Yesterday, when I wrote about Nick Coleman and Katherine Kersten losing their Strib columns, I predicted outrage among Kersten’s fans on the right. So far — and the news is not yet 18 hours old — that really hasn’t happened.
The reaction I awaited most eagerly was from Power Line, Kersten’s most stalwart supporter (and, lefties consistently allege, her puppet master).
Today, Scott Johnson pens a surprisingly restrained eulogy, written more in sadness than anger. He lauds Kersten for bulldogging a local charter school and Congressman Keith Ellison, adding — correctly — that “Kersten has introduced a culturally conservative perspective to the paper.”
Johnson speculates that “Star Tribune management is apparently getting an early start on the age of Obama, clearing the decks and removing the remaining voice of dissent at the paper.”
While I think Strib management dislikes sharp elbows of any ideological stripe (RIP, Coleman column), Johnson’s conclusion is too pat.
Kersten seems to have passed on the Strib’s offer to be a reporter or write freelance opinion pieces, but I’m guessing they will replace their Metro opinion-spinners with at least one non-liberal voice.
But what flavor? Here’s where Johnson may be on to something; will “cultural” and conservative separate?
I’m no Kersten fan, but I’ve talked to many folks out there, not of the left, who found her conservativism at best inconsistent and at worst bigoted. For example, the charter school’s students are mostly Muslim (as is Ellison), but her vetting of charter-state separation excluded Christian-sponsored schools she’d otherwise laud.
Writes Johnson, “I have long thought that the Star Tribune treated Kersten like a foreign agent that needed to be expelled from its body. Yesterday they formalized the treatment.”
Lefties will chortle at that; they believed Kersten was a foreign agent — objectively, she had never been a journalist — as well as The Mother of Ironic Affirmative Action hires. The more restrained among them allowed that the Strib needs ideological diversity, but surely could hire a more professional conservative journalist.
They may soon find out. I’m willing to bet whoever is hired (or more likely, promoted), will have a grounding in reporting. I’d also guess they will be a different brand of cultural conservative than Johnson might like.
Some internal names floated before Kersten was hired included James Lileks, political editor Doug Tice and then-reporter, current editorial writer Jill Burcum. (This is just a historical starting point; I have no idea who’s in the mix.)
Lileks, who, like Tim Pawlenty shows a more moderate face locally than nationally, has frequently expressed reluctance about becoming the conservative standard-bearer in his hometown paper. In his current Strib Metro columns, he’s more whimsical than ax-grinding, addressing the Hugh Hewitt crowd between the lines. Would his bosses nudge his rhetoric out of the closet?
Lileks has publicly acknowledged reporting is not a strong suit. His job status is unclear at the moment, but he’s the only columnist the current regime put in place.
Having worked for Doug at the old Twin Cities Reader, I respect his intellect and his reporting chops. Despite our ideological differences, he was the guy I rooted for when ex-editor Anders Gyllenhaal picked Kersten. Like Lileks, he doesn’t seem of the megachurch crowd. I have no clue if he’s interested in the job or if it will be offered.
[Note: Lileks and Tice will be anchoring the Strib’s live video-feed of the recount today at noon. As of 11:30 a.m., I don’t have a link.]
I don’t know Burcum well except in pointed exchanges — no blood, no foul, Jill. While Strib friends say she is a moderate, she seems pro-business and unafraid to upend liberal pieties, two hallmarks of publisher Chris Harte’s editorial-board remastering.
A former editor as well as reporter, Burcum was added to the editorial board in part because she lives in the northern ‘burbs, which definitely represents diversity among the writing crew. In print, her strongest cultural leaning so far is a love for “Little House on the Prairie,” which flaming liberals in my family share.
But aside from being on the last dance card, Burcum doesn’t sound like she’s hot for a new gig. There have been no feelers, and she says, “I love working on the editorial board; it’s a great fit, and have world of respect for my colleagues back here.”
Whoever is picked, Johnson will probably be disappointed — but how disappointed remains to be determined.
He’s not willing to wait for the dust to settle, concluding with this clarion call: “We know they won’t print your letters or messages, but write them anyway. Call publisher Chris Harte. And, oh, yes, please consider cancelling your subscription if you haven’t already.”