), I’m looking forward to it.

See No Lambert, Hear No Lambert, Say No Lambert

Brian Lambert – the Major Renault of the Twin Cities media – yaps about the Stribs’ discovery of that thing that most terrifies people like…well, Brian Lambert; the free market.

But first, some things that oughtta scare all of us:

Former City Pages editor, Steve Perry, has been busy tunneling through some juicy news troves as he prepares to launch his much anticipated website, The Daily Mole, (Think: A young, hip, bra-less version of MinnPost.com).

Not sure that I want to see a bra-less Steve Perry.

But I digress. 

In the process, he came across an interesting piece of Star Tribune in-house stategery, (as W* would say) that we felt needed to emerge from behind the Mole’s beta fire-wall to be shared with all of you.

I quote:

“Ridder’s Star Tribune legacy: The newspaper of the very best zip codes.”

By Steve Perry
October 2, 2007

Let’s stop right there.

Brian Lambert and Steve Perry – no Frogtowners, no blue-collar working stiffs, nobody who would seem to have seen the wrong end of a time clock in his entire post-Dinkytown-fratboy lives, they – are yipping about a newspaper, a business, actually selling their product where the money is?


Par Ridder may have fallen, but his vision of the Star Tribune’s future marches on. The map shown here (click on the image for a large view) is an internally distributed Strib planning document that identifies the “key zip codes” in the paper’s primary distribution area. Think of it as a visual rendering of the paper’s latest push to shore up its collapsing profits and reshape its news coverage in the most demographically attractive corners of the metro: the affluent, mostly conservative outer-ring suburbs. And if you live in Minneapolis or St. Paul (or any first-tier suburb save Edina), think of yourself as the hole in the donut.

The red sectors on the map also help to make sense of Avista point man Chris Harte’s push for a more conservative editorial page voice in recent months, a development that Brian Lambert and Deborah Rybak have been watching closely at their Rake-hosted media news blog. (Harte’s more notorious diktats have included forced revisions of editorials calling for DOT chief Carol Molnau’s head, and championing a proposed gas tax hike.)

Um, yeah.  The Strib has become a conservative tool.  Just ask…I dunno, a conservative.  Does Steve Perry know any?

I’ll go back to Perry’s bit while I herniate myself laughing:

As one Strib veteran tells the Mole, “The right-wing blog voices that were bashing the paper a couple of years ago, Hugh Hewitt and the rest, have gotten pretty much everything they wanted.

We got a paper that doesn’t say “be gentle” when the DFL says “bend over?”


 The GOP wanted the Minnesota Poll gone, and now it’s gone.


They wanted to get rid of people like [editorial board members] Jim Boyd and Susan Albright and their editorial policy, and they’ve succeeded at that.

Well, to be fair to all of us conservatives, anyone that supported unbiased, fair journalism should have wanted both of them chased from 425 Portland by a torch-and-pitchfork-bearing mob.   

Now there won’t be editorials about the war and global warming; they’ll write about local issues like zoning conflicts in Coon Rapids instead.

Let’s leave the Strib’s congenital bias aside for a moment; even if they were going to remain a pure DFL flak organ, the fact remains that “local sells”.   

 They wanted the paper to hire a conservative columnist, and they got that.

Over how many dead bodies? 

From here on out, it looks like the Strib becomes the conservative, suburbs-oriented paper, and the Pioneer Press will become the paper of the city underdogs and the blue voters. They may wind up getting pushed more to the left.”

Let’s leave politics aside for a moment, again; the Pioneer Press might just have to to exactly that, since they blew the chance to try to capture the moderate-right-leaning audience that both papers have piddled on for all of recent memory.  If the Strib (and it’s a HUGE if) is actually moving to the middle, the PiPress may have lost its best chance to survive.  Period.

The irony is that the Parmeister worked his magic in St. Paul before turning his talents on Minneapolis. East of the river he frankly declared his intention to turn the Pioneer Press Op-Ed section into “the conservative alternative to the Star Tribune”, all while and blanding-down “news coverage” to those same mythically potent outer suburbs.

The “mythically potent” ‘burbs where most of Minnesota’s growth, and red-ifying, are happening, in other words.

In other words, though shamed by his own malfeasance, Ridder has wrought red across the Twin Cities metro.

Well, maybe he’s not so dumb after all.

(Via Ed and Tracy)

Bogus Science

Gary Miller has the best introduction to Bogus Doug’s evisceration of Brian Lambert’s call for media censorship of the global warming debate:

Doug Williams demonstrates why he is duty-bound to never again take 6 months off from blogging by offering this extraordinary post on Brian Lambert’s global warming pronouncements.

In the span of just a few paragraphs, Doug demonstrates Lambert’s unfamiliarity with the scientific method. 

But don’t take Gary’s word for it.  Read Doug’s post.

A highlight:

Brian Lambert has written a screed a bit wordier, but no sillier about conservatives. But we shouldn’t mock. He’s in his terribly serious mode, you see. He’s trying to explain that he – failed media critic Brian Lambert – has figured out the high holy scientific truths journalists ought to respect.

The ethical challenge for journalists and journalism (as opposed to infotainment personalities in “the media”) is stark. It means accepting what the best available science has now concluded is fact about global warming — that it’s happening and human activity is an aggravating if not principal cause — and pulling the plug on spurious “debate” engendered by conservative ideologues, much like what credible news organizations have done with Holocaust-deniers and creationists.

Of course to anyone with a degree studying science as opposed to journalism it’s a grand load of hooey on it’s face. What exactly is a phrase like “accepting what the best available science has now concluded is fact about global warming” supposed to mean? Real science hasn’t “concluded” that any future predictions – about global warming or anything else – are “fact,” because that’s not how science works. And “pulling the plug on spurious ‘debate'” is about as blatant a rejection of the scientific method as one could propose.

Doug shows in tall block letters the scientific illiteracy which is so comical when coming from a cartoon like Lambert – but so dangerous from actual reporters:

It’s child’s play to find leading experts in climate science dissenting from the IPCC report. Yet that’s not something Lambert even finds relevant. Because “for journalists the debate phase has ended.” Science goes in story phases, don’t you know. It’s not really about the search for truth, it’s about framing the narrative. I don’t think he intended to be nearly so honest, but wow is that ever telling.

The other telling thing here is how Lambert has drifted into the position that journalists should trust the scientific pronouncements of political scientific bodies. I know he thinks this is a special and singular scientific issue unlike any other before or likely to come after. But that just illustrates his naivety. Especially in the modern age, scientific funding is driven to a large extent by crisis-mongering. If Lambert is suggesting – and it seems he is – that in the case of a crisis journalists must abandon their skepticism, he’s calling for journalists to become little more than government propagandists. And what could possibly go wrong there?

Read the whole thing.

And Gary was right, Doug; I hope you’re good and rested.  We’re gonna need you.


Lambert: “Unclean! Unclean!

I rag endlessly on the Minnesota Monitor.  But I’ll say this: media correspondent Paul Schmelzer is very, very good at what he does. 

Vastly better, as a media-beat reporter, than the “source” of this bit from Friday, Brian Lambert, one of the Twin Cities’ media scene’s great ongoing embarassments. 

Lambert, who’s been ekeing out a living of sorts at “Rake” or “Pulse” or “Spume” or “Froth” or “Cake” or some other boutique handout ‘zine, visibly slavers for any gig that’ll get him back in the journalistic middle class.  And so it’s gotta hurt when his old rival from twenty years ago, James Lileks, came out of the turmoil at the Strib with the reins of “Buzz.com”, and a license to make it work (Lileks is an alum of the City Pages from back in the eighties; Lambert wrote for late, unlamented rival Twin Cities Reader). 

Schmelzer reports that Lambert is oh so onto something, yesirreebob:

The Rake’s Brian Lambert says what’s been on the minds of many I’ve talked with recently: How come the Star Tribune community blog Buzz.mn has become the sole domain of James Lileks, who was hired to manage it?

Not sure if Lambert and “many” that Schmelzer has “talked with recently” have heard, but Lileks is a fairly prominent blogger.


“I and others never had the impression it was supposed to be a one-person rumpus room, yet another variation on ‘The Bleating Quirk,'” Lambert writes.

Brian Lambert, who loses the title of “Twin Cities’ Media’s most egregious DFL flak” only because Lori Sturdevant draws breath, dinging Lileks, the center-right blogosphere’s least political prominent blogger, for being a political one-trick pony?

I’ll let that little dollop of cheap irony fester right there for a moment. 

Is there, as one dime-dropper told me, ‘a de facto boycott’ going on? And how did Lileks end up with an editing job officially described as requiring, ‘the consummate team player’?”


“How” indeed! 

Because he was able to convince management that he’s, if not an “ultimate” team player, at least good enough to do the job (as, indeed, Brian Lambert has never been)?

Or is it that blasted right-wing conspiracy again?  Because we all know how very very much influence  the vast right-wing conspiracy has at the Strib.

Lambert ponders whether “Nancy Barnes and Scott Gillespie, the Strib’s top editors, parked Lileks there just to goose up traffic with his ‘Bleat’ readers.” If so, are they — or potential contributors at the Strib — concerned that readers of this “community journalism website” aren’t necessarily from the local community?

If so, they’d be blissfully unaware that the web is, in fact, international, and that when it comes to advertising, hits is hits; one never looks a gift audience (especially one like Lileks’ which, unlike Lambert’s, is big) in the mouth. 

 Or that many are arriving via Lileks’ personal conservative contacts? In today’s post on The Bleat, Lileks’ non-Strib blog, he praised  Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds (dubbed “the godfather of conservative blogging” by Right Wing News), “whose natural generousity has thrown boatloads of traffic to buzz.mn this week, bless his soul” and mentioned a radio segment he did with Dean Barker, conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt’s co-blogger at Town Hall.

And so we get down to the next-to-center layer of the onion; to the likes of Lambert, the only “unbiased” media is the one where everyone explicitly shares the same biases.

The center layer, of course, is that Lambert would seem to be a jealous little fellow who deeply covets Lileks’ success which, at every step in both of their careers, has constantly outpaced his own.  Back in the eighties when they both wrote for boutique ‘zines, Lileks was the better and more successful writer.  Lileks went to DC to write for Newhouse; Lambert went to Saint Paul to write an expendable media column (which was, eventually, expended).  Lileks’ radio show was a success and remains a cult favorite; Not even Sarah Janecek could save Lambert’s latest foray into broadcast, while his earlier attempts were definitely cable-access-worthy.  And today, Lileks is working the only part of the Strib franchise that’s growing; Lambert will be selling articles to the Skyway News and the Highland Villager before too long.

Yeah.  It must be the politics.

Strib: Circling The Drain

Bad news for columnists at the Strib, according to long-time lefty shill Brian Lambert:

Thursday afternoon at the Star Tribune saw the paper’s four metro columnists, Doug Grow, Nick Coleman, Katherine Kersten and Cheryl “CJ” Johnson called in to separate meetings with editors Nancy Barnes and Scott Gillespie and told, in so many words, that the paper was looking to scale back the number of columnists and would any of them care to raise their hands and volunteer for reassignment to the paper’s suddenly thin — and getting thinner — ranks of street-level reporters?

Nick Coleman and Doug Grow as beat reporters?

Be still my heart. 

There were, as far as I can tell, no immediate takers. Later it was learned that quasi-metro columnist, James Lileks, was also given the same message.

I can see James as a thirties’ kind of reporter, with the pork-pie hat sitting behind a pebbled-glass door, smoking a Panter with his feet up on a steel desk next to the old Underwood. 

But I’m guessing he can’t…

This sort of scale-back/down-sizing/gutting has been anticipated ever since the new owners, Avista Capital Partners took over and after the round of voluntary buy-outs that clipped 24 positions from the payroll two months ago. Widespread assumption in the Strib newsroom is that fewer columnists will soon be matched with fewer theater critics, fewer film critics and perhaps — all though this is very hard to imagine — fewer sports reporters. (Veteran NBA reporter, Steve Aschburner, has already left the paper.)

Which, of course, has to hurt Lambert, who I suspect is slavering to return to the Broadcast beat that the PiPress ejected him from.

Meanwhile, newly-arrived publisher, Par Ridder, the target of a much-publicized lawsuit accusing him essentially of industrial espionage, remains secure in his position.

Yeah, that whole “he’s brand new in the gig and hasn’t been proven guilty of anything yet” bit’ll get you every time.

UPDATE:  Of course it’s worse than we thought.  Lileks’ column is apparently on the chopping block.

Send a note to the Reader Rep.

UPDATE II:  Via trackback, Britblogger Tim Worstall explains things to a European audience that need none with Yanks:

But any European observer, indeed any US manager who has dealt with union shops, would recognise what is going on here.

Take a well respected, well known and (for all I know, well paid) employee and assign him to duties manifestly ill suited to his talents at a time when you’re looking to cut costs and create redundancies.

Then hope they resign in disgust so that you don’t have to pay the “dismissal pay provision”.

But Not For Ye

The Elder beats down Brian Lambert:

For all the talk of “crushing of dissent,” “questioning of patriotism,” “building a theocracy,” “trashing the Constitution,” and “creating a climate of fear” in George Bush’s Amerika, it’s notable that at the end of the day, the only actual efforts to limit debate and free expression are coming from the Left. Imagine that.

Read the whole thing.  And respond by burning everything Brian Lambert has ever written, just to show him the real effect of what he’s proposing.

Just kidding about that last bit.