Category Archives: Media

I’m so sorry II

I posted about the Trib calling on other folks (who they disagree with) to apologize when I’m not so certain the Trib is big enough to do the same in this post.

Well, today a gushing front page story says good bye to the same dynamic person who was once subjected to a spiteful personal attack in a Trib editorial. Maybe this story was a form of apology to the Rabbi. If so, its not unlike Dr. Dixon’s leaving an apology on an answering machine. Hurry! Quick! The Superintendent needs his Girl Friday to send out a press release for the Trib’s Editorial Board so that they can beat up that poor schmo again on their organ (of the free press.)

Maybe its time for the Trib to “step up.”

I’m so sorry I

Loved the Trib’s editorial today. Once again they managed to put the onus on the little guy getting shoved around by the District’s bulldozers.

I got another email on that subject today which echoes my thoughts.

Harry,

Thank you for pointing out the DNT’s tactics. When something is so obviously wrong but falls on someone or something they support they will wait until they can find some blame to spread around.

They knew they would have to come out against the district’s bulldozer illegally destroying someones property. But their first story was very telling. “prematurely” taking the property

Or maybe it is the circulation division that tells them to keep all sides happy.

I still find their treatment of an ordinary citizen doing what was within his legal rights the most egregious of these damning commentaries. They minimized the district’s lack of following procedure with the letters people had written to the SB and made comment of Lauren M’s actions as “in his mind he…” How cruel.

Now they are going to frame this as a “man up” contest. Painting their side as the heroes no matter what.

As far as the one finger salute that Kuiti gave, it is nothing compared to the gesture this district gave us when it stole the vote.

Here is more about what the district has done to Kuiti from DNT Voices. First, the Duluth School District shows the Duluth Zoning Appeals Board a (incorrect) map which included property owned by Mr. Kuiti, as belonging to the
District.

Next, the realtor representing the Duluth School District told one of Mr. Kuiti’s prospective tenants that his property was being sold to the District and torn down! As a result, Mr. Kuiti demanded that the Duluth School District write him a letter agreeing that it was not interested in his property to squelch rumors that were driving away prospective tenants.

And now the Duluth School District has bulldozed his private property!

While I don’t agree with his figure gesture, is it any wonder why Mr. Kuiti is angry? At the very least he’s owed an apology — beginning with one from Tim Grover.

Flicking on someone smaller than me

Apropos the previous post: Who might be smaller than me? Maybe the Trib.

I enjoyed this self righteous line from the Finger editorial.

“Raised fingers and hard feelings aside, what this entire situation screams for is strong, grown-up behavior. And for someone to point out the obvious — that the district needs to apologize to Kuiti for bulldozing land he still owns and that Kuiti needs to apologize to Grover for his less-than-friendly hand gestures. Kuiti and the district could then get back to negotiating the land sale so the Piedmont school project can continue to move forward.”

So what examples have the editors of the Trib set in the past? Here are two that stick out.

Chuck Frederick is a very agreeable guy, especially when he sticks to human interest stories, used his bully pulpit on the Editorial Page a year ago to criticize the Arch Diocese of Duluth for firing a very popular parochial school principal.

As a parent myself I can appreciate the temptation to use his position as a Trib employee to second guess the Catholic Church which seems completely inept these days. Perhaps the firing should have been widely and publicly denounced. I’m just not sure that Chuck was the one to do it or that he did his reportorial due diligence. Some of the folks who defended the decision raised points which the journalist Frederick seemed not to have considered. In this way Chuck used his power much like a high school reporter who uses his/her position to embarrass a fellow student.

A more egregious actual editorial slipped past Robin Washington some time before that. His Rabbi was an adoptive mother and, gasp, gay. She also is no doubt a better singer than Robin, an incisive thinker, and she probably knows Hebrew better than Washington. She was pulled over driving home from a friend’s house and found to be a hair above the newly lowered alcolol limit. Her child was on board at the time in a car seat.

Every week the Trib is full of notices of people who have been pulled over for DWI’s. Perhaps this event, considering the situation and the driver, was worthy of a small story but that’s all – maybe. When I read the damning editorial that followed it too reminded me of the abuses you might find in a high school newspaper. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something about the Rabbi that got under the Editor’s skin so that he felt empowered to bring her down a notch.

I don’t know about you but if I had my druthers I’d rather have an irritated citizen flip me the bird for some failure on my part than read about how reckless I was with my child in an editorial in the local rag. Its called the power of the press with good reason. Its a damn shame to see it abused.

I wonder if the Trib’s editors are big enough men to offer apologies when they are warranted.

And this email

for you folks with opinions needing airing

FYI, the DNT has begun to allow online comments again on their major stories. They pulled that option many months ago because people were saying some really inappropriate things. Now they have moderators to keep people appropriate.

So you can go online & comment on the story about the Piedmont Land if you are interested in doing so.

“…space doesn’t cost anything”

One benefit of my blog is that folks to take the trouble to look up my email send me interesting information. (You can find it by clicking the “Talk Back” link at the top of the list to your right) A couple years back a very interesting commentator on Brandon Stahl’s blog emailed me and we keep up an occasional correspondence. He just sent me this longish email and I found it very interesting. The quote I’ve used in the heading refers to a phony claim by politicians and bureaucrats that keeping videos of public meetings available on line would be expensive.

I was tempted to run for county board here because NO ONE apparently has filed against a 15-year incumbent. I would have no chance of getting more than 25%, if even that, so it’s throwing away a $50 bill on the filing fee.

Another county board astronaut who takes up space has no opposition either.

The issue here regarding the county board has been their self-appointed salary increases. Two big increases a few years ago. One was 20% then a few years later another 25%. Just last week they are planning a 2% increase. Ramsey County is a charter county (I’m on the charter commission) and the charter stipulates that any pay increases they give themselves have to be done before July 1, to let the voters have a “referendum” of their own in that fall’s elections by voting the rascals out.

They never do. All of them have been on the board for years and now their salaries are approaching $90,000 a year. Each of them gets an assistant, or chief of staff, whatever you want to call it at a salary in the $50k range and of course there’s all those benefits . . . Continue reading

Driven to suicide?

I count Eric Ringsred as a friend. We haven’t talked since about two years ago when he called me out of the blue and asked me, since I like to sing, if I’d be interested in getting a bunch of kids from church together to go Christmas caroling. Eric wears his heart on his sleeve. He also puzzles and confounds conformists. Letting a strip club into his Norshore theater is just one example of this.

Yesterday his tennant Jim Gradisher committed suicide. Eric, who feels a little responsible for his friend’s death has lashed out at others he feels are responsible. He called Brandon Stahl, a DNT reporter I rather favor, and blasted him then sent an accusatory letter to many City leaders which Stahl includes in full on his blog. Thankfully Stahl does not take issue with Eric. He simply lets Ringsred’s letter speak for itself.

Its not popular sticking up for folks in the skin trade. Another of my political acquaintances, Jerry Arnold trained the Federal Government on Duluth’s previous absentee porn lord Ferris Alexander. I’ve got my own complicated thoughts about the skin trade especially now that so many people are offering theirs up for free on youtube videos.

Last year I was embarrassed to jump to a very wrong conclusion about Mr. Gradisher when the Trib reported a dead body had been found at his home. At the time he was in the news every other day and I was sure he had committed suicide and uploaded a post suggesting that the Trib’s stories had driven him to it. I was wrong. I was premature.

“Buy a Newspaper”

When I was a kid I saw a David Niven comedy called “Best of Enemies.” Due the the modern miracle of the Internet I was just able to confirm my memory with the link in the preceding sentence. It was about the odd duck friendship between warring enemies on the North African front in WW II. I suspect I’ve always tried to keep the same sort of approach in any adversarial relationship I’ve developed with school board members, union presidents, political opponents and certainly the press.

In the fight, one fellow called it a “scorched earth” campaign, for my right to vote on the Red Plan I’ve had such a relationship with Sarah Horner who recently lost her reporting job at the Trib. I hinted in an earlier post that she may have been yet another casualty of the Red Plan although in what way I couldn’t be sure. Certainly my friendly rivalry had gotten pretty testy and even contemptuous towards the end. Still, Sarah was good humored despite an alarming increase in the barbs I directed her way for what I regarded as an uneven journalistic skepticism directed at the folks on my side of the argument.

To my surprise I stumbled upon a webpage this morning, the Current, which the Trib apparently set up for its reporters to write reviews of local restaurants. (The Trib had already dispensed with the services of another old Education Reporter, Tom Wilkowske, who had taken over this job before the hard times hit them full force.) When I saw that Sarah had made some entries I had to check them out. Her reviews were frothy but fun and reminded me why I enjoyed fencing with her for the first year and a half of the battle. Continue reading

No P virus

I am a little reticent about pulling my family into my blog. Not nearly reticent enough, however, according to my family.

I happen to think that a little personal revelation gives balance and perspective to my online rants and eye winks. Those rants and eye winks have diminished greatly since last Fall’s election because I’ve been attending to two year’s worth of neglected home and family projects as well as taking on new challenges. The biggest of all the challenges has been grandparenthood.

The Tan Man has a new little brother “Jakie-Jake”. The Tan Man even chose Jake’s first name. Like all babies the new brother is cute as a button and when placed in a grandparent’s arms immediately brings down the heart rate.

Ten days ago he also raised our heart rates by picking up something called acronymically the RSV virus. I find it easier to remember if I think of it as the “no P” virus (as in RSVP).

Like all viruses it disobeys God’s commandment not to evolve so that it is constantly finding new ways to bedevil folks. In Jakie Jake’s case it probably would have killed him if I’d been left in charge of him two friday’s back. He was turning blue but he’d just been to a Doctor who hadn’t quite realized how hard the virus would hit the little fellow. Hindsight allows me to see the reality I wasn’t able to see when I was holding him in my arms poking him with his bottled milk trying to get fluids into him per the doctor’s orders. I’d jab his mouth with its rubber nipple and he would open his eyes wide, look at me and then shut them again. He was not taking in his fluids. He was not pink. He was swaddled but not fighting it and not waving his arms like the little signal corpsman he usually is.

Smarter heads took him to the emergency room and within moments of admission he was being triaged and given oxygen to combat the apnea that would likely have done him in. He’s out of the hospital now but its been a hectic week. Even now its 4AM and I’ve been up a couple hours. I haven’t had so little sleep since my active war with the Duluth School District last fall and that was strictly a matter of conscience not life and death.

By the way, the RSV virus is running rampant in Duluth these days. When we brought Jacob into the hospital for a second overnight stay there were three babies with it in the same wing and a couple more in the emergency room waiting for admission. One online article my daughter googled told her that 2% of RSV infected babies get hospital admissions. The disease can be a killer. you can read more about it and its prevention here.

I still find time to consume information even if my public comments and postings have become spotty. I was sent this thought provoking column about the possibility of a surprising and well deserved Pulitzer nomination for the scruffy and disreputable National Enquirer. I would highly recommend it to the publisher of the Duluth News Tribune.

Aw shucks

Last evening I found myself watching an old movie I’d wanted to see for a long time, A Face in the Crowd.

It was Andy Griffith’s first movie and to my surprise it was also directed by Elia Kazan, the guy who spent the rest of his life living down having ratted out Hollywood pinks to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee during the 1950’s. Like many who have had to atone for their weaknesses (Teddy Kennedy comes to mind) Kazan did some of his best work afterward making a couple outstanding movies including the transcendent On the Waterfront. (Take that Al Netland!)

It was a long movie for its era but I watched it straight through. It was about a small time smooth talker from the sticks with a gift for gab who knows how to take advantage of a good opportunity when one falls into his lap. Think Citizen Cane or All the King’s Men. That opportunity is television as it was in the 1950’s. Even now it has me reflecting on the uses to which politicians or sleaze balls can put television. Fox News and the country charmer’s “Cracker Barrel” have some remarkable parallels.

Andy Griffith’s character’s used an “aw shucks” sort of self effacement to win over converts. I just wish I could expose a fraud as easily as Patricia Neal did in the movie’s last act when she turned on the sound as the credits of the Cracker Barrel were rolling and Andy ridiculed the loyal audience that he had duped.

Blogger Fallibility Alert

I’ll keep correcting my mistakes as soon as you see um. I just commented that Forum Communications stock holders were put at risk with every step away from the ladder of journalism the Trib takes. I’ve been informed that its its a privately owned company. Presumably only high power owners/investors will take it in the shorts. Good. That makes me feel better.

It was Bob who corrected this for me. Bob took strong issue with a post a couple weeks ago and we had a heated exchange of emails but Bob was looking more for explanations than cheap shots and we settled down to a pretty rational discussion.

As this bit of misinformation on my part shows I’m not the fount of all knowledge. Furthermore, with so many folks trumpeting some aspects of the Red Plan that I don’t disagree with I feel no need to shout amen myself. I stick pretty much to the fire and brimstone qualities of the Plan that make it so Red.

My daughter just called to ask me what the sign out front meant and why for heaven’s sake its upside down. I told her that after reading the Trib this morning I got fed up and felt a compulsion to let the world beyond this blog know what inferior coverage its been providing. As for its being upside down. Well, that’s a distress signal. Every day for thirty years I spent an hour or more reading through the DNT. If I get past the letters to the editor these days that’s a minor miracle.

Its not just the Trib. My partner in berry picking (my Father-in-law) told me when he picked up our Trib that it looked just as insubstantial has his Florida daily has become. I talked with a person associated with the Two Harbor’s paper a few days ago. The paper has half the staff it did before Rob Karwath cleaned them out for Forum. What does that mean for local news?

Is anyone writing about how that community woke up to a financial disaster after building its new “cost saving” high school? Not if the Forum has anything to say about what constitutes news.

Holwerk

I was the first person to write a comment on David Holwerk’s column written on his departure from the once scrappy San Francisco Bee. Holwerk used to be the Trib’s Editorial Page editor. I doubt if many are reading his column which means even fewer will read my reply so I’m publishing my comments here to rectify that.

I remember Mr. Holwerk even though, like a lot of the Trib’s managment, he just passed through town staying for a short stint before moving on to the next assignment. The reason I recall him so well is that he was the editor who finally insisted that I stop copying Trib stories on the Duluth Schools and make them available on my own website. I clearly violated the Trib’s copywrite to do this so I had no legal ground to stand on.

At the time I served on the Duluth School Board and I justified (rationalized) that keeping the stories accessible had a higher public purpose. I didn’t make any money from keeping them online and the Trib would be hard pressed to show that they lost money because I chose to keep the stories online. Besides, just like now, my actions as a school board member back then helped generate stories and that was good for the paper’s bottom line. Without news there would have been no point in reading or subscribing to the paper.

I’ve alway liked that quote about the newspapers being the first draft of history. Its a shame that in this age of unlimited Internet storage you have to pay the Trib $2.95 to retreive old news stories to get that first draft.

David wrote in his fairwell to journalism that among their many virtues Newspaper’s “stood up against numerous interests that would loot the public treasuries.” Yeah, well I don’t see that in Duluth.

Instead the Trib’s policy of hiding historical stories behind a three dollar fee only serves to underline Santyana’s warning: “Those who do not know the past are condemned to repeat it.” Worse yet, I’m still waiting to see some serious first drafts of Duluth’s history that the Trib (or Forum Communications) finds too inconvenient to investigate. Like, for instance, why are ten percent and counting of eligible Duluth Public School students opting to attend other schools while our public treasury is being looted?

News of the News

What is the future of the Newspaper business? It doesn’t look good.

Until a two years ago I spent no less than an hour a day reading the Duluth News Tribune. I began reading papers when I was in Debate as a high school sophmore and have been reading them daily ever since. Jefferson’s old quote has always appealed to me and it showed up the other day in the Trib although incompletely:

Jefferson regarded the uncensored dissemination of ideas more important to freedom than government which he always spoke about as more of a dangerous necessity that should be cut back periodically before it impinged on the freedom he valued more highly. Nice sentiments for a slave owner.

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.” — Thomas Jefferson

I considered boycotting the Trib once but as an old editor of the Trib told me where will we get local information without it? For better or worse the Duluth News Tribune is the only source for information we’ve got that

Journalism 301

I heard recently that this year the Pulitzer prize presented a Pulitzer to a blog Politifact.com.

So now the Pulitzer Committee is considering awards for online journalism. If Politifact got one maybe I could get one too. Certainly the Trib only seems to generate puff headlines for the Red Plan. Its the biggest story in Duluth since the Airbus Base so maybe I’ll have a shot at the Pulitzer. Someone needs to be doing a little journalism in Duluth.

Journalism 201

I just commented on Rob Karwath’s limp defense of journalists getting into bed with advertisers. No doubt Rob would resent that analysis and I’ll admit he did put in lots of caveats, but that was my take. I know its not easy being a print journalist these days. Circulation declines at major papers are accelerating. The Trib is woefully understaffed compared to the past and its local news coverage keeps shrinking.

Compared to Karwath’s column the one written and published on 4-26-2009 by the CEO of Forum Communications was positively bullish:

Who said newspapers are dinosaurs, extinct, obsolete? I don’t think so. Newspapers today, both in print and online, have more readers than ever.

Unless you plan to spring for $2.95 to read it don’t bother looking for it. Its already hidden away on the Net.

As I read it I was thinking to myself that if the owners of the newspapers have to tell us they are doing well it was a little like the CEO of General Motors telling me to buy a Humvee because America’s automotive business was headed for a come back. I’m a Trib subscriber. I want to believe this. Its just that I used to spend an hour reading the Trib each day. Now its more like fifteen minutes. I read the Trib for local news and only local reporters write those. Whose left to tell them?

Journalism 101

I read Rob Karwath’s apologia today. According to Rob there is no great conflict of interest between reporters and a Paper’s business office.

Rob was making a spirited defense for being a good businessman as well as an editor. Rob described the good old days before so many major newspapers got bought and over leveraged by quick buck investors. Back in the day according to Rob:

“For years, it was. When I started as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, journalists would become visibly angry when the publisher appeared on the fourth floor, which housed the newsroom. ‘What’s he doing on our floor?’ they would huff.”

I always took as an article of faith that the separation between the reporters and the advertisers was a chasm. I’d like to think the Publisher would remain distant from the stories covered by the Trib. I presume that his is still the ethic taught by the nation’s journalism schools. Clear Channel, Rupert Murdoch and even Forum Communications are all encroaching on this separation. The latter wrote the Trib’s editorial endorsement for John McCain.