Power Line eulogizes Kersten column

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.”

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Nancy Gertner on 12/16/2008 - 12:06 pm.

    Farewell Kersten! I think I’ll go out and buy a paper today to reward the management decision to terminate her column.

    The Strib won’t publish my letters. Is it because I’ve been labeled a ‘flaming liberal’ because I grew up on a farm near Walnut Grove? Is is because my late father participated in the Walnut Grove outdoor prairie pageants with his wagon and team of Belgian horses? Or because the descendants of his horses still appear in the pageants?

    If I want my letters to the editor published, I can send them to the Boston Globe, because they have published my letter. Maybe it helps to have the same name as a federal judge in Boston – known – and loved! by some as a Flaming Liberal.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 12/16/2008 - 02:28 pm.

    “lefties consistently allege, her puppet master)”

    Oh, no you di’int link *that* to MinniMoney!

    Haha! Dave, you are a genuine piece of work, buddy….

  3. Submitted by Tom Knisely on 12/17/2008 - 10:13 am.

    Liberal bias from reporters doesn’t bother me. It’s expected I factor it in when reading, or watching the news, just like I did with every lecture I ever attended at the U of M. But what is bothersome is the condescension directed at people who profess an ardent belief in Jesus Christ. Here’s an example, above David Brauer wrote:

    “he doesn’t seem of the megachurch crowd.”

    Replace the word megachurch with basillica, or synagogue and you can see how offensive this line is. If someone were to write that a journalist was somehow unqualified because they went to a synagogue they’d be run out of town and properly so. Why the double standard?

  4. Submitted by David Brauer on 12/17/2008 - 10:36 am.

    Tom – I plead nolo contendre to the liberal charge.

    That said, I think condescension is in the eye of the beholder. Referencing megachurches isn’t automatically condescending, and wasn’t in this case.

    Instead, it’s a thumbnail. Scott Johnson’s argument for Kersten is she represents cultural conservatives, not just politico-economic conservatives. It’s a fairly well-established fact that megachurchgoers comprise a major part of the cultural wing of the GOP.

    Any shorthand is, of course, a blunt instrument. It’s fair to say Kersten’s cultural conservativism has adherents outside the megachurches; she appeared to ID very strongly with local conservative Catholics, for example. (I probably should have said “megachurch AND Basilica crowd,” though I think there’s more ideological diversity in the Catholic pews.) And there may be non-religious cultural conservatives, though I expect that’s a minority.

    As for the synagogue analogy, it would be offensive if random. But Kersten lead with her brand of Christianity quite often.

    If we had, say, a rival columnist who constantly referenced his/her Jewish roots, and folks were clambering for a “culturally liberal” replacement, then the reference would be more objectively based and OK.

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