It appears the era of the insult ediorial may be over at the Star Tribune. The interim publisher has announced that the editorial page editor is leaving after 15 years. The former deputy editor has previously stated that the new owners "demanded that editorials in the Star Tribune demonstrate "no sharp elbows."
This is a logical and long over due step by our local newspaper monopoly. Over the past few years I've been astonished at the shrill tone and the vindictive nature present in the "institutional voice" of the Star Tribune. Not astonished that a bunch of comfortable, establishment liberals would produce such copy. But astonished that a business enterprise would allow one of its most valuable properties to be turned into an instrument used to purposely alienate vast swaths of its potential customer base.
To be clear, the unremitting leftist content of their work wasn't the problem. A forum for even that perspective, presented in an intelligent, persuasive, engaging fashion would be an asset to the community. It would draw interested readers from all sides, engender debate and good will, and educate us unwashed masses about the important issues of the day.
But, that's not what we were served up. Instead, the Star Tribune unsigned editorials used their megaphone to go out of their way to do nothing more than rant and insult people voting for Republicans or holding conservative beliefs. It reached a level where only a fool or a masochist in this targeted audience could continue to hand over money to them in order to get more of the same. Thank you sir, may I have another!
A few examples of their work include the teeth gnashing, hair pulling, garment rending commentaries surrounding the 2004 presidential election, documented here. In their rousing endorsement of Sen. Kerry before the election:
Kerry recognizes that to prevail in the struggle against terrorism, America must return to the moral high ground rather than unilaterally pursue a perverted, narrow vision of its national interest. He would reverse Bush's devious dismantling of environmental protections, and he would preserve the safety net that protects America's most vulnerable citizens.
[Bush] has proved to be the most divisive, insular and partisan president since Richard Nixon. He ran as a moderate, but has pursued radical goals that have plunged the nation into debt and injected the government into the most personal of family matters. He promised to conduct foreign policy humbly, yet he repeatedly spurned allies, culminating in his arrogant and misguided rush to war on Iraq.
In their post-mortem, a profile in losing with grace:
Looking ahead, Bush faces an enormous, uphill struggle to keep Iraq from turning into a disaster. Should he fail, and should the right insist on trying to force-feed America its radical social agenda, the 2006 midterm elections could bring real congressional grief to the Republicans. This is still a centrist, tolerant society, and any effort to remake it into a conservative theocracy will bring swift, decisive repudiation.
Recall, they are addressing an audience where nearly half the electorate voted for that perverted, narrow, devious, insular, partisan, radical, arrogant, misguided theocrat.
Then there was this classic from the 2006 election cycle:
You've gotta hand it to Keith Ellison, Minneapolis' congressman-elect: He's not even in the House yet, and he's got wingnuts falling out of the trees on their empty heads.
One other egregious example I recall (citation lost to the firewall they put their archived work behind) concerned the University of Minnesota staging of a play called "The Pope and the Witch," a juvenile slam fest of the Catholic Church. It was a typically sophomoric production by a bunch of naïve college kids. Yet the Star Tribune chose to endorse the production from the lofty perch of the editorial page, dismissing any objections by saying they would "laugh along with it" and characterizing the Church as nothing more than a wealthy corporation. For no obvious purpose, they chose to go out of their way to kick the Church and its members in the teeth and laugh in their face about it.
Given appropriate access to their locked up electronic archives, one could go on and on with these examples. Conclusion being, these people were entrusted with a precious asset. Monopoly access to hundreds of thousands of interested citizens. People looking for, and willing to pay for, vital information of the day. And they threw it all away in order to vent their spleens and score petty, vindictive political points. Correspondingly, a generation of Minnesotans has lost all trust in them as a good-faith provider of information. It is a shameful legacy.
The fact that the Star Tribune editorial writers apparently won national awards for their work is evidence that this legacy isn't localized and how out of touch and narcissistic the profession has become. This doesn't give much hope that the next crew the Star Tribune brings in will be any better. But I'm just crazy enough to believe that somewhere in this country they can find a handful of smart, persuasive, engaging, good-natured, and likeable writers to fill the position. One unsolicited piece of advice, not limiting the potential pool of candidates to liberals alone would improve the odds of success significantly.
UPDATE: Another tip, this guy here, not a good candidate. Poor kid, it looks like he based his career preparation on the Star Tribune editorial model, and now he's entering the job market just as it's collapsing.