Category Archives: Media

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.


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

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.

Public Info – Thanks DNT

Thanks to the perseverance of the Trib the public will soon be able to learn all about this little fellow. Meet Moloch. Page/Moloch1_30.jpg

After the Trib’s demand to see all the dog licenses in Duluth I found this letter in the mail this afternoon.

Moloch sometimes acts like a dog. He fetches and wags his tail which is only as long as my index finger.

We got Moloch and his “sister” Tanit from the Humane Society a couple years ago and today Moloch is a little tank. I swear he’s going to kill me someday when he races ahead of me down the stairs and I trip over him.

Now if the Trib would ask for some of the public data School Board member Glass keeps asking for but which the District rarely if ever provides to him.

Can’t say as I’ll miss him

Steve McLister, the Trib’s publisher is leaving. When I wrote a column talking about how the poobah’s at the Trib were fly by night residents Mr. McLister took umbrage and told me he planned to live in Duluth a long time.

A number of Red Plan critics met with him last summer. He reminded me of the tough talking, butch cut, cartoon editor of Peter Parker’s cartoon newspaper in the Spider Man comics. He told us he thought the Red Plan might end up being a “trainwreck” and how he wanted to put a televised forum of pro and con Red Plan spokesman on the tube. Nothing came of that. Now he’s leaving. Too late.

Reports of the passing of Pasek Drugs are exaggerated

My letter did have one bit of misinformation. Pasek Pharmacy lives on. That’s how I learned that my letter was in the paper. The new owner called and corrected me – very nicely I might add. He said he would send me a Pasek Teddy Bear and will now work to correct my report that the drug store is closed.

I told him that just after I wrote of his drug store’s demise that I saw an ad for the new drug store which is located just below the old YWCA. I asked him if the paper corrected my death notice (because of yesterday’s blizzard the Trib has yet to arrive at my house) and he told me they hadn’t.

I better make my mea culpa more public. If I get a teddy I’ll take a picture and post it before giving it to my grandson.

The Trib can take it

I frankly didn’t think the Trib would print my most recent letter to the editor. I was wrong and bless the editors for letting me use them as a punching bag.

I’ve always been impressed with a good newspaper’s willingness to let their readers read them the riot act. That’s not usually true of small local weeklies like the Proctor Journal who’s owner recently was appointed by the City Council to fill a city council vacancy despite his owing $200,000 in unpaid back taxes to Proctor. It probably helped that the Journal wouldn’t publish a story about Proctor Mayor Anderson’s using his position as President of the Proctor Economic Development Authority to purchase a $200,000 parcel of city land for $50,000 even though the State Auditor described the deal as malfeasance.

My guess is that the journalists on the Trib are furious with the medaling by Forum Communications and its stripping down of the paper to save money which gives subscribers less reason to read it and which in turn gives advertisers less reason to buy ads. Its a death spiral. Snotty letters like mine may be one way of letting their corporate overlords know how shortsighted their business decisions are.