Steve Perry to take over Minnesota Monitor?

In what would be a very cool development in the local online news world, former City Pages editor Steve Perry may become the new editorial director of Minnesota Monitor, the left-leaning local news site.

Since leaving CP early last year, Perry has struck out on his own with The Daily Mole, his tartly observed take on local events (plus some celebrity and online culture slap-and-tickle). The Mole’s limitation is that it’s essentially a one-man shop; Perry has been unable to find financing to hire a news staff. Meanwhile, Minnesota Monitor has earned props for undergirding its lefty slant with real reporting, but hasn’t had an experienced editor leading the site full-time. Perry would add gonad-kicking muckraking to the Monitor’s earnest substance; Monitor fundraiser-in-chief David Bennahum would provide a staff for Perry to again extend his ethos.

All kind of caveats are in order. First, Monitor folks won’t confirm they’ve offered Perry the job; managing editor Paul Schmelzer (who will be staying on) will only say they’re negotiating with a candidate. As of about 4 this afternoon, there was no deal. Second, Perry won’t confirm he’s the one; he didn’t return an inquisitive email I sent him over the weekend. Third, I have some inside knowledge: Schmelzer approached me about applying, I interviewed, and he told me last Friday that they’d picked someone else. So this is speculation, but not the uninformed kind. (And no, I am not trying to ruin the deal or weasel back into contention; I’m out and want Steve in.)

It’s not rationalizing to say Perry would be a great choice. As an editor, he has vision — CP fought its way to the top of the newsgathering heap during his tenure; the paper earned scads of newswriting awards against the biggest daily competition. Second, Steve thoroughly gets the web: he led an aggressive online charge years before his print peers — he discovered Diablo Cody — and City Pages still gets far more traffic than larger papers because of it. Minnesota Monitor needs page views — don’t we all? — and Steve offers the quickest route up that ladder. The Monitor plans to add staff and redesign its site this year, and Perry would add the coup de grace: better stories.

There are, of course, challenges. Steve isn’t a people person; MinnMon’s writers may discover just how negative motivations works, but for most, it will be outweighed by the skills they’ll gain. Steve wouldn’t have a veteran staff he assembled at City Pages — the Monitor has no newsroom, and for now, no full-time staff writers; “fellows” typically work half-time on short-term contracts. To me, the idea of relying on email and IM to manage freelancers juggling other gigs seemed daunting, despite the attractions of working from home. (Of course, MinnPost more or less has the same dynamic and some of the same inconsistencies.) If he wants to, Steve is a tough enough negotiator to bend this to his liking.

Then of course, there’s Steve’s relentlessly cynical worldview, which goes down like bracing ambrosia or rat poison, depending on your proclivities. There are times I get frustrated with a seemingly fixed cast of villains and heroes, but on balance, Perry is right far more than he is wrong — and he’s an original enough thinker to challenge your assumptions even if you disagree with his conclusion. These days, if you have to pick a default position for newsgathering — especially a true alternative to corporate newsgathering — misanthropy isn’t a bad one.

Make the deal, boys. If not for Twin Cities readers, than for your faithful correspondent hanging his you-know-what out there a bit today.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Aaron Landry on 01/28/2008 - 06:50 pm.

    If true, this would be very, very interesting. Minnesota Monitor’s been on the way up for awhile and Perry on board would make a big impact on pushing them to the next level. As much as I’d like to see The Daily Mole get more legs and grow, jumping on board with Minnesota Monitor might be a running head start.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 01/29/2008 - 07:57 am.

    Everyone knows that George Soros is as nutty as a loon, but I don’t think anyone would have pegged him for such a cheapskate.

    MiniMoni has gotten so bad that it doesn’t even rate our collective mockery anymore; it’s an online showcase for witless self deprecation.

    How long Soros will continue to believe that he can effect his “de-Nazification” of America on a penny ante budget is anybody’s guess. But until he decides to actually pony up for “living wage” salaries for his sock puppets, his nutroot websites will continue to flounder under the dead weight of such talentless bufoons as Perry and, God help us, Jeff Fecke.

  3. Submitted by David Brauer on 01/29/2008 - 08:53 am.

    The insults above belay the claim that mockery is past. I can only hope the predictable knee-jerk name-calling isn’t a thread-ender.

    In the fact department, Center for Independent Media (MnMon’s parent) does indeed list Soros’s Open Society Institute, but also these left-side foundations:

    Anonymous
    Arca Foundation
    Arkay Foundation
    Bauman Family Foundation
    Better World Fund
    Bohemian Foundation
    Brett Family Foundation
    Gill Foundation
    Open Society Institute
    Park Foundation
    Quixote Foundation
    Rockefeller Family Foundation
    SEIU
    Sunlight Foundation
    Surdna Foundation
    Wallace Global Fund

    It’s doubtful Soros pulls the strings in such a crowd (I think he has bigger fish to fry) and I’m sure most on the right do not discount those on their side who are funded by different foundations. At least, I haven’t seen such insults thrown that way as a matter of principle.

    All well and good to discuss specific instances where MnMon has gotten it wrong, but I hope MinnPost can at least require posts to contain argument rather than insult.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 01/29/2008 - 12:07 pm.

    Oddly enough, most of MiniMoni’s funding sources (that you have listed) are the same, exact sources that pay for the “Center for American Progress”, “Media Matters”, “Moveon.org”…all known to be Soros joints.

    Does George phone in the day to day plan of action? Of course not; he doesn’t need to.

    He is not paying for unbiased news gathering, and every one of his minions know it. They know that if the product that he is paying for should, in the interest of “truth telling” or any other reason, not toe the radical, leftist ideological line he has established the money would dry up.

    The problem isn’t that MiniMoni, or any of the other propaganda and activist groups that Soros funds, are supported by a certified kook, it’s that they were evidently required to lie about it.

    In the case of MiniMoni (and its parent “Center for Independent Media”) the denials were especially egregious given their smarmy “Code of Ethics”. In publicising the idea that they ascribed to The whole thing was geared to present a false impression of an “independent” source of credible news, and thanks to several local bloggers, it was a fraud that never made it out of the door.

    More importantly, while dancing on their strings and at the same time publicizing the idea that they ascribed to the same ethical standards that supposedly apply to genuine news journalists, the MiniMoni sock puppets damaged not only their credibility (not that many of them had any to begin with), they provide more proof that in 21st century media, more than ever, it’s caveat emptor.

    I’d like to believe that even if Soros did open his wallet, he’d be unable to find many reputable journalists willing to compromise their reputations by stooping to sock puppetry to earn a living.

    As Eric Black might be loath to admit, the fact is that the taint lingers long after that last Soroscheck © is cashed.

  5. Submitted by Craig Westover on 01/29/2008 - 04:47 pm.

    I have to somewhat disagree with my friend Tom Swift’s criticism of Minnesota Monitor. Who funds a web site (or a foundation such as the Minnesota Free Market Institute, which pays me a stipend) is immaterial – ultimately its work has to stand on its own. If one is going to criticize Minnesota Monitor, stick to the content.

    That leads me to a couple of more valid criticisms of Minnesota Monitor.

    First, they don’t meet the objective of pushing a progressive agenda very well. More often than not their stories focus on the bad things conservatives are doing instead of stories that help people understand progressivism as they would like us to see it. Second, Minnesota Monitor seldom challenges its audience. I can’t believe that writers deeply involved in the progressive movement can find nothing to challenge in it. Can find nothing to write about that might make liberals better. Nothing to write about that might show progressivism as anything other than a fundamentalist world view where everyone sings from the same hymnal (or is evil and not worthy of consideration).

    Yes, I’m sure someone can point to stories on Minnesota Monitor that refute my criticisms, but those would be the exceptions that prove the rule. If I might suggest a story –

    How does George Soros come to name his organization the “Open Society Institute” after the work of Karl Popper, a founding member of the Mont Pelerin society who hung with the likes of libertarian economists and social critics like Hayek, von Mises and Milton Friedman?

  6. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 01/29/2008 - 07:33 pm.

    Craig’s very correct assessment of MiniMoni’s lack of content does not, I continue to assert, undermine my broader observation. When groups with a partisan political agenda attempt to foist their message upon the public in the guise of non-biased “news gathering” it demeans the media as a whole.

    As I said, I have no particular problem with Soros’ efforts to create a leftist network of information outlets; there is no harm in an echo chamber that people of like minds visit to yodel their approbations.

    But the deliberate attempt to deceive IS a problem.

    Look, the mainstream news media, in all it’s forms, does enough damage to its credibility all by itself. It really doesn’t require the help of the likes of George Soros…just ask Dan Rather.

  7. Submitted by Bill Krause on 02/01/2008 - 07:30 pm.

    The problem with sites like Minnesota Monitor and unfortunately MinnPost is their organization as a 501(c)(3) public charity.

    This is the same tax status as a religious organization, and like a religious organization 501(c)(3)’s are barred from political activity.

    This doesn’t just prohibit formal endorsements, but bars charities from making any statements for or against any candidate (or groups of candidates) for public office during an election year.

    Minnesota Monitor has violated this IRS rule numerous times, and so has MinnPost.

    An example?

    http://www.minnpost.com/community_voices/2007/12/12/338/nelson-pallmeyer_surprisingly_is_dfls_best_chance_to_beat_norm_coleman

    Just imagine going to church and hearing those opinions coming from the pulpit.

    My recommendation would be to drop the tax exempt status, or play by the rules.

  8. Submitted by Dwight Fry on 02/12/2008 - 10:08 am.

    Just when you think you’ve heard it all, along comes Craig Westover offering advice on “pushing a progressive agenda” and Tommy Swift tendering advice on “damaged credibility.”

    Thanks for adding a comics section to MinnPost guys!

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