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James Lileks gets a Strib Metro column

James Lileks will return to Strib column writing. And this time, the portfolio might include politics. Read more… By David Brauer 

James Lileks will return to Strib column writing. And this time, the portfolio might include politics.

Lileks — who plays a piquant right-winger on talk radio and a genial, impish cultural curator on the Strib’s — will make his first appearance on Friday’s Metro cover in the now-vacant columnist slot. (Nick Coleman and Katherine Kersten don’t write that day.) He will also write what a Strib memo from editor Nancy Barnes and managing editor Rene Sanchez describe as “a short dispatch from Buzzland on B3 Sundays, and we’re going to use that to try to drive readers to Buzz online, and from Buzz to the paper.”

In the past, Lileks has given me the impression he’d rather gouge his eyes out than become a political lightning rod in the hometown paper, preferring the quirks of Buzz and his former Variety section column, called, appropriately, the Daily Quirk. That was killed last year in one of the paper’s many reorganizations. So let me stress that I don’t know whether Hugh Hewitt listeners can take heart.

Update: According to Sanchez, “James will write a local column every Friday in the great spirit of what he does for Buzz. He will have the same wide latitude we give other columnists, but I expect it to be more rollicking than overtly political. It won’t be the kind of column you’d see on editorial pages.”

A change in the political mix?
But if politics is part of the Friday portfolio, that would give the Strib two conservative columnists and one liberal. Coleman usually writes one more column a week than Kersten (who also blogs), but the Strib has recently begun rotating her into the high-readership Sunday slot.

Perhaps to rock back the teeter-totter, or assuage dented egos, the memo also notes, “We are also considering allowing writers to be guest columnists on Saturday. If you are interested in being an occasional contributor, please see [assistant managing editor for local news] Duchesne [Drew], Rene or Nancy.”

While there’s probably no shortage of reporters waiting to correct what they see as Kersten’s journalistic sins, most Stribites we know instinctively blanch at crossing the reporter-opinionator dividing line. Yes, yes, we know about liberal bias and other perfidies, but in my experience, daily reporters do see a virtue in having a brake on their ids, so it will be interesting to see who, if anyone, steps across the line.

Another question going forward: How does the addition of columnists affect the Metro-section story counts and space? On some days, it can be a very tight section for a reporter to get into.

I’ll add more facts as they become available.