As regular readers know, the Star Tribune editorial page caused a bit of a stir when it decided to endorse Republican Norm Coleman for Senate.
A day or so later, I blogged about the Strib’s ongoing print circulation drop, wondering if the reconfigured editorial page might cost the paper more long-time liberal readers than it would pick up among “bipartisans” or Republicans.
Almost immediately, I got Norbert Nielubowski’s note:
Reading your post today about the Star Trib’s drop in circulation numbers I’ll be curious to see if their endorsement of Norm Coleman has an effect of further eroding their subscriptions. I know of at least one — mine.
The curious thing was the follow-up — I cancelled yesterday (Sunday) morning telling the customer service person that it was specifically because of the Coleman endorsement.
This morning I got a call at 8 a.m. (I’m a musician and calling before 9 was their first mistake) offering to drop the price of my subscription. I told her it wasn’t a money issue and that it was completely about their endorsement of Coleman.
She starts telling me that the Strib endorses more than 80 percent Democrats. I told her that made this endorsement even more unpalatable. Then she says:
“You LIKE Al Franken???”
At that point I hung up….
I called Nielubowski just to make sure this wasn’t a put-on, and was able to confirm his identity.
He mentioned that he called the Strib back after the incident, and said a manager was properly apologetic — it’s entirely likely this was a rogue (or Republican) salesperson.
Nielubowski says he’s still not going back to the Strib.
Now, endorsement-related cancellations happen every election cycle. How typical is Norbert?
Despite some diligent efforts, I couldn’t wheedle a cancellation figure out of the Strib. (If anyone has quality data, let me know.)
Still, I asked him if he wasn’t being hypocritical; he probably tut-tutted “angry” conservatives who disdained the “Red Star” in its halcyon liberal days, and here he was, huffing and puffing and acting intolerant just because he read something he didn’t agree with.
After all, the Strib still has plenty of fine journalists who have nothing to do with the editorial page — if everyone did as he, wouldn’t that do more harm than good to essential newsgathering?
Nielubowski said he’d asked himself the same questions. A St. Paul resident, he said he taken the Minneapolis paper all these years precisely because it was an antidote to the more conservative Pioneer Press. He felt that competitive advantage had been squandered; he’d tolerated the stemwinding antic of Katherine Kersten, but the Norm endorsement made that a one-two punch — especially painful since the St. Paul resident believes the ex-mayor drained city reserves to keep taxes down, leaving it more vulnerable in recent years.
He admitted he had a personal axe to grind; the paper had gotten rid of its classical music critic. To him, the incidents had become a trial of breadcrumbs leading away from the local daily. He said he’d already split his subscription savings between another local journalism organization and Franken’s campaign.
I’m not in Nielubowski’s camp. I understand not wanting to fork over $200 a year — or less — to further your philosophical antagonists. But I’m a big-pic guy, and — day job aside — I really do believe that losing the major dailies, or speeding their demise, is something civic-minded people would quickly regret.
Doing the Daily Glean every morning, there’s still a hell of a lot more good than bad, and no, just reading the Strib on the web won’t keep that going.
Still, Nielubowski wondered if the Strib hadn’t picked Coleman (or, I noted, the editorial board that picked Coleman) for business reasons, to lure new readers without hopefully angering as many old ones. If that was true, then to him, the response seemed clear: fight the financial imperative with a financial response.