Citing Star Tribune comment standards, D.J. Leary gives up blog

With a gentlemanly but unmistakable wave at vituperative Strib online commenters, longtime political analyst and media consultant D.J. Leary bid good-bye to his “Your Voices” blog Friday.

“As a blogger for startribune.com, I have become one of the things I detest most in American politics.  I am one of those adding fuel to the fire of political discontent, bickering and the general ‘take no prisoners, never mind the facts’ bickering that has become the sad hallmark of our arena of public discourse,” he writes.

Leary — who, as a co-founder of Politics in Minnesota, was a blogger before blogging even existed, and as a big-time strategist, has mixed it up with major players — says he doesn’t mind a good fight, but not with anonymous flat earthers who can dominate the Strib’s all-but-unmoderated space.

Sadly, the scorched earth people of all political parties and beliefs have used the Internet’s anonymity flaw to publish false, misleading, unfounded stories, statements, and fake quotes about people and issues in the public arena. … fueled by the anonymity of the Internet, these whackos are gaining in strength rather than being sent off somewhere for a rest. … the political bickering we hear today truly ‘signifies nothing,’ yet, it grows with each passing day. Maybe, I can start something by stopping.  Right now.  This is my last ‘Your Voices’ post.”

Appropriately, the Strib has enabled comments to Leary’s good-bye (though ironically, they are pre-reviewing them, as they do for a few especially controversial stories). No feedback as of 4:30 p.m. Friday, but I expect the ol’ spin doctor will get some heat about leaving the kitchen.

It’s probably not a huge sacrifice to give up an unpaid gig, but perhaps it’s a harbinger. Will other writers choose their gigs based on commenting standards?

[Addendum: Strib sports columnist Pat Reusse, has more thoughts on his paper’s policy at his KSTP-AM blog.]

Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/07/2009 - 05:09 pm.

    First: We all know and love DJ. He is a gentleman. So is Arnie Carlson. So is Al Quie. The point I’m trying to make is that regardless of political persuasion, people used to be behave in a civilized fashion in Minnesota politics. I’m sure that is what is so disappointing to DJ.

    As I write this, we are being subjected to an organized smear campaign claiming that health care reform efforts are some sort of clandestine Nazi operation…

    Sad.

    What to do? Well DJ is an old guy – as am I – and he has decided to walk away from the table. I think this is a mistake.

    With all the faults of the Strib’s comment section, do a little experiment. Hit the button where it presents them in order of the number of votes. Voila! Most of the time you will find the most literate and thoughtful comments at the top of the heap and the whackos at the bottom.

    What does this mean? Minnesotans are not stupid. Given some time to think about things, they can separate the wheat from the chaff. Thus it behoove all of us to stay involved.

    Having said that, I think that the best comments policy in the Twin Cities is that of Minnpost. Make people identify themselves and not be able to get away with anonymous mudslinging.

    You’ve fought the good fight for many years, DJ. It is appreciated.

    Sincerely,

    Bill Gleason

  2. Submitted by Joel Rosenberg on 08/07/2009 - 05:29 pm.

    Well, if you want to control posting on your blog, you can always roll your own, or ask to join an existing one with standards of which you approve.

    I’ve heard that that happens.

  3. Submitted by Erik Schimek on 08/07/2009 - 08:06 pm.

    The strib comments section is terrible … youtube/digg quality. I’m not sure what it really brings to the newspaper.

  4. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/08/2009 - 07:46 am.

    I miss D.J. on Almanac too. Maybe he’ll move on to minnpost. By the way does Arne Carlson write for you guys much?

  5. Submitted by Doug Hamlin on 08/08/2009 - 09:05 am.

    Sounds to me like MinnPost should start a Your Voices-type community blog.

  6. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 08/08/2009 - 09:38 am.

    The Strib is reaping the whirlwind of cultivating right wing nutcakes for 10 years in the form of Kersten, Tice, and the daily conservative required on the op-ed page. When you encourage paranoid, factually-challenged right wingers who already feel embattled you end up with incoherent, hate-filled nonsense. No surprise there.

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/09/2009 - 07:10 am.

    The fact that the Star Tribune has an active comments board is evidence that it is being and indeed it still matters, and is that bad? I do realize that many journalists and commentators long nostalgically for the days when their readers didn’t talk back, but those days are gone forever.

  8. Submitted by William Pappas on 08/09/2009 - 07:55 am.

    I couldn’t agree with you more Rob. The last few years I have been more than disappointed at the comments allowed in Strib blogs and especially on the editorial page. Blatantly racist, ignorant and obvioulsy untrue and higly flammable letters have been routinely published. Don’t they have an oblisgation to filter out these hate messages and calls to bigotry? I also agree that Kersten gave strength and voice to a factually challenged, closeted and exclusively waspish perspective that needed only an encouraging voice at the Strib to gain access to the public discourse. The Strib’s shifting mission has done much damage to the political debate in Minnesota.

  9. Submitted by Ross Williams on 08/09/2009 - 10:28 am.

    “I do realize that many journalists and commentators long nostalgically for the days when their readers didn’t talk back, but those days are gone forever.”

    I think this is the central problem. Lets face it, the comments section doesn’t matter to society unless someone reads it

    I can understand why DJ would consider a blog with comments a terrible vehicle for political spin. It used to be “spin doctors” were engaged in a strategic game of chess against other “spin doctors”, each trying to gain political advantage.

    Many of the commentators on the STRIB are not really trying to persuade anyone. They are just expressing their unvarnished opinions. They don’t really care what other people think. They are just venting.

    I think the result is a much more honest debate. It is often disturbing both in tone and content. But it reflects the real range of opinion our there. What do people really think when there are no consequences to expressing themselves honestly. I think that has value.

    On the other hand, I don’t read STRIB commentators very often.

  10. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/09/2009 - 12:11 pm.

    Several months ago, I stopped reading the STRIB in general and the comments section in particular. I was not so much frustrated with people expressing points of view in opposition to my own, but with the fact that time after time, certain commentators, mostly conservative, who seemed to have nothing else to do in their lives by post endlessly and repetitively, would dominate, by sheer numbers, the comments on any given letter or article.

    I already knew what those commentators believed and what they were likely to say on any subject, but still, it was not uncommon to find six or more posts from one or another of two or three commentators within the first three pages of comments, rehearsing the same tired and statistically/factually inaccurate points of view. I just got tired of reading endless posts of the same wingnut B.S. in the comment section of articles on any and every subject.

    Now if they were to limit comments on each article to one per person and go to the trouble of requiring actual ID’s from verified e-mail addresses, the comments might be more balanced and more worth reading. Lacking that, the STRIB makes itself a waste of time as far useful and intelligent discourse is concerned.

  11. Submitted by Ross Williams on 08/09/2009 - 12:15 pm.

    Pat Reusse’s column has the following:

    “For sure, you couldn’t make up out of whole cloth a collection of lies, or say anything about anyone you choose, and do so under the banner of the St. Paul Dispatch, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.”

    The reality is that was never true. In Factual standards were never applied to the editorial page – whether letters to editor or columnists.

    The factual inaccuracy (claiming the Pohlads got a free stadium while, in fact, the Twins are paying part of the cost) is the sort of thing that would be ignored if a STRIB editorial page contributor had done it.

    In fact, I think you will find Reusse himself once referred to Pohlad’s experience foreclosing on “widows” during the depression. The evidence for this? Well, Pohlad apparently did not get into the banking business until 1940’s, after the depression was over. So this is likely simply repeating an urban myth.

    What is being debated here is tone and target, not substance. The personal attacks on the Pohlads that Reusse sites are relatively mild compared to comments made about people from OJ Simpson to Osama bin Laden. The issue is who is being attacked and who is doing the attacking. A responsible columnist can refer to social outcasts as “scum”, but not to “respectable” members of the community. Allowing anyone to use that term, allows anyone to be a target.

    In fact, I think you will find numerous references from various sportswriters to Albert Belle, a star for the Cleveland baseball team, as a “clubhouse cancer”, despite repeated testimonials to the contrary from teammates. The apparent reason for this was that Belle was not friendly sports writers and they were the ones who had access to a newspaper to write those columns.

  12. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/09/2009 - 04:26 pm.

    “Many of the commentators on the STRIB are not really trying to persuade anyone. They are just expressing their unvarnished opinions.”

    I often have the opposite sense of what’s going on the Strib. Way too often it seems to me that commentators aren’t expressing their unvarnished opinions, they are acting as advocates reciting various talking points or pieces of conventional wisdom rather than sharing with us their own insights and thinking. They are listlessly playing the roles others have assigned to them.

    In reading Strib opinion pieces how often are any of us surprised by anything appearing in them?

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/09/2009 - 04:35 pm.

    “For sure, you couldn’t make up out of whole cloth a collection of lies, or say anything about anyone you choose, and do so under the banner of the St. Paul Dispatch, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.”

    Pat’s the product of a brief period in our history when journalists assumed a certain respectability. Yellow journalism was no longer the fashion when Pat got his first job, and the attitudes of his youth are the ones presents with certainty today. Being something of a codger myself, I admit to sharing some of Pat’s attitudes. But the fact is, the newspaper world in which Pat grew up, is dying, and in fact may already be dead. However regrettable it may be, we are in a new media universe and newspapers must change with the time. We simply cannot go back.

  14. Submitted by Henry Wolff on 08/09/2009 - 05:45 pm.

    I do think the Strib comments reach the lowest depths possible.

    But, as a conservative, I have a hard time feeling sorry for the man who flings this at my team–“professionals in sucking in the sewer of innuendo and gagging us with the garbage of half-truths.”

    I think D.J. gave as good as he got.

  15. Submitted by Ross Williams on 08/10/2009 - 09:53 am.

    “They are listlessly playing the roles others have assigned to them. ”

    While I think that is true, it is largely how most of us live our lives. We don’t have time to carefully evaluate every public policy, so we rely on cliches and direction from people we trust and respect.

    That said, most of the media news and “responsible” commentary is really just repeated talking points from some interest group. No one is putting out talking points that call the Pohlads “scum” because no one really has an interest in promoting that view. Those are just “unvarnished” expressions of frustration.

  16. Submitted by Eric Larson on 08/10/2009 - 01:37 pm.

    But for the love of Eric and Jan.

    One thing I always liked about DJ was this hard driven Irishman could use cool Scandinavian language on Channel 2. With that said.
    1. Even when I was a lib, his acidic comments about the Reagan Admin, made me un-comfortable.
    2. His holier then thou attitude wore thin. His constant belief that he was middle of the road eventually drove many middle of the roaders to the right.
    3. He used that Almanac couch on more then one occasion to schill for his clients, and called it good public journalism.
    4. He extended his shelf-life more then most of his co-hort, but he didn’t like the modern age. Because he could not compete in it.

  17. Submitted by Dale Carlton on 08/10/2009 - 02:45 pm.

    Dj,
    I was glad to see you back and now sorry to see you go.
    You will be missed!

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