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SALES DECLINE GUARANTEED

The Minneapolis StarTribune has on its staff James Lileks, one of the finest writers - online or off - of our age. So what do they do with him?

They’ve killed my column, and assigned me to write straight local news stories.

Really.

Hit the link for further details, and for a means of contacting that insane paper.

Posted by Tim B. on 05/07/2007 at 11:48 AM
  1. I’d sooner see your State, stripped of the football Vikings and the baseball Twins, then Mr. Lileks column.

    They way your State is ‘progressive’, excuse me, I mean ‘progressing’, in taking THE Left-liberal line, the Vikings and the Twins soon may be stripped.

    Your States one last hope is, to secede, and become part of Canada. I believe they admire Mr. Lileks, love football (just have to get use to the new rules, 3 downs, eh!) and are more then lukewarm on baseball.

    Outrageous!

    Most Sincerely,
    Mr. Donald Cesar

    Emailed a moment ago.

    Posted by El Cid on 2007 05 07 at 12:09 PM • permalink

  2. Hi James (as you’re known to drop by here sometimes).  I’ve bought your three picture books.  They are excellent and hilarious.  I recommend them. 

    I know that whatever you end up doing will be enjoyable, to us and to you.  Best to you.  I’m your biggest fan out here in Albuquerque.

    Posted by reese on 2007 05 07 at 12:10 PM • permalink

  3. My wife loves his books and columns and the Diner stuff.  I like his columns and blog.  I pointed out that, while I’m sure Lileks will be a great reporter and remain a great writer, changing his duties is the equivalent of having Rembrandt on your staff and deciding it would make more sense to have him rolling paint on the interior walls.  Idiots.

    Posted by JorgXMcKie on 2007 05 07 at 12:18 PM • permalink

  4. It’s nuts.  But I’m seeing similar things elsewhere.  For example, the Cincinnati Enquirer, in past years a bastion of conservative thought, has taken a startling turn to the left with the hiring of David Wells to oversee their opiinion page.  Peter Bronson, the former editor, has been relegated to columnist (although that could have been something he angled for).

    As a result, I can barely read the paper anymore.  Drivel.  Pure unadulturated drivel.

    In newspapers like the Minneapolis Star Tribune want to see its circulation not recede in New York Times fashion, then they had best work to keep star journalists like James Lileks happy.  Very very happy.

    Posted by wronwright on 2007 05 07 at 12:19 PM • permalink

  5. This is like making Seabiscuit pull a plow. Absurd. Not that writing straight news is a snap, far from it; but why on earth take someone with James Lileks’ marvelous sense of humor and creative genius and put him out there writing local geek updates? Might as well put Mark Twain in charge of the weekly church bulletin, or assign P.G. Wodehouse to the garden club beat.

    Posted by paco on 2007 05 07 at 12:19 PM • permalink

  6. I believe it’s time for Mr. Lileks to make that move to Phoenix.  I think he’s been considering for a couple of years.

    Posted by Polly on 2007 05 07 at 12:30 PM • permalink

  7. Look on the bright side.  They now have one reporter on their paper actually doing his or her job.  Maybe it will be contagious.

    Posted by yojimbo on 2007 05 07 at 12:31 PM • permalink

  8. But I’m seeing similar things elsewhere.  For example, the Cincinnati Enquirer, in past years a bastion of conservative thought, has taken a startling turn to the left with the hiring of David Wells to oversee their opiinion page.

    I saw one of Borgman’s cartoons this weekend, and my eyes nearly rolled back into my head. It would have been cool, to get a glimpse of my own optic nerves, but I don’t know if I could have undone it.

    This isn’t the one, but it’s damned close.

    Posted by Rob Crawford on 2007 05 07 at 12:35 PM • permalink

  9. Reminds me what Donald Fagen said of ABC Records’ hiring Michael McDonald to do backup vocals: “The ultimate waste of talent.”

    Posted by Rittenhouse on 2007 05 07 at 12:36 PM • permalink

  10. James, I suggest taking the opportunity to move somewhere further south with a more pleasant climate.
    Minneapolis is a fine city, but it is too cold.
    (disclaimer: I think the same about Chicago and New York)
    I hear the Carolinas are nice at this time of year.

    Posted by daddy dave on 2007 05 07 at 12:43 PM • permalink

  11. I think it makes sense for them.  he only demographic they have left after running the paper down, is the cranky liberal fart demo, and Lileks just pisses them off.

    Posted by Lonetown on 2007 05 07 at 12:46 PM • permalink

  12. Newspapers are having trouble because they give away too much stuff free, according to today’s WSJ , citing in part the example of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, possibly the worst newspaper in America.  (Others have told me that no, theirs is worst, but they haven’t seen the Dispatch.)

    James Thurber used to work there, but he moved to the New Yorker and wrote classic essays ; and moreoever said he never did anything worthwhile in life until he started raising Scotties

    Posted by rhhardin on 2007 05 07 at 12:49 PM • permalink

  13. Vicious circle: newspapers drop Lileks, Steyn, and so on. Customers stop buying newspapers. Newspapers decide to re-trench. The remaining readers want drivel. Newspapers comply.

    Posted by Jim,MtnViewCA,USA on 2007 05 07 at 12:58 PM • permalink

  14. The entire state of Minnesota is insane. Why should their newspapers be any different?

    Posted by Dave S. on 2007 05 07 at 12:58 PM • permalink

  15. The Powerline guys have often referred to the Strib as “the Worst Newspaper in America”, and this “hitching a racehorse to a plow” (good one paco!) is proof positive of that.

    Posted by Spiny Norman on 2007 05 07 at 01:13 PM • permalink

  16. James is not ideologically pure enough for the red Star.

    Posted by Latino on 2007 05 07 at 01:15 PM • permalink

  17. #8 Rob Crawford -

    I saw one of Borgman’s cartoons this weekend, and my eyes nearly rolled back into my head. It would have been cool, to get a glimpse of my own optic nerves, but I don’t know if I could have undone it.

    Borgman is and has always been an unabashed moonbat.  He doesn’t even try to make an effort for balance.  But The Enquirer used to rationalize that it gives some balance to the right leaning editorial staff, and he is admittedly a decent drawer.  But with the addition Wells and some other members of the editorial board, it’s lurched to the left.

    It is very important that newspapers hire and keep conservative writers, columnists, etc., to provide balance with respect to the leftist/liberal writers.  Where they fail to do that, their circulation numbers nose dive.

    Can anyone tell me who the New York Times has added as their conservative voice since William Safire has retired to balance out against Maureen Dowd (shrill leftie), Paul Krugman (nutsy lefty), and Nicholas Kristoff (dull lefty)?  David Brooks?  Paleez.

    Posted by wronwright on 2007 05 07 at 01:17 PM • permalink

  18. And these papers wonder why their circulation numbers are in the toilet.

    Mr. Lileks, my 13 year old daughter adores your books (as do my Bride and me, naturally). If you write them we shall buy.

    Posted by Mr. Bingley on 2007 05 07 at 01:23 PM • permalink

  19. It would have been cool, to get a glimpse of my own optic nerves, but I don’t know if I could have undone it.

    Rob, don’t try this. It can set up a feedback loop in your neural circuits that will cause your head to explode.
    Just because the other kids are doing it doesn’t mean you have to do it too.

    Posted by daddy dave on 2007 05 07 at 01:30 PM • permalink

  20. I emailed the Strib as soon as I read the Bleat this morning (sorry, Tim, it’s at the top of my bookmark list, so I always read it first).  I thought it was worthwhile to point out that newspapers (key word: paper) are gradually going the way of the telegraph, and that moving Mr. Lileks from columnist to reporter is an incredible waste of a valuable web-savvy resource.

    Please do be polite when you write.  It can’t help Mr. Lileks’ cause to address the powers that be at the Strib with “Hey, dickheads!  What a boneheaded move!”

    Posted by RebeccaH on 2007 05 07 at 01:49 PM • permalink

  21. #20: Please do be polite when you write.  It can’t help Mr. Lileks’ cause to address the powers that be at the Strib with “Hey, dickheads!  What a boneheaded move!”

    Woops! Heh. Well, I’m sure they’ll look beneath the bluster to see the logic.

    Posted by paco on 2007 05 07 at 01:54 PM • permalink

  22. Hugh Hewitt

    Newspaper Suicide: The Star Tribune Kills Lileks’ Column.

    Posted by El Cid on 2007 05 07 at 02:03 PM • permalink

  23. #21, never mind, Paco.  They are dickheads, and it was a boneheaded move, and they’ll see your logic soon enough.

    Posted by RebeccaH on 2007 05 07 at 02:11 PM • permalink

  24. With clever decisions like this I will soon be able to buy the Strib for fifty cents.
    I mean the whole organization, not just a paper.

    Posted by Merlin on 2007 05 07 at 02:13 PM • permalink

  25. I abstained from the “dickhead”, “bonehead” nor did I go the same route as some one at Critt’s place, not long ago. “moronosphere”™ and “bozone”™, Rebecca.

    ™ = To whomever posted those hilarious terms.

    Should I receive an answer, even a STFU, I’ll post it.

    Posted by El Cid on 2007 05 07 at 02:13 PM • permalink

  26. If the newspapers don’t get on board with the technology, they will go the way of the passenger train—some people will only read them as an exercise in nostalgia, but most people will be reading a source that fits with rest of their life.

    This is a terrible use of Lilek’s talents.  While writing straight news is no snap, those able to do so are legion and many, many of them are looking for jobs.  On he other hand, those with Mr. Lilek’s considerable abilities are few and far between. 

    I wonder if they are trying to get him to leave.  If he wants to stay in the area, he needs to get his novel written.  We’ll all promote it to the hilt, it will climb the Amazon chart and he’ll make a bejillion dollars and be able to stay where he wants, doing what he wants. (Just do it, James.)

    When all is said and done, he can do without the Strib better than they can do without him.  All they’re doing is making dull product even duller.

    Posted by saltydog on 2007 05 07 at 02:14 PM • permalink

  27. “Bozone”!

    I give it a 85.  It has a nice beat and easy to dance to.

    I think he should stay and actually fulfill the job description.  Maybe the Pulitzer people have a niche category about reporters actually reporting instead of agendizing.

    Posted by yojimbo on 2007 05 07 at 02:23 PM • permalink

  28. Maybe even An 85.  Who knows.

    Posted by yojimbo on 2007 05 07 at 02:25 PM • permalink

  29. Some years ago, I read a speech by Bill Watterson. Watterson is the genius who created “Calvin and Hobbes”, arguably the best comic strip ever published, and a guy who’s sold more newspapers than damn near anyone, ever. When someone like that talks, publishers should listen.

    Watterson’s point was that if newspapers are to survive, they should figure out what they do that nobody else does, then do those things as well as they possibly can. Comic strips are one thing that newspapers do better than any other medium - “Day by Day” notwithstanding. And another thing papers do well are topical humor columns like Dave Barry’s and James Lileks’. Yes, I can read them online, but there’s something special about holding the newsprint in my hand as I eat my breakfast.

    For the Strib to suppress a talent like Lileks’ is so stupid that I must conclude that its publishers have a death wish.

    By the way, if Lileks does write straight news, will he have the same leeway to inject spin and editorializing that the other Strib writers appear to have? Somehow, I doubt it; but if he does, then his reportage could be quite interesting.

    Posted by Urbs in Horto on 2007 05 07 at 02:37 PM • permalink

  30. My apologies, OZ. Happy(?) May Day (for those that celebrate it) and Happy(?) Labour Day for those that celebrate that one (or both, as the case may be).

    Posted by El Cid on 2007 05 07 at 02:38 PM • permalink

  31. yojimbo

    I give it a 85. It has a nice beat and easy to dance to.

    Yeah and YOU were probably the author, using a fake name or somethin’.

    Posted by El Cid on 2007 05 07 at 02:40 PM • permalink

  32. Makes me wonder if the company has other assets, and wants to use the Strib as a money loser in order to lower their taxes.

    Posted by rbj1 on 2007 05 07 at 03:13 PM • permalink

  33. ACK!  Possessive apostrophe alert.  I apologize to Mr. Lileks’ for chopping the natural “s” off of the end of his name.  Twice.

    I have a terrible headache.  Only excuse.

    Lileks won’t have to spin the news.  All he has to do is actually report the news in an objective fashion to tweek the noses of the editors.

    Posted by saltydog on 2007 05 07 at 03:18 PM • permalink

  34. Possessive apostrophe alert.  I apologize to Mr. Lileks’ for chopping the natural “s” off of the end of his name.  Twice.

    I have a terrible headache.  Only excuse.

    Yeah yeah….sure.

    but i hope you get to feeling better

    Posted by El Cid on 2007 05 07 at 03:32 PM • permalink

  35. The time may be ripe for the Prehistoric and Archaic Communications Organization to make a hostile takeover bid for the StarTribune. I think we can acquire a controlling interest in it for a buck fifty and two proof-of-purchase labels from Land O’Lakes butter. Merge it with the NYT and - voila! - we’ve got the market cornered on cheap insulation.

    Posted by paco on 2007 05 07 at 03:46 PM • permalink

  36. Urbs in Horto -

    Watterson’s point was that if newspapers are to survive, they should figure out what they do that nobody else does, then do those things as well as they possibly can.

    Quite so.  I find myself becoming increasingly bored with newspapers.  In fact, I’ve allowed my subscription to the Wall Street Journal lapse after 20 years of loyal breakfast table readership.  I just don’t find that many MUST READ columns and op eds anymore, even in that fine newspaper.

    Yet begin publishing a column by Mark Steyn, Tim Blair, James Lileks, or heck, even paco, and I’d renew it in a sec.

    Posted by wronwright on 2007 05 07 at 04:14 PM • permalink

  37. #31

    Ha!  I do use bozo and clown a great deal.  Alas!

    Posted by yojimbo on 2007 05 07 at 04:21 PM • permalink

  38. One more point and I’ll try getting off my soap box.  Can anyone outside of Minneapolis name one person, whether writer, reporter, editor, or any other capacity, who works at the Minneapolis Star Tribune besides James Lileks?

    Hell, can anyone outside of Minneapolis give the name of either one of the two newspapers in Minneapolis?

    Yet people as far away as Australia can tell you one person:  James Lileks.  That sir is what they call in the business world an asset.  And yet they waste that asset.  What’s a stockholder or potential investor to conclude from such an error of judgment?

    Posted by wronwright on 2007 05 07 at 04:21 PM • permalink

  39. I’m with Wronwright. I used to be a regular reader of newspapers and magazines, but I’ve let even the subscriptions to the still-good ones lapse; many blogs are more reliable, more up-to-the-minute and vastly more amusing.

    How is Lileks in person? Maybe Fox News ought to sign him up to do bits similar to those done by Dennis Miller, or to provide opinion and guest-hosting like Michelle Malkin. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to check in on his blog. And really: if you haven’t made a tour of his galleries, you just don’t know what you’re missing. There are very few things that make me laugh ‘till I cry, but some of his stuff does it every time.

    Posted by paco on 2007 05 07 at 04:31 PM • permalink

  40. Can anyone outside of Minneapolis name one person, whether writer, reporter, editor, or any other capacity, who works at the Minneapolis Star Tribune besides James Lileks?

    I’m from Texas, and I can name two:

    Katharine Kersten, because Powerline draws attention to her covering stories the Star-Tribune‘s “news” reporters don’t.

    Nick Lamont, for the same reason I read and groan over Hot Chicks with Douchebags: How can anyone so horrible be in such a position?

    I think Lileks should kiss S-T off, but I’m not in his shoes. He came of age as I did, wanting to be a newspaper columnist who makes people laugh. Now he’s made it, but all the newspapers are dying, and the ones still struggling seem determined to follow the same path.

    Posted by Rittenhouse on 2007 05 07 at 04:47 PM • permalink

  41. Oh right, Rittenhouse named two.

    (glares in the direction of Texas)

    But can anyone else?

    (picks up pistol)

    Anyone, anyone at all?

    Posted by wronwright on 2007 05 07 at 05:01 PM • permalink

  42. Wronwright:

    One more point and I’ll try getting off my soap box.  Can anyone outside of Minneapolis name one person, whether writer, reporter, editor, or any other capacity, who works at the Minneapolis Star Tribune besides James Lileks?

    Nick Coleman, but only because of his spectacular (and ultimately self-inflicted) auto-de-fe against Power Line  at the very end of 2004.

    Posted by Ed Driscoll on 2007 05 07 at 05:05 PM • permalink

  43. El Cid, Yopu real name is as prestigious as your nom de plume.

    Posted by Wimpy Canadian on 2007 05 07 at 05:41 PM • permalink

  44. I can name one or two (Nick Coleman comes to mind) but only because of blog posts on places like CQ and Power Line documenting their frequent moonbattery.

    Posted by Vexorg on 2007 05 07 at 05:43 PM • permalink

  45. Perhaps JL’s firing has some connection to the editor’s taste in menswear.

    Posted by SwinishCapitalist on 2007 05 07 at 05:51 PM • permalink

  46. Please note two points:

    1.  Yes, the Strib is one of the, if not THE, most unabashedly liberal newspapers left (heh) in the country. They have one columnist for “balance” - the aforementioned Kersten. 

    2.  Lileks was NOT a balancing influence in the Strib.  (I’m guessing here, but) because of what the Strib stands for, and because of what kind of information and analysis the Strib simply will not print, Lileks’ column in the Strib was never a point of light for political or social thought.  Instead, it was fairly innocuous and trite, and it completely avoided any mention of politics (except for one memorable occasion, when he wrote like . . .  you know . . . he really WRITES, and then, by gawd, the letters to the editor by the leftoid readership expressing outrage that they’d even allow him to speak thusly were fun to watch.) 

    The Strib readers could have read every one (but one) of Lileks’ Strib columns, and never suspected that he wrote somewhere about (gasp!) conservative thought.

    So, I hope Lileks’s income doesn’t take too great a hit, but he didn’t lose a valuable pulpit, and the Strib community didn’t lose “balance.”

    Posted by bobby B on 2007 05 07 at 06:14 PM • permalink

  47. I’ve e-mailed the Strib. I know how Lileks feels.

    Back in the day I quite enjoyed being the long-time entertainment and TV writer for our local rag. Then I was dropped for someone who didn’t own a television.

    I was upset at the time, but less upset to hear that the same idiocy has happened to a writer with real talent and ability like James Lileks.

    Shame on the Strib!

    —Nora

    Posted by The Thin Man Returns on 2007 05 07 at 06:59 PM • permalink

  48. This is just the tip of the iceburg.  The Strib is a sinking ship, and Lileks may be one of the only employees left before it’s all over.

    See here for the gory details.

    Posted by Hucbald on 2007 05 07 at 07:02 PM • permalink

  49. Terminating Lileks’ column? Best Idea since New Coke.

    Resultant Circulation loss what, 50,000?

    Posted by Zoe Brain on 2007 05 07 at 07:09 PM • permalink

  50. Wronwroght:
    Barbara Flanagan
    Doug Grow
    Nick Coleman
    Katherine Kersten
    Jim Souhan
    Ron Schara
Joe Christensen
Sid Hartman
Neal Justin
    Carolyn Hax

    Cheers

    Posted by J.M. Heinrichs on 2007 05 07 at 07:19 PM • permalink

  51. Nick Coleman, but only because of his spectacular (and ultimately self-inflicted) auto-de-fe against Power Line at the very end of 2004. - Ed Driscoll

     

    I can name one or two (Nick Coleman comes to mind) but only because of blog posts on places like CQ and Power Line documenting their frequent moonbattery.—Vexorg

    (wronwright loads his pistol, slowly screws on silencer)

    Okay, I’m going to ask this question.  Just once more.  Slowly.  And everyone here, especially Driscoll and Vexorg standing over there, will say the correct answer. 

    Can anyone outside of Minneapolis name one person who works at the Minneapolis Star Tribune besides James Lileks?

    And now, you say:  WHY NO.  NO ONE.  NO ONE AT ALL.

    (wronwright cocks hammer)

    Posted by wronwright on 2007 05 07 at 07:27 PM • permalink

  52. 51: I…I…I’ve never even heard of Minneapolis, let alone anyone who works there at the Star Tribune (or anywhere else in Minnesota - wherever “Minnesota” is).

    Posted by paco on 2007 05 07 at 07:32 PM • permalink

  53. And wronwright: shoot if you must this old gray head (well, not so old, really, and my hair is more of a chestnut brown color, with natural reddish-gold highlights when the light hits it just so), but spare Ed Driscoll. He runs a great blog.

    Posted by paco on 2007 05 07 at 07:38 PM • permalink

  54. Check this asshat…

    Brian J writes: Monday, May, 07, 2007 6:32 PM
    If Lileks isn’t competent
    Enough to report for a living, then he really has no business writing a column, does he?

    If he’s so vital to the Star-Tribune, how come their readership decline accelerated when he had a column?

    Biy by bit, the country is waking up to the horrible consequences of letting rightists run rampant. Lileks’ demotion (and probable soon complete dismissal) is just part of the process of returning sanity to American institutions.

    Sorry.
    Hugh Hewitt comments

    Kinda’ guy that I’d like to take a hold of the back his head and repeatdly smash his face into the hood on his car. Wait, its probably a Prius, how about a city street. Yeah, that’s it the street.

    Posted by El Cid on 2007 05 07 at 07:47 PM • permalink

  55. And another thing…screw preview!

    Posted by El Cid on 2007 05 07 at 07:49 PM • permalink

  56. I think it was Rupert Murdoch who observed that no one would start a newspaper in the age of the internet and hundreds of cable channels. They just don’t make sense.

    Otherwise, I’ll note the irony of self-described Progressives being the last refuge of anachronistic dead tree media.

    Posted by phil_b on 2007 05 07 at 08:10 PM • permalink

  57. Actually, when you think about it, the Strib must know they have a golden asset when they’ve let so many go, but they’re finding a new job for James.

    That said, putting him in the job they did is a still a boneheaded move, instead of letting him do what he’s best qualified to do.  It’s exactly what Dave Barry said:

    This is like the Miami Heat deciding to relieve Dwyane Wade of his basketball-playing obligations so he can keep stats.
     

    Posted by RebeccaH on 2007 05 07 at 08:13 PM • permalink

  58. Hey guys, I’ve been busy. So! Anything happen today?

    Posted by Lileks on 2007 05 07 at 09:05 PM • permalink

  59. Lileks

    Hey guys, I’ve been busy. So! Anything happen today?

    Nahhh. Same old, same old. France is at war, with France. Canadians crossing our border, by the millions. The Left, here in the U.S. pushing for non-American born, being able to run for President (Putin, is their man). As mentioned, SSDD.

    Posted by El Cid on 2007 05 07 at 09:19 PM • permalink

  60. Wronwright, put that thing down. You only have three toes left.

    Back to the subject: Lileks’ Strib column may have been just a lighthearted bit of filler, but it was more interesting than the rest of the pablum served up as “human interest” fodder in Old Media. What is worse than the removal of the column is the attitude that they can do anything they want with their writers, as if the ability to string words together in a coherent sentence meant no more than the ability to ask “do you want fries with that?” Writers may only be craftsmen, not Holy Arteests, but they aren’t factory workers either. Count on it, somewhere behind this there’s an exec promoted beyond his compentancy who resents people who know how to use “who” and “whom” correctly.

    Posted by Andrea Harris, Administrator on 2007 05 07 at 09:30 PM • permalink

  61. I’m confused as to how wronwright screwed on his silencer and yet we can all still hear him…

    Posted by richard mcenroe on 2007 05 07 at 09:44 PM • permalink

  62. #58: Lileks! What do you think you’re doing? While you’ve been hanging around here, you’ve already been scooped by the Eden Prairie News on the Kite Fest at Purgatory Creek, and the Coon Rapids Herald is way ahead of you on the debate over the new community center. Where’s that ol’ Jimmy Olsen spirit?

    Seriously, I sincerely hope that some wise editor (there must be a few left) at some intelligently-run newspaper (if any) will give you the freedom to write your regular stuff. Whatever happens, though, just don’t shut down your blog. I know of no other blog that combines history, humor and pop culture in such an instructive and entertaining mix.

    Posted by paco on 2007 05 07 at 10:09 PM • permalink

  63. an exec promoted beyond his compentancy

    Or even his compentency.

    Posted by Andrea Harris, Administrator on 2007 05 07 at 10:37 PM • permalink

  64. Competency…

    Oh never mind. See when I don’t get my internet fix for two days?

    Posted by Andrea Harris, Administrator on 2007 05 07 at 10:38 PM • permalink

  65. Perhaps Lileks has been rumbled as a closet RWDB.
    The Minnestota we’ve all come to love thanks to The Bleat and Urban Studies seems determined to become some kind of RWDB-free, socialist utopia.

    This is sad news.
    I was beginning to feel like I’d been born and raised in Minnesota and a guy called James lived down the street.

    Posted by Mike_W on 2007 05 07 at 10:56 PM • permalink

  66. Paco: bless you. But you obviously haven’t been reading the paper: the Kite Festival was cancelled. The carbon-impact was judged too severe, since everyone would have to drive to Eden Prairie. (Walking was encouraged, but not if you exhaled.) Rather than convene in one spot, entrants were encouraged to fly the kites from the balcony of their townhouses and send in pictures, which will be assembled into an online slide show.


    Unfortunately, one entrant lived right by the new light-rail transit, and her string touched the power lines. Since she didn’t stop smoking for an hour, it seems the carbon-impact was greater than usual, too. On the other hand, 47% of the kites had hemp strings. That’s up 12% from last year, so even if you factor in the first fatality in the 67-year history, the trends still look good.

    And no, I won’t shut down my site. Trust me: the end result of this will be more, not less. Just wait.

    Oh, and Purgatory Creek was renamed years ago, after one of those church ‘n’ state intermixture folderols. It’s now Statis Trickle.


    No, sorry, that’s the nice lady who runs the Kite Festival, Bethynie Statis-Trickle. The creek is now called Citizen’s Estuary #292. It’s the only name to which everyone objected, and around here that’s now our version of consensus.

    Posted by Lileks on 2007 05 07 at 11:26 PM • permalink

  67. Hey, 58 Lileks!  Dude, how ‘bout an autograph?  Yeah right there on page v below your name and the 50’s housebabe holding gods-know-what jello mold in your hideous book?

    Thanks, man.  Y’know, I first started reading this Blair guy by your recommendation.  Your tag was something like, “Where he is, it’s already tomorrow!”

    I read The Bleat every day.  The Quirk, not so often.  I like the idea of your melding said Bleat into some wider medium.  Something I (as Joe Average) would subscribe to).  Why the bosses didn’t see your way is well-speculated upon in the worldwide sphere.  I know you’ll do well in the next stage.

    Posted by reese on 2007 05 07 at 11:30 PM • permalink

  68. #55 How dare you talk to my friend like that!

    Posted by Margos Maid on 2007 05 07 at 11:57 PM • permalink

  69. Nice to see you here JL. You’ve got a lot of friends and fans here in Oz.

    Perhaps you could take a leaf out of some of the fine journalistic antics from my old paper.

    —The stoner who was also the court reporter. He’d take notes on the start of one hearing, then zone out and take notes on a completely different case and string them together.

    —The reporter who confronts the adult son of a man who drowned at the local beach and asks: ‘so mate, how do you feel’. (reporter got a punch in the nose for his trouble).

    —The reporter who couldn’t be bothered with the assignment she’d been given (vox pop on the demolition of a local landmark hotel). She went shopping and came back to write a marvellous colour piece full of pathos. She was only found out when a national magazine wanted to follow up.

    —The reporter who goosestepped around the office and had a picture of Hitler on his desk - he’s now an ALP hack believe it or not.

    —The reporter who would disappear from the office for four hours at a time to do casual work for another newspaper in his ‘lunch’ break.

    —The reporter who would file two hastily written stories in the morning and spend the rest of the day writing his novel on the company’s dime.

    —The reporter who would spend most of the day researching and writing stories and spend the afternoon in front of the COS loudly trying to flog said pieces to the wire services.

    See? There’s hours of amusement to be had. Chin up.

    —Nora

    PS (Disclosure: none of these incidents involve Nicky or myself)

    Posted by The Thin Man Returns on 2007 05 08 at 12:14 AM • permalink

  70. #66:  And the headline from all that:

    Kite Flier Violates Smoking Ban

    Posted by Vexorg on 2007 05 08 at 01:48 AM • permalink

  71. #65 Mike

    I was beginning to feel like I’d been born and raised in Minnesota and a guy called James lived down the street.

    Well, he’s really a North Dakota guy…and bieng Minnesotans, we pretend that he’s one of ours to his face, only as a means to benefit ourselves by his gifts and his efforts.

    I suppose he’s only a victim of Minnesota’s lack of ambition towards annexing Fargo with Moorehead Mn. If we (Minnesota) had Fargo…we’d be as big as Wisconsin.

    I know he’s still at the paper and all, but this really does seem like a “One Door Closes and Another Opens” sort of event. I would like to think that is more than just wishfull thinking on my part.

    Also…he’s the one who helped me find my way to this site some three or so years ago, and I’m in debt to him for all time for the reference.

    Many thanks to you James.

    Posted by Thomas on 2007 05 08 at 02:12 AM • permalink

  72. (wronwright points pistol at Andrea’s shapely foot, chickens out, shoots tire of Heinrich’s late model car instead)

    One point that hasn’t been mentioned yet, by anyone, on any blog, at least not so eloquently, is the fact that when conservatives list their favorite writers, they will invariably list the following personages:

    - Mark Steyn
    - James Lileks
    - Victor Davis Hanson
    Tim Blair would be listed too if he would stop playing with Australia possums and write more any columns for American newspapers.

    Lileks is not just an excellent writer, he’s an interesting writer.  And since he’s conservative too, MSM sorely needs him as a six figure pay package type of columnist.

    Posted by wronwright on 2007 05 08 at 06:22 AM • permalink

  73. #40 What compelled me to call Nick Coleman Nick Lamont? Yeesh.

    Posted by Rittenhouse on 2007 05 08 at 07:54 AM • permalink

  74. Did’ja hear about Fred at budget?

    —You mean the guy who made the management team over there look like amateurs by comparison?

    Yeah.  They stribbed him back into general accounting.

    —Bastards.

    Posted by Tai Chi Wawa on 2007 05 08 at 09:17 AM • permalink

  75. Rittenhouse—in Freudian slip veritas

    Posted by richard mcenroe on 2007 05 08 at 10:02 AM • permalink

  76. “Brian J writes: [elsewhere]
    If Lileks isn’t competent Enough to report for a living, then he really has no business writing a column, does he?”

    Good thinking, Brian J.! Yes, it was a brilliant editorial move when Mark Twain was assigned to the police court beat.

    Posted by Harry Bergeron on 2007 05 08 at 11:02 AM • permalink

  77. #66: Now, that’s news reporting!

    Posted by paco on 2007 05 08 at 11:04 AM • permalink

  78. #76 Actually, Mark Twain probably would have been onehelluva police reporter.  Possibly like this.  But point taken.

    Posted by Old Grouch on 2007 05 08 at 12:15 PM • permalink

  79. #72 wronwright

    One point that hasn’t been mentioned yet, by anyone, on any blog, at least not so eloquently, is the fact that when conservatives list their favorite writers, they will invariably list the following personages:

    - Mark Steyn
    - James Lileks
    - Victor Davis Hanson
    - P.J. O’Rourke

    Fixed it for ya, brother. ;^)

    Good to see you’re sense of humor is intact, James, but I’m so sorry to see you as a victim of the Peter Principle. The print media has enough trouble as it is without so foolishly shooting itself in the foot.

    Posted by Spiny Norman on 2007 05 08 at 12:25 PM • permalink

  80. Confidential to JL in Minny:
    In these times of stress it’s always good to remember the little things in life, like opening the garage door before you back out.

    Posted by Some0Seppo on 2007 05 08 at 12:32 PM • permalink

  81. #78: Hey, Grouch, that’s a great web site!

    Posted by paco on 2007 05 08 at 12:45 PM • permalink

  82. ...like opening the garage door before you back out.

    Added the link ;^)
    Cheers!

    Posted by Old Grouch on 2007 05 08 at 12:50 PM • permalink

  83. #81 Did you check out their front-page story?

    An encampment of homeless activists that cropped up at 11th and D streets the day after the annual 4-20 celebration was uprooted from the site by police four days later, then bounced from place to place through the week and wound up at the 14th Street entrance to Redwood Park on Sunday.

    Sounds like a swingin’ place.  Oh, and somebody’s been assaulting parking meters.

    Posted by Old Grouch on 2007 05 08 at 12:59 PM • permalink

  84. Who says yellow journalism is dead?

    Posted by Vexorg on 2007 05 08 at 01:26 PM • permalink

  85. James may correct me, but I’m not so sure he’s “conservative”. Sure, he’s a right wing death beast in that he doesn’t regard US troops as being by default murdering scum, or doesn’t think that the US is a stain on the honor of the UN oil-for-food program, and he hangs out with riff-raff like Hewitt and Blair, but pigeon-holing his writing into a left/right template probably isn’t a worthwhile exercise.

    The ST is missing the boat by not giving him a server with a ST domain name and telling him to go off and do his thing.

    Posted by Ernst Blofeld on 2007 05 08 at 02:01 PM • permalink

  86. #84

    Probably some gutless twit.

    “..stain on the honor of the UN oil-for-food program,..”  LOL!
    Maybe we could call him a “passionate centrist”.

    Posted by yojimbo on 2007 05 08 at 02:27 PM • permalink

  87. #80 In these times of stress it’s always good to remember the little things in life, like opening the garage door before you back out.

    And then there are the two-door garages, where if you push the wrong button, you’re not opening the door you think you’re opening.

    Posted by RebeccaH on 2007 05 08 at 02:34 PM • permalink

  88. #66 - James - “obviously haven’t been reading the paper” is kinda where all this started, isn’t it? I have no reason to log on to the Strib after Friday - you were the best thing in the place - but I also haven’t bought a hard-copy newspaper in years. You coulda helped ‘em so much…ah well, we still have your blogging & books & your visits here. YAY!

    Posted by KC on 2007 05 08 at 02:57 PM • permalink

  89. On mulling this further, I’m coming to see that over the past 40 years or so, all the major newspapers I’ve read have lost—above all—their personality.

    Like TV news, in their focus-group-driven efforts to out-do each other by doing the same thing, they became homogenized and sterile.

    Then by the 1980s most of them had become the sole horse in one-horse towns. No need to take chances; just keep doing the same thing.

    Wiping Lileks’ column is just par for the course. Eliminate any vestige of personality ... for what reason? Who knows?

    Our own Dallas paper is crawling with McKinsey consultants, for the most part 20-somethings who can analyze anything to death but have no judgment of their own.

    Nobody knows what’s next for newspapers. But nobody seems to be taking any risks. The herd will continue to be winnowed down by the mysterious force hiding in plain sight.

    Posted by Rittenhouse on 2007 05 08 at 03:15 PM • permalink

  90. #78, great web site.

    “• Monday, December 12 1:04 a.m. America’s left coast was well-guarded this night by the man in flannel coat and combat beanie who’d taken up a defensive position behind the soda machines outside a Uniontown pizza parlor. BB rifle at the ready, he inquired to passersby whether they had seen any Russians in the area. The com-symp quislings notified police, who detained the pellet-patriot and deposited him in a reprogramming facility.”

    Posted by Ernst Blofeld on 2007 05 08 at 03:20 PM • permalink

  91. “Par Ridder”!!  ” Par Ridder”???  Are you kiddin’ me?  Are you kiddin’ me?

    What kinda phony name is Par Ridder?  Some namby-pamby Biff/Buffy from Martha’s Vinyard?  What’s he doing running a ‘newspaper’ in Minnesota?

    Anyway, that link to the Arkansas newspaper guy on the WSJ just shows how clueless even the smart ones are.  *NOBODY* really reads the newspaper for news anymore.  They read it for, perhaps, some depth on the news, or (like I do) to see which local official got caught with her/his hand in the public till (I live near Detroit, so the only question is who got caught this week), or for sports or the comic strips or whatever.

    I barely see the ads anymore, can’t remember when the classifieds were of any use (before craigslist and freecycle and monster.com for sure), the ‘news stories’ mostly don’t have any news or any point or any depth or any facts and leave out the most interesting stuff, or the agenda just SCREAMS at me.  No, thanks.  The Detroit News (a relatively conservative paper) does make good liners for my wife’s many pets (currently 3 guinea pigs and a cockatiel).

    Posted by JorgXMcKie on 2007 05 08 at 03:27 PM • permalink

  92. Come on, guys, it’s the Strib. The real surprise was when they brought Lileks on board. Onward and upward, James!

    Posted by Kyda Sylvester on 2007 05 08 at 04:14 PM • permalink

  93. #78 etc. Kevin Hoover has published collections of his police logs if you’re interested. Ashamed to say I live here, although some of us work for a living.

    Posted by dean martin on 2007 05 08 at 05:52 PM • permalink

  94. Re my conservative bona fides: compared to the rest of my profession, well, Hello, I Must Be Goering. I realize that journalists aren’t a good control sample, though. So – I’m on the right for foreign & economic policy.  I do worry about global warming, but worry more about whether Paris Hilton will get a rash from those harsh prison sheets.

    I wouldn’t call myself a social conservative; I respect folks who are, but I don’t think they’d claim me as one of theirs.

    As for Par, he was hired because the last editor’s RAR files were corrupt.

    (To the three people who’ll get that: you’re welcome. To the rest: it’s a file-format joke. Computer humor! The richest kind.)

    Posted by Lileks on 2007 05 08 at 06:19 PM • permalink

  95. #93 - Arcata?
    Spent 3,4,5 July 1981 in yoof hostel there. Thought it was a top spot and you could get Fosters in very big steel cans. People very friendly and welcoming. As only foreigners at 4 July celebrations, travelling companion and self were feted, that is afforded every courtesy, not sold cheap at outdoor market.

    Posted by Pickles on 2007 05 08 at 06:54 PM • permalink

  96. Rittenhouse, Lileks, Tim, and everybody else here who’s a journalist, this is why I abandoned the dead tree media, if you care at all:

    I discovered that our local rag (the Dayton Daily News, a fairly respectable paper in a good-sized town) could not send a reporter to our small village and get the facts right at a small village council meeting.  I had already discovered that their national and international news came from AP, and less often, from Reuters, and that it was skewed fairly left.  But even the local coverage was skewed to reflect an agenda rather than just a straight reporting of facts.  This was the last straw.

    Online, I can read a variety of news reportage, and a variety of opinions, in far greater detail.  I can sort, fact-check, and compare to weed out bias.  Mistakes are corrected in less than 24 hours, sometimes within minutes.  Those people who write blatantly biased things do so at risk of being pummeled by the blogosphere.  None of this is possible with a dead (on so many levels) piece of paper.  It’s a matter of trust, and I no longer trust the dead tree media.

    As I don’t own a pet anymore, let alone a bird cage, and I use petroleum-based wraps and bowls to preserve my fish, I no longer have a need for a newspaper (or a news magazine).  We did use them for lighting fires in the fireplace in cold weather, but there are ways around that, and a free small-town bi-weekly saved up over summer does nicely.  It also doesn’t push an agenda.

    I’m not worried for any of you.  You have skills that don’t depend on the past, and you are clever, resourceful people.  Thought you might want to know, though, in case you hadn’t already figured it out for yourselves.

    Posted by RebeccaH on 2007 05 08 at 08:06 PM • permalink

  97. #91:  “They read it for, perhaps, some depth on the news…”

    Jorg, that’s exactly what’s been bugging me for years.  I can get the “news” off the radio, or off the net.  But I need the paper to fill in the outline, plus to keep an eye on the stuff (mostly local) that falls below the electronic media’s radar.  Yet instead of taking advantage of its monopoly on in-depth local, my daily cut the news hole, dumbed down the stories, and fired outsized everyone on their staff who might have possessed enough knowledge of their beat to know where the bodies were buried.  Then they took on an attitude that is cross between Big Nanny and your neighborhood bluenose and let it infest their stories.  Result:  At the time there was a major government consolidation on the table, while the city budget was going to heck, and while the crime rate and taxes were going through the roof, THEY were worried about a countywide anti-smoking ordinance.  And two days before the end of the legislature’s session, oops, they discovered that property taxes (statewide) were going up 25 percent.  Wonder how that happened!

    Lord knows I know news coverage is expensive to do right (although a motivated staff can do wonders if management gets out of the way), and I realize that the drop in classified advertising is a real hit, but instead of trying to maintain its readership, it’s like my paper chased serious readers—the kind who at least glance at every page—away. 

    And I resent it.  Damn kids…

    Posted by Old Grouch on 2007 05 08 at 08:11 PM • permalink

  98. I used to read daily the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Cincinnati Enquirer.  I thoroughly enjoy reading with a newspaper in my hands and a cup of coffee nearby.  Supplementing that were Newsweek, The National Review, and a few other magazines.

    Then I found the internet.  In short time I discovered began reading foreign newspapers including the Daily Telegraph (of London), the Irish Times, and The Sidney Morning Herald.  And I dropped the New York Times. 

    Then I found blogs.  I began reading Glenn Reynolds, Tim Dunlop, and Tim Blair.  And I allowed my magazine subscriptions to lapse.

    Now I only read the Cincinnati Enquirer and this blog.  And I’m getting darn close to allowing my Enquirer subscription to lapse. If it wasn’t for the sports page, I’d do it tomorrow.

    Posted by wronwright on 2007 05 08 at 09:06 PM • permalink

  99. wronwright, here you go.

    Posted by RebeccaH on 2007 05 08 at 10:27 PM • permalink

  100. #96 Rebecca, I AM a journalist, and I know full well why yourself and others are jettisoning the dead trees. News is becoming a pick-and-choose market.

    Having said that—the strength of the small-town daily I work for is in the fact that it covers exclusively local news—Johnny Doe’s picture showing him being awarded a trophy for a wrestling championship; Mrs. Jim Smith reaching the age of 100; the American Legion awarding Jane Brown a scholarship for her essay on “What Our Constitution Means.” Teens read our paper—in print. Not online. People of all ages cut out their pictures, when they appear, and preserve them in scrapbooks. We are relentlessly local. And our circulation numbers are strong.

    Having said THAT—we also have our own, homegrown (albeit nowhere NEAR as stellar, creatively speaking, but, well, creativity anywhere should be celebrated ...) James Lilekses—columnists to whom people have grown accustomed, and whom they like. Believe me—when these guys even miss ONE column, due to vacation, or whatever, we get phone calls.

    In the end, “news”—and “commentary”—become intensely personal.

    James, I’d like to add my voice of support—I know you’re fine, whatever happens. That, I don’t think, was ever in doubt. But I add myself to the bandwagon of those who find the “racehorse attached to the plow” (good one Paco!!!!) offensive, on a very spiritual level. Such moroncy, such cretinitude (if I may coin new phrases) deserves every electron of contempt I can possibly muster.

    I’ll continue to connect with your expressions, wherever they occur, because, well, I want to. Go, man, go.

    But I did write to the feedback site, and blisteringly. Just so’s they know.

    Posted by QQQQ on 2007 05 08 at 10:28 PM • permalink

  101. #100: You’re spot on about the good locals, QQQ (one, two, three . . .oops! one more)Q. They’re still a prime source for the kind of news that you can’t get easily anywhere else, and the people writing this kind of news still get out there and get it first hand. I think one big problem with the “major” papers is that readers know that most of the national and international news is “phoned” in from people who are probably getting the stories second or third hand, themselves, thus reliability and timelimess are suspect (reliability, particularly, with the burgeoning partisanship that arises from advocacy journalism - e.g., the series of PR disasters stemming from the use of so-called “local stringers” in the middle east, and their one-sided, pretty much non-edited stories and photographs).

    Posted by paco on 2007 05 08 at 11:10 PM • permalink

  102. Just to get it on the record, then, quad-Q (up a fraction today):  My Grandmother was “Girl About Town” writing about social goings-on for a local weekly in Beloit, Kansas, USA (tiny compared to, say, Fargo) circa 1940.  She used her column to hit on a transient tree surgeon, later a tool designer for key Cold War projects—my grandfather. 

    WTF, y’all’ll say.  I just really internalized Lileks’ and QQQQ’s “local” argument.

    Posted by reese on 2007 05 08 at 11:40 PM • permalink

  103. Reese and Q-to-the-power-of-four, you’re both very, very right.

    One of the problems with many newspapers is they stop reporting local news because of a lazy reliance on aggregated copy from the wires.

    Once readers realise they can access these stories for themselves faster and for free, they drop the print edition.

    It’s one of the reasons why our city’s daily paper struggles with poor circulation and dodgy reporting while its sister weekly publication, which focuses on local news is much more widely read and respected.

    QQQQ, I’m glad that your local paper is doing the right thing by its readers. It deserves to be long-lasting and profitable.

    —Nora

    Posted by The Thin Man Returns on 2007 05 09 at 12:43 AM • permalink

  104. I must be one of the exceptions but I don’t read the newspaper for local news.  Cause, you know, this is Cincinnati.  Who cares?

    I read it because it’s a nice convenient mode to keeping up to date with the news everywhere, national, local, and international.  I can fold it, stick it in my briefcase and take it out and continue reading it when I have time.  I don’t simply like reading newspapers, I love doing so.

    But the absolute prerequisite is that I must be able to trust what I’m reading.  If I find that I must read the news articles with the same degree of care and distrust I read the opinion page, then I’d rather not read it.

    Lately I find myself not wanting to read it.

    Posted by wronwright on 2007 05 09 at 05:43 AM • permalink

  105. I think the above posters are right that regional and local papers are at a competitive disadvantage on national and international news. Why subscribe to the local paper for lightly edited pieces from the NYT and WaPo when you can just go directly to the web site? Effectively the “wire services” have been disintermediated by the web—it has cut out the middleman between the major papers and the consumer.

    Local news is a different matter. It requires legwork to gather, and there is no market for it beyond the locals.

    Posted by Ernst Blofeld on 2007 05 09 at 01:11 PM • permalink

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