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Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe quits Pioneer Press blog after marriage amendment editorial

Saturday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press became the first Minnesota paper to editorialize for “Vote Yes” on Minnesota’s marriage amendment.

Oh, sure, the editorial states “The Pioneer Press is not endorsing one way or another,” but that’s a fig leaf. The editorial essentially prosecutes the case to Constitutionally prohibit same-sex marriage — arguing gays want to redefine marriage but don’t really want to get married, that amendment foes alone are guilty of intimidation, and that business-climate concerns are specious. 

Anti-amendment arguments are “telling” and “misguided.” Pro-amendment arguments are merely stated. I defy you to read it and come away with a neutral or Vote No impression.

Don’t take my word for it? (I’m a Vote No voter and donor.) How about two bylined Pioneer Pressers — blogger Chris Kluwe and perhaps more boldly, business reporter Tom Webb?

Saturday, Kluwe — whose “Out of Bounds” blog has occasionally brought six-figure page views — announced via Twitter:

“Sent my email to the @PioneerPress informing them I will no longer contribute to their blog network. It will be my last post on the site. I will not be associated with any organization that tries to pull some bullshit like that. Have the strength of your convictionsWill post my last piece after walk through, and then it’s time for Seattle. I’ll look for a new blog site Monday and let you all know.”

Webb, also via Twitter:

“The Pioneer Press I know values fairness and honesty. Its marriage editorial slights those values, and is unworthy of a fine newspaper.”

I almost feel bad about calling attention to Webb’s tweet — it was only eight years ago that two Pioneer Press reporters, Chuck Laszewski and Rick Linsk, were suspended for attending a Bruce Springsteen/R.E.M. concert benefiting pro-Democratic registration group Vote for Change. Over at the Strib, journalists have been warned not to express political opinions generally and on social networks in particular.

But especially given the Pioneer Press’s passive-aggressive editorial advocacy, Webb’s boldness is that much more newsworthy. Whether editor Mike Burbach reprises 2004’s discipline is a story to watch, though it should be noted that unlike his predecessors, he runs the newsroom and sits on the editorial board. Given the lack of news-opinion divide at the top, Burbach will be in a tougher position to discipline a reporter for straddling the divide.

[Update: PiPress managing editor Chris Clonts has very publicly distanced the newsroom from the editorial, via Twitter: “I understand reaction 2 marriage editorial. Please know it in no way represents the newsroom or indiv. journalists.”

Update 2: Clonts tweeted later: “There is no reason for @TomWebbMn to face judgment or sanction for the sentiment he shared earlier.”

Update 3: Editor Mike Burbach has written a “we-a culpa” of sorts.

Update 4: Kluwe’s farewell column.]

I obviously disagree with the PiPress’s “view,” so factor that in accordingly, but this editorial makes clear their no-endorsement policy is a journalistic botch. They’ve replaced clarity with disingenuousness, principles with passive-aggression. The paper’s mascot is a bulldog, but here is straining at the leash.

I understand the humility in not telling readers what to do — I’ve never told you what to vote for, while making clear what I’ll vote for. Still, the Pioneer Press can’t even do that. Would it be so hard to write, “We support the amendment”?

If you believe the PiPress doesn’t come right out and say “yes” because it’s worried about a Target-like boycott decried in its editorial, that’s probably a losing strategy, too. I’ve already seen subscription-cancellation threats; I’d expect the same had the paper taken a “Vote No” stance in the shadow of John Nienstedt’s Cathedral.

Newspapers are emotional investments, and the marriage amendment is one of the most emotional issues this state has recently seen, so pulling one’s money seems logical. Still, I’d encourage my Vote No compatriots to remember that the Pioneer Press also employs reporters like Webb, and dozens of other quality journalists who may or may not share his views. In my opinion, it’s more important to support them than punish their leaders.

Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by Shannon Drury on 11/03/2012 - 01:35 pm.


    MinnPost, I urge you to make that beautifully unique sparklepony an offer! Now! Or yesterday, whichever came first!

  2. Submitted by Matthew Foster on 11/03/2012 - 02:20 pm.


    I’m not as familiar with the ins-and-outs of the local media, but this editorial and voter-ID editorials I’ve seen (especially the one a few months back that called the SOS’s ballot titles “Orwellian” despite the fact the entire editorial was a simple appeal to fear) have a certain garage logic to them. The phrasing, the half-formed thoughts, the unironic internal contradictions, the not terribly concealed white man’s burden (or, in this case, Christian’s burden) — how much influence does Joe Soucheray have over there? Because, honestly, these editorials and even the policy of non-endorsement endorsements has Soucheray’s grubby little fingerprints all over them. Wild speculation to be sure, but just wonderin’.

  3. Submitted by Stan Daniels on 11/03/2012 - 11:18 pm.

    Kluwe took his ball and ran

    David, did you write the headline to this post?

    First on Kluwe. His lack of a backbone is amazing. He had a forum to discuss his feelings and just because the Pioneer Press editors have a different take, he runs. Kluwe is exactly what is wrong today — we are afraid to listen to differing opinions. Kluwe should have posted his own response (but I actually am glad he is going back to punting a football).

    On Webb. I do have a problem with reporters who show support over specific issues like this. I get that it is hard to remain unbiased, but that is the profession. Webb’s comments damage a solid newsroom.

    Now I have no issues with Mr Brauer’s comments in his posts. His commentary consistently points out what biases he may have, and I enjoy his viewpoint.

    The Pioneer Press editorial was strange. I’m not even sure why they wrote it if they are not making endorsements. Either way, the editorial page exists for differing viewpoints. So while I agree the editorial seems to violate their own decision on endorsements, I have no problem with whatever opinion is on those pages.

    If the “No” supporters act like Kluwe when someone has a different opinion, it will harm their cause more than it will help it. Engaging in the debate and countering arguments will go much further.

    • Submitted by David Brauer on 11/04/2012 - 12:18 am.

      I did write the headline, Stan

      By the way, at least one PiPresser took issue with my characterization of Webb’s post as political – that it was more a take on the quality (or lack thereof) of the editorial approach.

    • Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 11/04/2012 - 01:24 pm.

      Glass house slings mud

      Oh, so Chris Kluwe’s “lack of a backbone is amazing”?? I’m dying to know from what perspective you see that. Please list your own experience in taking a very risky stance at the height of your career. Oh, wait, right there the chance is gone, isn’t it. Well, if you HAD a career, what brave points would you make to demonstrate your own “backbone”?

    • Submitted by Stephen Strepsi on 11/04/2012 - 04:04 pm.

      Wrong, Stan Daniels. Kluwe showed backbone by not writing for the paycheck — and of course “taking his ball” means taking his fans (i.e. page views, i.e. dollars) out of the hands of bigots.

      I am in Quebec, Canada and I have been reading Kluwe’s posts on Pioneer Press!

      I agree with this article (and most of the comments on their own editorial) that they were disingenuous — if they support banning gay equal civil rights, then they should have the courage of their convictions., If they obfuscated to hide that so as not to lose, they just lost — their most popular online columnist.

      And this reader.

    • Submitted by Garrett Wagner on 11/04/2012 - 10:36 pm.

      This is his side job.

      He is a professional football player so making the claim that he doesn’t have a backbone for leaving his side job is a bit of a stretch. Also, by generalizing the debating tactics of the “No” supporters based on one particular situation is a bit ignorant. I never really waste time debating this issue. The only difference for me is whether my son gets taught about it in school or by myself. The most interesting part of the debate is how silly these vote “yes” people look, leaving their thoughts on social media and TV. Reminds me of the pictures of the racists/sexists when their voting rights we questioned, these people will one day be looked at in the same fashion.

  4. Submitted by Hugh Hudson on 11/04/2012 - 01:03 pm.

    Bye Bye Chris you won’t be missed

    Next we hope you’re released by the Vikings!

  5. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 11/04/2012 - 09:41 pm.

    Hopefully it will be

    Bye bye soon to a pathetically disgraceful newspaper – the pioneer press. Pure garbage throughout.

    • Submitted by David Hanners on 11/05/2012 - 09:40 am.

      All because of one editorial? I wouldn’t be so presumptuous to speak for my hard-working colleagues who toil day in and day out to put out the best product we know how, but I really object to having my newspaper being called “pathetically disgraceful” and “pure garbage.” You have no idea what you are talking about. You have no idea of the work my colleagues and I put into the Pioneer Press, and for you to just flippantly wish us all to be unemployed — apparently because you don’t like an editorial — is sad. If you don’t like the editorial, fine. Say that. But I won’t stand silent while someone denigrates the hard work of the very dedicated professionals I am honored to work with.

      • Submitted by Ruben Rosario on 11/05/2012 - 02:19 pm.

        Re: David Hanners

        Canceling a subscription to a newspaper because of one editorial is like throwing your TV set out the window because you don’t care for one program.
        Hanners, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, is just one of many good, hard working and talented journalists in the newsroom who have absolutely nothing to do with that non endorsement endorsement editorial.
        This is my editorial: Vote no and no on the amendments. It’s that simple and clear with me. I agree with Kluwe. Grow some and pick somebody or a side, regardless whether people agree or disagree. I have no doubts the editorial page — which has run a steady stream of anti-Obama cartoons and commentaries in recent months and shown a gross imbalance of diverse views( don’t get me started on dearth of commentators of color) would endorse Romney faster than he can change positions.
        I’d rather it come out and say so. But don’t confuse the editorial page for the grunts in the newsroom.

  6. Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/05/2012 - 09:02 am.

    Mike Burbach

    attempts to explain:

  7. Submitted by Tom Clark on 11/05/2012 - 10:04 am.

    I don’t miss reading the Pioneer Press

    The PP long ago lost me as a reader over their editorial page and it’s unfair biases towards Democrats and liberal politics in general.

    • Submitted by Richard Parker on 11/05/2012 - 11:44 am.

      ‘Liberal’ in the eye of the beholder, I guess

      I’m losing patience with the PP, but with a different perspective. I’m sick of the almost exclusive diet of right-wing op-ed pieces and cartoons on the editorial pages — no Tom Friedman, no Paul Krugman. Michael Ramirez’ anti-Obama cartoons are especially hateful and offensive to me. Coupled with the paper’s continued tolerance of Soucheray, I see a disagreeable conservative slant to the paper and I’ve mentally composed a subscription-cancellation letter many times. But I take your last graf to heart, David — I hope our cities will continue to be blessed with two newspapers, and they’ll always be staffed by talented professionals like Tom Webb, David Hanners, Ben Garvin, etc.

  8. Submitted by Jim Camery on 11/05/2012 - 03:06 pm.

    I still subscribe, but barely

    In my part of W WI the PP is the only option. I’m hanging on because of: 1) Sports, especially Shipley and Shooter; 2) the crossword; 3) a weekly story from Rathbun; and 4) the comics. I’ll take that the editorial page isn’t 50/50, but they’ve quit being fair about being unfair. The closest it gets to acknowledging there’s another side is to say they’re not taking sides (but right under a cartoon about Benghazi). Yes, it is silly to smash the TV because of one program, but it’s really a crappy, crappy program and its on every day.

  9. Submitted by Jean Schiebel on 11/06/2012 - 12:14 pm.

    No brainer

    I agree, the Mn. Post should grab Chris before someone else does..I love people who are not afraid to buck the for the PP..quit reading it ages guts no glory..

  10. Submitted by Stan Daniels on 11/06/2012 - 04:50 pm.

    Steve, let’s be clear of one thing. Kluwe is a punter, he kicks a football for a living. I’ll go out on a limb and say that many “careers” are more important than what Kluwe does for a living.

    He inserted himself in the debate, I did not.

    I would have been much more impressed if Kluwe stayed around and ripped the Pioneer Press for their decision.

  11. Submitted by Michael Graham on 11/08/2012 - 08:17 pm.

    To Hanners & Rosario, regarding the Pioneer Press

    I’m sorry both of you were upset by another poster referring to the newspaper as garbage, but, sadly, it’s true, and not just because of the recent marriage amendment editorial. There are the pathetic editorials in general, where I can almost hear the groan of the Pioneer Press straining to differentiate itself when it demagogues issues. Then, there’s the fact that most of the real journalists and columnists are gone now. Where there was once quality journalism, I now see mostly filler. Your paper is for all intents and purposes, a shopper. Sure, you’re proud of your hard work, and have every right to be. But, let’s be honest: the Pioneer Press has diminished tremendously. An unbiased sense of history will clearly show this.

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