Category Archives: Media

Mischievousness in the pursuit of Sanity, Justice, Competence and other Miscellaneous virtues . . .

. . . And why it would be a damned shame if I am not reelected to the Duluth School Board this year.

Here’s a visual metaphor to explain my reasoning taken from a mural I painted in our church’s children’s rooms twenty years ago:

This is a picture of a small boy sneaking his head under the Red Tent. Twenty years ago the novel The Red Tent was so popular that church women across America began decorating Sunday School Rooms to look like the Red Tent. Because of my snow sculpting people in Glen Avon assumed that I could paint too. Well, I could use an over head projector. I could paint within lines – coloring book fashion. And I can improvise. When asked to paint a scene of a desert on the wall of a room painted red like the book’s tent in the Era of Jacob, who wrestled with the Angel, I gave it my best. (You can see the full mural and others on this page of my old website Snowbizz.com.)

Not having read the book there is, to my knowledge, no child peeking into the tent but I thought putting one on the wall doing just this, seemed appropriate for a Sunday School classroom. I borrowed a Sunday School student wearing a shepherd’s costume from our Christmas pageant.

As for the metaphor – that could me me peaking into the sacred precincts of our Schools or Government or the News Business just like I do when I pick up a history book. And I read lots of them. But unlike that little kid looking into the Red Tent I’m 66 years old and I have taught myself to write and report and look at big mysteries critically for most of my adult life. Few people in Duluth have the breadth of knowledge and experience I have when it comes to the Duluth Schools. Furthermore, I don’t keep it all to myself. To many people’s chagrin I share much of it with the public. As this election season goes on I will be sharing more.

But I’m an acquired taste. Not everyone likes my peeking into the tent or under rugs especially the folks who have swept disagreeable things under the rug to keep them out of sight. But peeking under the rug is called “transparency” and everyone says (officially) that its all the rage except for our President who calls it “fake news.”

I have been pretty subdued in the blog this summer. I’ve had other things to do – organize a school board campaign, visit China, garden, walk door-to-door. But the actual General Election is seven weeks away and my readership has doubled recently. Its time for all the blogging I’ve postponed to kick into a higher gear. There is so much to share.

I truly believe my being on the school board is absolutely vital to moving our schools into the future that the Red Planners promised Duluth. But the Trib, in looking for some magic solution, once again endorsed neophytes (newbies). I must say that the neophyte they endorsed over me as a “fresh face” in 2007 helped make the School Board distrusted while remaining completely ignorant of our downward spiraling finances for her entire eight years on the Board. Likewise, they endorsed a young thing, elected with me in 2013, who’s lone witnessing of an alleged assault (even the so called victim denied it) plunged the School Board into two years of farce. And now, once again, the Trib is trusting neophytes in the hope that their ignorance will give us bliss.

Mine isn’t a blanket condemnation. While looking for their editorial endorsements I stumbled into their videos of the school board candidates in the first few minutes of the Trib interview. I recommend looking at them. I was pleased with mine.

As for me sneaking under the tent, Well, my tent sneaking evidently caused a ruckus at the Trib leading to the replacement of one of the Editorial Board members. I’ll explain my theory in the next post as I ramp up my coverage of the School Board and campaign to rescue the District from a status quo of “Ask no questions.”

Snow sculpture Trading card 48 of 50

Three people have told me that pictures have failed to appear in my recent posts. I was afraid that would continue but judging by Ms. Congeniality up above I have figured out a fix. I make some points with snow but I’ve mostly relied on word pictures to make my points over the last 40 years. I believe my word pictures are the reason I will likely defeat most of the Duluth News Trib’s endorsees for the at large school board position…….that and the fact that yesterday on a gorgeous day I spent five hours passing out literature door to door.

I’m bad news…..which means I’ve helped sell a lot of the Trib’s papers over the years. But the bad news for the Trib is that I report what the Trib is unwilling to investigate because it could offend advertisers and big shots. I think that helps explain my snubbing.

Their main stated reason for denying me an endorsement was that I couldn’t stop harping about the consequences of the Red Plan which this entire town has to deal with – lost millions for the classroom, lost teachers, and lost students. As ever the Trib’s leadership, now tied to the conservative Forum Communications group, prefers blinders and hates reminders. Reminders that they rooted for the Red Plan and joined the angry chorus of Red’s fans who brooked no dissent from citizens like Art Johnston, Gary Glass and me.

I could rest my case with a single editorial that is emblematic of their, finger-in-the-air-to-test-the-wind editorializing – their deplorable failure to point out that one of last year’s presidential candidates was a demagogue and a threat to our Democracy. The Trib was too chickenshit to choose an alternative to the Donald Trump. But that wasn’t their first offense against democracy. I saw their indifference to the attempt by my former school board to subvert the 2013 election of Art Johnston with petty, overblown accusations of racism (false), conflict of interest (false), violence and assault (false) that cost the taxpayers $200,000 and the good name of the Duluth School Board. The Trib was so consumed by a desire for payback against Art, who shows them little respect, that they were willing to abandon an election to curry favor with the pro-Red Plan mafia who hate being reminded that they screwed up our schools.

I, on the other hand, spent all last year warning that a demagogue was running for President because I’ve read enough history to know what could happen. You have only to look down this blog’s list of subject categories on the right to find “Trump.” This shrewd, billionaire, ignoramus even earned a place in my trading card deck of snow sculptures. Its by far the most disgusting pile of snow I’ve ever put in my yard. Jabba the Hutt pales in comparison.

Today I will passing my cards out to the folks at Bay Front Park celebrating Labor Day. Today only one in ten Duluth families have union members. That’s a sad decline from the 1970’s when over 30 percent of Duluth families had union members. I remember this well because back then I was forlornly running for the legislature as a Republican (albeit a liberal Republican). I managed to make at least one friend, however, Mike Jaros, my campaign chairman. He was the Democrat I tried to knock off twice in 1976 and 1978.

I’m big at predictions and good at them. And I have a startling prediction to make now, not about the Schools but about the next Presidential campaign. If Robert Mueller can’t get the goods on Trump for an impeachment I think Trump’s got a good chance of being reelected. That is how much disarray I see in the Democratic Party.

And among Trump’s voters will the 70 percent of Duluth families who were in union households forty years ago.

I’ll be passing out my cards to the remnant of the old union movement today and I fully expect most of them to take their voting cues from the Red Plan problems that have been heaped on their children and grand children rather than the endorsements that their union leadership is handing down to them.

When I read the Trib’s editorial page I often I see the flattery of imitation. Their slogan (at least where our schools are concerned) could be: “fair and balanced.”

How’s that for a word picture?

PS. I’m a journalist at heart. I was tempted to start a boycott of the Trib during the early stages of the Red Plan but never did. The Press, however plagued with humans it may be, is central to democracy. Every great newspaper had their fallible and myopic leadership – New York’s Horace Greely, Chicago’s Colonel McCormick come to mind. And who can forget Citizen Cane?

I’ve subscribed to the Trib for 43 years and I hope to die thirty years from now with a Trib in my hands. I’m rooting for the paper. We need it even if their endorsements can sometimes disappoint. And I can’t help but like all those folks who snubbed me. They have given me a great motivation to campaign door-to-door from now until November. Like everybody else in this town – The Trib needs me on our school board – words, warts and all.

Oh, and here’s my inspiration:

You can order all 50 cards for a donation here: http://www.weltyforschoolboard.com/

VPN in China

Before I left China I learned that a few of my fellow travelers were downloading VPN aps to get around the Great China Firewall. I might have considered it if I’d heard about the workaround before leaving for China but not just a couple days before leaving.

On my flight home I read a story in one of the official Chinese newspapers about Apple agreeing to pull their VPN aps out of the Chinese market. I was of two minds about this. On the one hand I realized that I couldn’t make use of Google because they had refused to comply with restraints on their services. I hated to see Apple pulled as well in its entirety only to be replaced by some neutered Chinese analogue.

Today NPR has a story today about this and its implications.

A little “flight” reading “Minnesota Rag”

On the Flight back I finished up William Allen White’s book and then began the book “Minnesota Rag” by Fred Friendly

I bought the book two years ago at the suggestion of one of Art Johnston’s attorneys. It too is short and fascinating. I was especially drawn to Friendly’s comments on “defamation” which I have occasionally been accused of being guilty of myself. And by the way, accusations of defamation are themselves defamatory. Counting this post the word has shown up nine times to date in the blog.

Chapter 9 outlines the arguments made to the U.S. Supreme Court by the attorney for the “Minnesota Rag” (the Saturday Press). Quoting Blackstone the attorney argued that “Every person does have a constitutional right to publish malicious, scandalous and defamatory matter, though untrue and with bad motives and for unjustifiable ends.” There can be, however, a penalty for such “free” speech – a libel suit.

I found another sentence even more arresting: “…every legitimate newspaper in the country regularly and customarily publishes defamation, as it has a right to in criticizing government agencies.”

Defaming someone doesn’t necessarily mean lying about them. I hadn’t thought of this before but it makes perfect sense. People who do infamous things would be defamed if their actions were described in news stories. And if a newspaper simply repeated an accusation of infamous behavior this too would be defamation whether true or not. The News Tribune repeatedly reported that poor old Art Johnston was accused of making racist statements and had conflicts of interest. The accusations had no merit but reporting the accusations over and over was perfectly legitimate.

Although they were not sued for libel most of Art’s accusers paid a price for Art’s defamation – by retiring from the Duluth School Board.

Why I haven’t succumbed to paranoia – a last thought

Its because of Seth Meyers, Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, Colbert etc.

For the time being late night television and many other sources give me confidence that we will weather the Trump administration as it continues to distinguish itself by bullying the Public Broadcasting System and Meals on Wheels. Comedy in China can’t be directed at the Communist Party but it can be directed at President Trump. Until Chinese citizens can do the same America will still have a leg up no matter the balance of trade.

Which reminds me of Egyptian exile Bassem Yousef. He was a funny man in another dictatorship.

Check out his interview on Samantha Bee.

Fake “Real News”

The Trumpians sent me an email with a link to this website promising non fake news:

The email said the Trumpians would unleash “unfettered capitalism.” Yipee! I can’t wait for the next Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire.

Just what I need. Another FOX News with its “Fair and Balanced” reporting. “Fair” as in the condition of a book or a collector’s coin = Excellent, Good or Fair and balanced in the sense of journalists trumpeting “conservative Republican” values balanced against journalists attempting to show some objectivity.

The latest on the Timberjay

A friend from Northern Minnesota sent me a link to the Timberjay Newspaper’s story about the court decision likely to be handed down on the lawsuit brought against it by its competitors and minority owners. The plaintiff’s lawyers sounds inept.

That reminded me that I’ve been waiting to link to the Zenith City New’s account of the suit that does justice to the primary issues in a pretty short space. I recommend it.

More Fox balance

My Brother looks at Fox News just to monitor how unbalanced it is. He tells me it is overloaded with anti-Hillary news while anti-Trump news is often missing. I don’t watch it to know if this is true.

A couple days ago a Chinese American professional we depend upon railed about this video that lampooned Fox News’s treatment of Chinese residents of a “Chinatown.” He was so offended he sent it to dozens of his clients and I asked him to send it to me. WARNING. It contains some rude expletives of derision aimed at Fox’s racism.

A couple posts ago I embedded links to two stories about black cops that I recently heard on NPR. Republicans in Congress often target NPR to deny it federal funding. They prefer Fox News. Its pure private sector you know.

The abandonment of true journalism

Donald Trump is, among other things, a fellow who has profited mightily by the faltering of twentieth century journalism. In its place is a dizzying array of Internet data dumps available for inspection by the curious and curated by interested persons from the honest to the nefarious. Somewhere in between are all the organizations which have a special interest in winning the public to their side. For the unwary and for people without the luxury of time to deeply investigate this inexhaustible library of data its far easier to let their tribal pals spoon feed them formulas.

My buddy is always telling me I’m being tribal when I bad mouth the Republican Party. I’m not sure what tribe this makes me a part of. I did attend Democratic precinct caucuses for about eight years never really becoming part of their machinery. For ten years before that I played gadfly in an increasingly purge happy Republican Party. Prior to that I quietly voted for Democrats when unappetizing Republican candidates won the primaries or GOP nominations. If I have a tribe to a large extent it could be called the tribe of the “Man without a Country.”

Here’s Wikipedia’s summary of this famous short story’s plot:

The protagonist is a young United States Army lieutenant, Philip Nolan, who develops a friendship with the visiting Aaron Burr. When Burr is tried for treason (historically this occurred in 1807), Nolan is tried as an accomplice. During his testimony, he bitterly renounces his nation, angrily shouting, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” The judge is completely shocked at this announcement, and on convicting him, icily grants him his wish: he is to spend the rest of his life aboard United States Navy warships, in exile, with no right ever again to set foot on U.S. soil, and with explicit orders that no one shall ever mention his country to him again.

I was haunted by the story which I read in an English class. That was the hope of the author Edward Everett Hale. Until perusing Wikipedia just now I had no idea who the author was or the circumstances for his the writing of the book. It was composed in the middle of the Civil War, a ripe time for an American to agonize about national identity. Lincolndemocrat takes particular note of the author’s being the nephew of Edward Everett, the orator and statesman, famous for the long forgotten speech that preceded Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and being the “grand-nephew of Nathan Hale (1755-1776), the Revolutionary War hero executed by the British for espionage.”

If I have a tribe its probably confined to my office. I will admit that it is a bit more capacious than the ship’s stateroom to which the story’s protagonist is confined for the rest of his life. Like the protagonist I have bits and pieces of evidence of my nation tacked to my walls. BTW – here’s the story long out of copyright. I didn’t reread it in full but just cut to the end to compare it to my memory of it.

About that end. I was probably 15 when I read the book and far less knowledgeable about the American history that had taken place prior to the story’s conclusion. That it was written during the Civil War and contemplation about what the union meant may not have registered with me quite as it does now.

My Buddy is no doubt right when he tells me the US will soldier on if Donald Trump is elected President. I suppose we would have survived if Huey Long had been elected or Joseph McCarthy but what a shame it would have been. The Presidents they would have supplanted were superior individuals. Its true that neither of these men were Adolph Hitlers but neither was Hitler early in his career. The great irony of Germany and the Reich was that a nation of such cultivated and sophisticated people could descend to the gas chamber, the charnel house and ruin. We seem to have past the time for a nuclear holocaust but our technology certainly leaves room for an even worse case scenario than that which transpired at the end of World War II. I can’t help but see seeds of destruction in today’s political tribal culture and campaign rhetoric and, frankly, its probably too late to stop Greenland’s icecap from melting.

I am troubled that the notion of American exceptionalism is often waved about by folks who mistake it for America’s wealth and power and not for the intangibles locked into our Bill of Rights. One of those intangibles is the right of a free press. Donald Trump can’t wait to get elected President so that he can change the libel laws like he plans to change the Generals and sue every newspaper that looks at him cross-eyed. Then he can enjoy the sort of freedom his good buddy Vladimir Putin enjoys behind the Kremlin’s walls. Donald Trump is just an eight hundred pound Albertson.

Yeah, compared to electing Trump, elevating Hillary Clinton to the Presidency would be a disaster. Remember Benghazi – or at least what the pretend newsman Roger Ailes wanted you to think happened there. That way you will be anesthetized to the coming of a White House with five letters tackily emblazoned on it in Gold leaf.

The value of true journalism

This story chronicles the lastest chapter in the saga of the Timberjay newspaper which incurred the wrath of its minority share holders by out-reporting them about the cozy relations between Johnson Controls and the sprawling rural St. Louis County School District on the dubious sales pitch for and constuction of a smaller version of Duluth’s Red Plan. The minority owners of the Timberjay, the Albertsons, “invested” twenty grand in their competitors a couple decades ago, foolishly it seems. Their minority interest gave them no say in the business practices of their rival and put their “investment” at the mercy of the Timberjay’s owners until such time as those owners died and/or cashed out their own investments.

When this young century’s biggest local news story emerged the Albertsons and the Timberjay took different paths towards profitibility. The Timberjay chose to play the part of journalists and investigated the story winning accolades in the process. The Albertson’s chose to rely on the School District to advertise in their paper and uncritically published the School District’s story full of holes and deceptions. Not surprisingly industry won out over sloth. Subscribers abandoned the Albertson’s paper. Galled by their fozen twenty thousand dollar asset they ginned up a legal case to get back at the Timberjay. If they succeed they will kill off the only real newspaper in rural Northern St. Louis County. Their attorney, Mr. Colisimo, is also the attorney who represented the School District and did his best to supress the release of damaging information related to the disastrous school building plan which has riven the County’s northern schools.

The Timberjay’s defense fund, that I blogged about a few weeks ago, has raised over two-thirds of its $15,000 goal thus demonstrating that there are still people who value true journalism.
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The school board’s HL Mencken is retiring

Loren Martell just called. He is abandoning his coverage of the Duluth School Board.

Loren was frustrated that his column this week only made it to the Reader’s Online version. I too was surprised that it wasn’t in today’s paper copy. The Reader’s publisher Bob Boone, to whom I am grateful for his having published over 100 of my columns, gave Loren the impression that he thought Loren’s writing was a bit snarky. I’d be more inclined to describe his prose as aceberic like Mark Twain’s or HL Mencken’s. Okay, Okay. So the two words are not all that different.

Here’s a little dose of Mencken:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

Also attributed to Mencken No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. but this, alas, can not be verified.

Oh and today I was reading American Rose about the ecdysiast Gypsy Rose Lee to Claudia. HL Mencken coined the term. He must have been a good biology student. He coined it for the incomporable strip teaser Gypsy. Claudia was so overcome that she had to leave immediately afterwords and travel to her Seminary in New Brighton and cleanse her soul.

My contribution to good journalism

I have often mentioned the Timberjay. That’s the tough little newspaper that fought JCI and the marginally competent School Administration of the St. Louis County Schools all the way to the State Supreme Court and won. Well, the owners of a rival rural paper that defended a School Building project, not unlike our Red Plan, have taken the Timberjay to court because they no longer can survive on the School District Advertising which kept them afloat through the controversy.

The rival paper’s owners purchased a minority share of the Timberjay years ago and should expect something for their investment but it seems that pique is as much a part of the suit as their investment. They want the Timberjay dismantled and sold off. In any event locals have come to the Timberjay’s aid and made donations to cover their paper’s legal expenses from the attack. I just made a small donation to the defense fund as well. A serious newspaper is a precious thing and I’d encourage my readers to join me. Here’s the link to the defense fund.

And here’s the link to the Jay where you can review their coverage of the conflict.

Correction on last post

In the previous post I mentioned that Rep. Erik Simonson was flying in to St. Louis with Denfeld principal Sconniers to root for the Denfeld Robotic’s Team. Wrong! It’s the Activities Director, Tom Pearson, who is flying in with the Principal. That makes more sense.

I don’t always wait in the blog to pass on information I find interesting. This is one of the drawbacks to instant communication. Rather than erase the traces of my mistakes I prefer to highlight them to keep me humble. That way I don’t have to gush too much about my human frailty.

Perhaps the opposite of my tact is the one employed by veteran School Board commentator Loren Martell who anguishes about his mistakes when he makes them in the Duluth Reader. BTW. I like that about Loren.

In a column a couple weeks ago he wrote that Board Chair Annie Harala was a teacher employed by the Duluth Schools. I was the one to tell him it wasn’t so and he damn near withered away on me he was so distraught.

Here is his apology in the subsequent column. Its a doozey:

Striving for accuracy and eating crow Continue reading

Repairing the Board’s wounded reputation

I just watched the first half of Ken Burns biopic on Jackie Robinson on PBS. It is a reminder of the world I was born into in 1950. I’ll catch the second half tomorrow which will show us how when he came out swinging for Civil Rights he put a dent in his fan base. It reminds me of Lilly who occasionally babysat me and who took care of my Grandfather after he was widowed. They would argue baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers was her team even though she lived in Topeka, Kansas. When I looked up the “Lilly” link I discovered a mess. All of my 12,000 posts were altered when my blog was repaired. Now instead of apostrophe’s and quotation marks the nonsense symbols – “ – have taken their place. I just spent five minutes replacing about 60 punctuation marks in the Lilly post but that leaves me 10,999 more posts to correct. Times five minutes each that would take me about 1000 hours or 25 weeks of 40 hour weeks. I pray there will be a simpler solution. I’d much rather keep writing new posts than fixing old ones.

As I was saying I saw the Robinson biopic and it was good. Its second half begins tomorrow.

I thought I would publish one last post tonight. I just checked the Trib’s Facebook page again to see if the numbers had changed on the Sandstad/Oswald columns. I caught heck from Editor Chuck Frederick last summer when I wondered if he let his leanings affect his editorial coverage. I certainly can’t complain about the last editorial his paper published urging the School Board to set aside the policy in our path to sell Central to the Duluth Public Schools Academy. But I couldn’t help but notice that Chuck “liked” Nora Sandstad’s op ed piece but not Alanna Oswald’s.

It was striking what readers wrote in regarding Member Sandstad’s piece. I read through about thirty comments and I didn’t find a single one that was positive. Nora did get over 20 likes on them, including Mr. Frederick’s, but I didn’t see any one defend Nora’s point of view.

I think the school board seriously erred by cutting off community comment and dialogue so quickly and abruptly with a lot of misinformation still hanging out their in the air. This will have serious negative repercussions and it has been a publicity goldmine for Edison. It the latest in steps taken to curb Edison that have backfired.

I’m strongly tempted to bring this up once again to the School Board before the end of April when Edison’s contractors begin pouring massive amounts of money into paving over Snowflake. There is still time for us to reconsider.

“Erroneous Impressions”

I fenced with Chuck Frederick about a letter-to-the-editor supporting Art Johnston which did not pass muster. Chuck had his nose out of joint with my suggestion that the Editors favored one side in the school board wars over the other. In my own defense I didn’t say that outright. I only suggested it might not be all together without substance.

The Tribune staff is made up of all sorts of locals some on either side of the Red Plan debate and the subsequent issues which have followed its completion. From the beginning lower level News Tribuners have whispered in the ears of the Plan’s critics when they saw interesting things going on in the Paper’s inner sanctum. Sometimes its not even that subtle. Art had a member of the Editorial Board walk out on him during one of his sessions with the Board muttering that he was the problem with the Board. So, when the Editors make reference to Art there is always room to doubt the Editors’ objectivity. For instance on May 13th of this year the Trib’s editorial following the Board’s retreat from pursuing its efforts to remove Art from the Board was headlined: “No Victory for Johnston.” Subsequently a staffer told Art that this followed a delegation of Board members and Administrators trooping into the Editor’s offices to tell their side of the story. I too have met with the editors but not with such spectacular results.

Its not the first time the Editors have followed the Administration and or Board majority’s lead. A few years ago they reported that 32 million of savings would soon be available to spend on the District from all the Red Plan savings. Later the Trib had to eat crow and explain that they had misreported the facts in their editorial when no such bonanza was forthcoming.

This is a long prologue to the “erroneous impressions” title I’ve headed this post with. Yesterday I made some critical remarks about the apparent opinion piece about wetlands which I initially thought was about the environment only to discover it was more about beating up the Edison Schools.

Well, today there was an editorial that walked back even more than I disagreed with about the column. It was written by the Editors but it let Edison Schools headmaster rebut many of the details. It wasn’t quite an admission that they didn’t properly vet the column but unlike my unhappy letter to the editor writer it slipped past the Editors without a very critical going over.

Is this evidence that I was right to suggest the Trib puts its thumb on editorial comment. Hardly! On the other hand my eyebrow is always raised when my side has to jump through ever smaller hoops to get its point of view across.

DNT Missing in Action

12:01 PM – First email from my Buddy at:

Harry:

Why isn’t the Duluth News Tribune reporting that Loren Martell is a candidate?

[Your Buddy]

http://lincolndemocrat.com/?p=14162 and http://lincolndemocrat.com/?p=14144

1:35 PM – Second email from my Buddy at:

Harry:

Still no such confirmation at http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/3801842-duluth-city-races-take-final-shape. Were you doing a Dan Rather, yesterday?

[Your Buddy]

I told him I’d been told that Loren’s name was on the Duluth School District’s website.

8:39 PM – My Buddy confirms this in an email with the following link to an ISD 709 web page:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ZE2k_VHtGHVrRpiIdBKsG-lEuX9cYwk0c-vLy3-11xs/edit#gid=0

Letter to the Editorial Page Editor – Part 1

Notes to Readers:

This is the 2,699 word long letter/email I sent to the Duluth News Tribune’s Editorial Page Editor, Chuck Frederick, on 7-15-2015. I’ve broken it into five sections for my blog and put them in order 1-5 which is backwards from how Blog items are usually uploaded. I’ve done this for readers who are not used to the backward in time layout of blogs.

I have taken names out to obscure people who don’t need to be thrust into my blog and for those district employees whose identification might embolden the current school board to remove me from the School Board. It is apparent to me that the District is more inclined to cover up the bad behavior of its employees than to absolve Art Johnston.

Part 1

Chuck,

I’ve got more on my mind than the letter Mxx Xxxxxxxx told me about but I’ll dispose of that first. Your email the other day jogged my memory. I’d forgotten that [he/she] sent the DNT an email [he/she] had sent to the Board with the idea of it being an “open letter” to the School Board for republication in the Trib. I told [him/her] I have seen many such letters before in newspapers and that I didn’t know of any reason that an emailed letter should be regarded by the Trib as though it had already been published in another newspaper or tabloid. Hell, no one sees the email sent to the Board. An admission here. I had noticed Mxx Xxxxxxxx email but hadn’t opened it yet. I’m sure it contained questionable facts because most everyone pontificating about the Board gets stuff wrong. But you have confirmed what [he/she] told me in one regard. You were treating [his/her] email to us as though it had already been published elsewhere. I agreed with [him/her]. That seems silly.

[He/She] did not tell me that [he/she] refused to let you edit or alter [his/her] prose. In fact, I got the impression [he/she] was surprised that you wouldn’t be more flexible. I told [him/her] what you told me. Letters to the editor can be negotiated to a mutual satisfaction grudging though it may be.

I thought long and hard before mentioning your name in my blog post about your putting a thumb on the scale. I had asked Mxx Xxxxxxxx to send me the email but [he/she] didn’t get around to it. I decided to put my little cheap shot in the blog anyway. I’d make some corrections now in it except I gather from your email you simply don’t want me to write about you or your editorial process at all in my blog. Please let me know if I’ve got that wrong because I too make corrections. I certainly don’t see why you should be provided unmentionability in my blog when no citizen caught up in the news can expect it from a newspaper. What you do have a right to expect is that when you are being written about what is published is fair and accurate. I apologize to you for not working a little harder to get the facts absolutely straight. In my defense, which I’ll grant is a crumby thing to add next to an apology, I put a question mark at the end of my blog title to suggest that there might be more to the story. That question mark was a riff on the question mark you headlined in the Trib’s endorsement of me two years ago “and who?”

Generally when I take the Tribune to task for its coverage of the School District I stick to needling the larger entity, “the Trib,” rather than its constituent human writers. In the old days I did mention Sarah Horner and took her to task a few times. I often mention Jana but I sure don’t have a Nixonian “enemies list.” I have liked every reporter and editor I’ve ever met. Back in my BB days (Before Blog) I might give a reporter a call and talk over my reservations about how a story was shaded. I never started a war with a reporter. I understand that those I’ve dealt with were committed to good honest journalism. You and I both know that it is rare for any reporter to dive into a story with the detail of an historian. If I’m fussy about reportage where I am concerned it’s because I take seriously a newpaper’s claim of being the* “first draft of history.” I want that first draft to be as free from* errors as you want it to be.

continued >

Letter to the Editorial Page Editor – Part 2

Part 2

Art Johnston is a good guy. He just sent me the email he sent you. I don’t blame him for his anger. He’s been treated very badly and it was your professional duty to explain his story with care. We can debate whether Jana nailed that or not but bear in mind Art has had to read some variation of the statement: “A four month investigation of Art by an impartial attorney found that he is a scumbag.” I’ve taken some liberties with that recurring statement but this sums up what your readers have read dozens of times over the past year. For many it’s become reality through repetition.

I told Art I thought Mary Rice would conduct a fair investigation. I changed my mind the moment I was through reading her report. Talk about putting a thumb on the scales. Her paid for prejudice was subtle but it was deadly. As just one example Mary Rice was dishonest in her presentation to the board when I asked her if Art’s chief accuser was a liar. She evaded the question by saying I had told her in my interview that I couldn’t remember what had happened all those many years ago. That was bullshit. I have my own recording of that interview with Rice and while I was fuzzy about a few things I was not fuzzy about the lies Art’s accuser tried to engineer.

All through this last year and a half I’ve been prevented from talking to or seeing our attorney’s analysis, and billing except for his warning to the Board that removing Art would be iffy and expensive. I got censured for sharing * that appraisal with Jana and the public that elected me. I’m regularly criticized by the Board for my transparency. I got hammered by your editorial for this once despite your many editorials extolling the virtues of transparency.

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